How I Found The Root of my Travel Nerves

I’ve done a lot of traveling. I wrote a book about it. Even still, every time I’m on my way to the airport I’m nervous. It’s a nebulous feeling that I can’t hold, that I don’t quite understand. Surely, this should be normal by now. It should be like folding laundry or putting gas in the truck. Simple jobs that need doing. Go to the airport, get on the airplane.

The anxious tug pulls at me in particular moments. In checking that I have my passport for the third time. In seeing a line of people in front of me. In thinking about how airplanes work. In thinking about the red light on my coffee pot. At this point, I’m pretty certain I’ll always have this feeling when flying through the air in a metal tube is on the docket for the day.

Today, rather stoned at the airport, I finally realized where the feeling comes from. Where the root lives in my subconscious. It’s born from a deep knowing that it’s all too good to be true. I actually just can’t believe that it’ll all work out. I can’t actually believe in airplanes themselves. In the process of international travel, that air traffic controllers are sitting in a tower saying “alpha” and “charlie” and stuff. That all the people in all the towers understand what each “charlie” means. Yeah right!

That they’ll give me a little hard piece of paper that grants me a seat in a flying machine. That my little blue book will be assessed, then handed back, a head will nod. A woman in a yellow vest will allow me to advance from my place in an orderly line, she smiles, I keep going. I take off my belt, raise my arms, I put my belt back on. They will believe that I don’t have COVID. They will account for all the people’s health. Everyone will have a stick jammed in their nose. I can’t believe that this will all work. That later in the day I’ll be on a totally different continent. That the time zone and weather will have changed. That I’ll have basically teleported.

I’ll have not really struggled, invented anything, learned about Charlie, or tried very hard at all — but then somehow I’ll be in Bali by nightfall. I’ll be in Africa in the morning. I’ll be in Wisconsin for Christmas. It’s too good to be real. It makes me anxious in a way I can finally hold and look at. I’m simply amazed, and it makes me feel the same way as the middle of a magic trick. I know someone knows what’s going on, but it’s not me — and NO FUCKING WAY will I end up flying through the air to Portugal. No way is that tiger just going to disappear. None of this makes sense.

Of course, I’ll get on this flight to Mexico City. Of course, the plane will work, the pilot will have been trained for years to understand “bravo” and 100 different buttons. He’ll push the right ones, at the right times. The plane will land with a bounce, a few people will clap, an older couple will kiss, and the air will smell different when the plane door opens. The tiger is gone.

I know that will all happen, but still—NO FUCKING WAY! That is the feeling in my stomach when I’m in an Uber on the way to the airport. So many people have tried so hard for so many years. It’s a wonder, it’s a magic trick. We are fortunate beyond measure, so please don’t complain about traveling — be in awe of it. Be anxious, because it’s too fucking good to be true and you did nothing to deserve this.

By Travis King

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