Hours from now I’ll freeze time. It’s an exercise I’ve refined over the past decade. Before I travel, I sit still in my anticipation and scroll through all the ways I expect my trip to be. Will the destination airport be easy? How will the city smell? What will the coffee/beer/bread be like? What do I think my favorite part will be? What am I nervous about?
I create this swirl of images, then I close my eyes to burn the mental snapshot in the front of my mind. Sometimes I jot it in my journal, sometimes not. On the way home, I revisit my pre-trip snapshot to see how it stacked up. I feel like a time traveler comparing notes with my earlier self. I compare the person I was on the plane before my trip, versus the person sitting in the plane now.
Whether it’s a two-week international adventure or a two-day work trip, this is my ritual. It keeps me super aware and prevents me from simply floating through the days. I don’t take for granted how fortunate I am to do so much cool stuff around the world, and never want to squander it.
I’m going to wake up in Asia tomorrow. And by tomorrow, I mean two days from now. I’m in the process of collecting images for my mental snapshot. Like how the Hanoi air will hang heavy with diesel and street food smells. And the tinny zooms of motorbikes and boisterous voices will be deafening in the center of Bangkok. I worry I’ll discover a flavor in Cambodia I’ll never be able to replicate. I believe the people in Southeast Asia will be the kindest people I’ve ever met. And I will cry when an elephant hugs me with its trunk.
Am I nervous? For sure. I’m nervous the plane will somehow run out of gas. I’m nervous about vector-borne diseases. And looking like a dummy. And getting on the wrong train going the wrong way. I totally recognize this is dumb stuff.
There are some things you never anticipate like stolen luggage, medical emergencies and credit card fraud. But I’ve learned when they happen, you figure it out. Travel tests your courage and resilience. It accelerates your understanding of yourself. In a couple short days or weeks, your whole view can change. People alter your life forever. Experiences stretch you in ways you never imagined or never wanted.
Anticipation, however, can easily lend itself to a heavy crush of sadness. When the build-up is over, you need to find a way to keep the energy alive. In a couple weeks, I’ll be on the plane comparing notes with my pre-trip self. And to keep the mental and physical snapshots alive, I’ll hustle to share my impressions with you. Unless I have malaria. Then you’ll just have to wait.