Taming the Worry Gene

It’s the final stretch before I fly to Iceland. Call it the inevitable before any extended vacation, but somehow the last couple of weeks before a trip my to-do list always grows exponentially and inexplicably.

First there are the must-dos directly related to the trip. I am coasting along, feeling prepared and on-top of everything when I suddenly find myself wide awake at night, tossing and turning as I fret over previously undiscovered tasks and worries.

Did I call my credit card companies to alert them of my international trip? Will my American chip-less credit cards work smoothly in credit-crazy and smart chip-ruled Iceland?

Have I exchanged enough Danish kronur for my week in Greenland? What if I run out and cannot find an ATM in a pinch?

Did I pack the right mix of clothing for hand-washing and traveling with only one bag? (This is an especially aggravating thought for me and I will probably pack and repack and test hand wash all of my clothes multiple times before I set foot out the door.)

What if I suddenly forget how to use my compass and get lost in the wilds of Greenland? (This thought always pounces in the wee hours, when shadows threaten and my nerves tingle in anticipation of irrational dangers suddenly emerging from the claustrophobic walls of my bedroom. I have to remind myself that my hikes will follow actual gravel tractor roads. Only my stupidity of wandering off the tracks will result in my getting lost.)

Did I save enough money to last the entire seven weeks? Are my hiking boots broken in enough? What if I lose my passport? Fall into a volcano? (Did I ever mention I seem to have inherited a worry gene? That calm, confident manner in which I throw myself into my planet-hopping? Just a mask for the worrywort bubbling underneath.)

On top of the usual suspects is the fact that I am still recovering from a stress fracture in my right foot. I am only 4 days off the crutches. The swelling is gone, but the inflammation lingers and I end my days desperate for an icepack. How much can I really trust my doctor that my foot will be fine in time for Iceland?

Now add all the tasks collecting on my expanding to-do list as I think of yet another thing I must remember to accomplish or ask my husband to do while I’m away. Gardening. Cleaning the house. Researching landscaping companies to reseed the lawn while I’m away. Showing my husband how to care for my garden. Dentist. Doctor. Haircut. Return my library books.

Worry, worry, worry. This much worrying will drive me crazy!

To banish all of these fears and doubts and worries, I find the art of visualizing an amazing cure. Thank you to my soccer and basketball coaches for this immeasurable gift. I picture myself on the shores of Greenland, exploring the Norse ruins of Eric the Red’s settlement. Sitting in a Reykjavik cafe. Bouncing on the back of a gentle Icelandic horse across the lava fields. Hiking up to a lush waterfall or the face of a glacier.

I feel better already!

A sense of control also helps. I dive into my language study and research, immerse myself in Norse culture. An hour of Icelandic language study a day. My cats seem amiable to listening to my klutzy attempts at one-side conversation. Lounging on my patio as I journey back to the time of the Sagas with the medieval literature of the Vikings. Pouring over old issues of National Geographic to learn about the recent volcanic history of Heimaey and how a volcano can form overnight in this world of fire and ice.

The anticipation and excitement are unbearable. I want to hop my plane to Iceland now! What was I worrying about?

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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