I have a few fears when it comes to traveling that still sometimes surprise me because I know how irrational they are. Here are a few of them and what I have figured out works for me to cope (or not) with them over the years.
- Fear of Flying. I guess this one is pretty obvious but I am still a nervous nelly when it comes to flying. In general, I’m okay with flying as I have done it often enough that I don’t panic very much anymore but if I feel the slightest turbulence, I am white knuckle, grabbing my arm rest, looking out the window for signs of bad weather and having a mild anxiety attack. A few things to help me cope – I like a window seat so I can look out the window, which I find soothing and distracting as I try to identify which city we are flying over or geological markers. Of course that does me no good at night so I also find that music or a movie or a really good book help distract me as well. Finally, I have a weird little ritual I do at take-off. I grab the airline magazine (on American it’s called American Way) that always has a map and list of “Where we Fly” for that airline in the back. I then look over the map and each state, country or city marked and think to myself about all the planes taking off and landing at that moment in Boston, London, Buenos Aires, Cancun, St. Louis, etc…and how all those planes are arriving safely at their destinations. I find that strangely calming and it reminds me to keep things in perspective because flying is very, very safe and I am just being irrational in my fear.
- Fear of Food Poisoning. Steve and I have both gotten sick while on vacation from something we ate and it’s such a bummer when it happens on vacation. It recently happened to us in November when we visited Antigua and we spent almost 36 hours in our hotel room so we could stay close to the bathroom. I always make sure to travel with some over the counter medicines for nausea and diarrhea – it’s pretty awkward to try and explain that you have really bad diarrhea to a drug store clerk in a foreign language using hand signals and pantomine. That and we try to carefully scope out where we eat first. I’m not opposed to street food at all but if the conditions don’t look sanitary, I will take a pass. In Marrakech, we walked through the evening food stalls at the Jemma al Fna plaza which looked and smelled amazing. However, I often saw vendors taking used plates and utensils and dunking them into plastic buckets of brown water, wiping them with a dirty rag and setting them right back out for serving. We took a pass.
- Pickpockets. Steve and I have never been pick-pocketed before. I refuse to wear a fanny pack because it’s just hideous so I typically will carry a bag that I can wear as a cross body so it can’t be ripped off my shoulder and I like something that fully zips shut and even has an extra flap or snaps over the zipper as well. On a subway, I typically hold the bag in front of me or on my lap. If we sit down at an outdoor cafe, I take the purse strap and wrap it around one leg when I sit with my legs crossed and then have it on the ground between my feet. Ain’t nobody getting my bag. Steve never puts his wallet in his back pocket or coat pocket. He usually carries a messenger bag that zips and has the flap/button over the opening as well and he wears it cross body. The closest we came to getting robbed was in Madrid at Plaza Santa Ana and it was our friend, not us. We were at an outdoor table at a cafe on the plaza and our friend set his iphone on the table right in front of him. A man ran up to our table and was yelling and screaming with 2 guys behind him yelling – he was acting like he needed us to help him. Our waiter runs out and snapped him in the face with his dish towel. The man had a magazine in his hand that he placed over the phone when we was yelling – he was clearly going to grab the phone in the magazine and pass it off to his friends while we were distracted by the commotion. When the waiter snapped him, he dropped the phone out of the magazine and all 3 of them took off. Needless to say, we never leave our iphones sitting out in full view like that anymore.