From my notebook, 23rd June 2015:
As far as travellers go, I would say I am a moderately seasoned one. No, I am not an expat who has lived all over the world. No, I have not spent a year of my life backpacking around Europe. I don’t travel for work (yet) or lead the nomadic existence of the permanently suitcase-bound, but I can find my way around a foreign city, successfully navigate airports and twelve-hour long-haul flights, and can communicate with moderate success using that combination of loud, over-enunciated English and haphazard hand gestures known to English-speaking travellers everywhere.
I love to travel and discover for myself our beautiful world and the people who inhabit it, but as any even slightly experienced traveller knows, I would be lying if I said travel always went perfectly and easily all the time. This brings me to that one bit of travelling that I always seem to immediately forget about as soon as I arrive home. That traveller’s fear that sneaks up on you, usually on the morning of departure in my case. That niggling feeling that you’ve left something important behind. The moment of terror when you can’t find your passport, only to discover you just put it in the wrong pocket of your bag. The concern that there is some factor somewhere in your travel plans that you haven’t allowed for. Maybe not everyone thinks like this, but I would be surprised if I was the only one.
Arriving at your destination the travel fear continues. As a lone female traveller, how should I get around after dark in a foreign place? Are my belongings stored safely enough? Where is my next meal coming from? Since 2014, the year of plane disasters, I have started feeling nervous about flying too. It all started with my boyfriend jokingly (though I suspect half-seriously) saying “Don’t die” as I said goodbye and set off for New Zealand earlier in the year. Of course, this nervousness would never stop me from flying (I like travelling too much for that), but it does put a slight damper on my previous blasé enthusiasm for plane flights (well, not the long-haul ones, but you get the idea). Call me paranoid, but I’d rather be paranoid than dead.
So why has this concern caught up with me? Travelling as a child, nothing much fazed me, so I think it must have something to do with growing up and now being responsible for my own travel plans and my own safety. The world is a scary place. Bad things happen all the time, and we tumble through life trying to prevent as many of those bad things as possible from happening to us. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t.
I understand that the risks associated with simply being alive and wishing to remain so are usually no greater in other parts of the world than at home. The difference is that at home we have learned about the dangers we may encounter and how to avoid them. Yes, your chances of being involved in a car accident are probably similar in Sydney and Seattle, but when you’re at home, you understand how the traffic is likely to work, you have expectations and therefore can be prepared for the unexpected.
As I write this in my notebook I am sitting in Hong Kong airport, drinking China tea and awaiting my connecting flight, off on a new adventure. I have just watched misty clouds creep down the mountains that I can see through the expansive windows, pour a drenching of rain over the planes maneuvering outside, then retreat back up the mountains like a troublemaking child running away from the mess it’s made.
Yesterday I was running around in a panic, trying to do all those last-minute things that need to be done before going overseas for a few weeks (special mention to my boyfriend, who, with infinite patience, put up with my irrational concerns, repeatedly calmed me down and delivered me, luggage and all, to the airport ahead of schedule). I was scared I’d forgotten something. I was scared I’d miss my flight. I was scared of a whole host of things, yet here I am, hundreds of kilometres from home, off to discover a new piece of the world, because the things I love about travelling outweigh the things I’m scared of, and because I trust God to keep me safe. And if he doesn’t, then that’s his business. He has his reasons for everything. And at the end of it all, while I won’t deny that travel sometimes has its worrying moments, for me that travel fear is the part of any trip that I always manage to forget as soon as I reach home.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9