Written Under the English Channel

I wish I’d known many things before this trip. I wish I’d known that planning is pointless. I wish I’d known that even though Time Out City Guide Books are small–which is a good thing–they are not very helpful. I wish I’d known more about the location of our hotel, the better areas of London, and that you can’t use American credit cards in tube ticket booths. But most of all, I wish I’d known how this sort of travel would make me feel.

I have never been so stressed out by anything in my entire life. I wake up in the morning, every morning, and have a panic attack in the shower. It is not pleasant. And despite my ‘New Attitude’, and the great day we had in London yesterday, and the fact that right now, as I write this, I’m on the Eurostar to Paris, if someone at home asked me ‘are you having a great time?’, I’d have to say no. Because that would be the truth.

And it is not London or public transit or anything else that is keeping me from having a good time–it is me. It seems I don’t do trips like this very well, which honestly was news to me. I’ve traveled a moderate amount within the US, often alone, and I’ve been fine. And while I’ve discussed my feelings for New York City, I love DC, and Vancouver is my favorite place on earth–both fairly large cities. So it is coming as a huge shock to me that rather than waking up in the morning and thinking something like, oh I don’t know, ‘holy crap, we’re going to Paris today!’, i think ‘oh god, how am I going to deal with today?’ And that’s not a vacation.

I actually told my husband this morning that after this trip, we are going to be that kind of traveler that I hate, that only goes to all inclusive resorts to sit on beaches that all look the same. He asked–do you really want to be those people? And no, no I do not. But I also don’t want to be the person I am now, popping xanax and shaking with nerves, smack dab in the middle of what was supposed to be a great adventure.

This train arrives in Paris in a little over a half hour. And I’m honestly kind of bummed that the ride is almost over. Because when I’m on the train, I don’t have to try to find a ticket booth, I don’t have to figure out transportation, I don’t have to find my way around a new city, I don’t have to wonder where the bathroom is, I don’t have to find my way to a random security desk to get a key for the apartment we’re renting. I can actually relax. For the next 36 minutes, anyway.

NOTE:  All of the above was written on the train.  I’m currently working on the masterpiece of awful that is the description of the trip from the station to the apartment.  Spoiler alert–it took longer than the trip from London to Paris.


4 responses to “Written Under the English Channel

  1. Tracy- take a deep breath. In …. now out…… It will get better. Just realx and try to go with the flow. I know that your trip seems a disaster to you right now. But you are learning and growing and things will ease up now that you have a settled place to be for a while. Remember the bottle of wine…. go have one… right now… sit and sip and breathe. Look at hubby and think about him. Let go of the ticket booths, the long sluggs to apartments and hotels. Soak up him and yourself and Paris. Drink wine, eat cheese…… Think of nothing else but him and you.

  2. Hi Tracy, I posted on the RS site so you can read my comments there, but I wanted to chime in here and tell you that I agree with Toni’s advice. You will feel better tomorrow, I promise!

    Take care of yourself.

  3. One phrase sums up your situation to me — “tolerance of ambiguity”. Had a manager at my 1st real job (eg. after college) write I needed to work on that. And he was right. In school there are right and wrong answers, right and wrong ways of doing things, etc. And they’re learnable, so with some work you can master the system and be the kind of student (or teacher, as I take it you are) that excels in the setting.

    The schoolyard is not, alas, a microcosm of the real world. It’s part of it, but there are huge swaths that run differently. I think part of what tortures you is that in *hindsight* anything you struggle with will be seen as easy. Whether its finding your way to the next location you want to see or figuring out how to work the knobs in the loo, once you’ve done it then it will seem easy. You’ll look back and say “I could have prepared in advance to do this”. But you simply can’t rehearse all the possible situations that can come up in the course of even a single day and figure out the best way — but you can try, and its that trying that drives us nuts.

    I could speculate that you’ve enjoyed your travels in North America because it was close enough to what you’re used to that you knew how everything worked, or a pretty good approximation of it. And the place you hated (NYC) — you hated because of the loss of *control*, if I recall what you said, because the transit isn’t there exactly when you want and going exactly where you want.

    In racing (and probably many other fields), there is an expression called 10/10ths. In a race the driver goes all out, but when she or he first gets on the track they start at something easy like 5/10ths and get a feel for how the car is running that day and how the track is. They bump up the speed as time goes by and they get comfortable. In effect with all your planning you are trying to go 10/10ths from the get-go, which would be amazing if it could be done but it probably can’t. And so I close with advice from the track — why not go 5/10ths or 6/10ths and enjoy it?

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