All of the time, it’s the same anxiety dream. I’m in a very foreign country, usually in Southeast Asia or the Middle East. Sometimes it’s Africa. It’s very, very often Thailand because I have a strange intolerance with Thai food: I like it and it really, really doesn’t like me. (Happens every time no matter what I order). And in the dream I’m hungry, tired, thirsty, lost and scared. My trip is just beginning and I still have two weeks left here. I feel the same exact panicked, sickening homesick feeling I felt as a little kid in real life. It takes over me and I scream. Then I wake up.
To some people, a two week trip to Southeast Asia, the Middle East or Africa might be a dream come true. For me, it sounds like a nightmare. I’m not proud of this. I’m what you’d call “Exotically Challenged.”
I’m afraid of exotic food. I even get scared in Chinatown, New York and San Francisco. I am not proud of this. I am afraid of places where you can’t drink the water. I am afraid of having gastric distress on my vacation. I am afraid of scorpions and snakes, rampant humidity and monsoons, safaris and rickety boats. I could go on forever but I’ll spare you.
I’ve never been out of North America. Sure, I’ve traveled fairly deeply into the United States and Canada: helicoptered onto a glacier that was way out of Vancouver, had an 11:00 pm breakfast for dinner in a smoky IHOP in South Dakota, walked the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans at 2:00 am, couldn’t tell the difference between the surfers and the dolphins as I walked a San Diego beach in December, then drove to Sedona, Arizona through the desert and the border patrol – just because we felt like it. I do think I have an adventurous spirit. I do experience wanderlust. I do get the travel bug every few months. I also love home. Boy do I love home. But I have a need to see the world. Yet oddly enough, I haven’t gotten very far out of my home safety net, if at all.
My older sister’s been to Mexico and my younger sister has been to Israel, Costa Rica and Mexico. My mom has been to Europe and Egypt. My dad and Cassidy have both been all over. Scarlet has already been to the west coast twice – twice more than I had been to the west coast until I was 24. 24! After a lifetime of wishing for it. I definitely don’t fault my parents for it. There were five of us kids and a dog to think about. If I were my parents, I wouldn’t want to keep track of seven passports, seven of us clearing customs, seven of us trying not to drink the water in the shower…So we spent long, hot, beachy summer vacations in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Ocean City, Maryland. I wouldn’t change my childhood summer memories for anything. I used to get up the mornings of those trips with happy butterflies in my stomach. Those trips were everything we wanted. We would leave around 8 or 9 at night and then drive until morning, where we’d have McDonald’s breakfast (seriously, the only time in life that happened) somewhere in North Carolina. Then we’d get a hard-core vacuum air-conditioned condo, sometimes with two floors connected by a spiral staircase, and we’d live out the beach/amusement park/seafood restaurant/boardwalk/arcade dreams of vacation living. It was awesome for us and probably even better for my parents who didn’t have to cram five kids onto a plane. Not to mention the cost of traveling as a family of seven!
It’s now that Scarlet is getting, not quite old enough, but close to old enough to remembering her life, I want it to be different for her. I want it to be different for me. It’s not too late for me to see the world. And it’s definitely not too late for Scarlet to not be afraid of the world, for whatever reasons I have been.
Recenlty I had a dream I was in a large, wild and unusual park. The park was situated on the border of three different countries: Italy, Albania and Wanda. I realize that this makes no geographical sense and that Wanda is not a real country name that I know of, but it’s dream speak. The park had a rickety version of The Golden Gate Bridge right in the middle of the canopy of trees. It was a bit rainforest. Anyway, I got lost from my family and I followed a pilot into the woods. We flew over a rushing river. The air and water made it tough for the plane to fly so we lay the plane on the water and held onto it while the water took us…strangely uphill. We stopped and ate some exotic fruit and then we continued to cling on. Suddenly we stopped short as a large rainbow hot air balloon materialized in front of us and soared up above the tree line. I looked up in wonder and the joy I felt was indescribable. I knew it meant something different; that my mind had changed.
Life’s tough these days. It will never get any easier but the joy can always be found.
It occurred to me that I’m done wasting time being afraid. I want to see the world. I’m ready.