Traveling is in my blood. I’ve always loved to travel even when it simply meant driving from Michigan to Pennsylvania to see my grandparents. I still have fond memories of eating soggy white bread with ham, cheese, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and following it with a fizzy, but very warm, Pepsi in a hot car with all the windows rolled down, my long, towheaded hair flying all over my face.
My favorite part of the car trip was lying down in the well located behind the passenger seat. I’d make myself as small as possible and lay my head on the hard bump. This was obviously during the time before seat belts were required so I was free to roam the cabin.
I love everything about traveling so I’m one of those rare individuals who doesn’t get upset about flight delays, being squished in tiny seats, or airplane food. Who cares what the food is when I’m not the one grocery shopping, cooking, serving, or cleaning up?
It’s not that I love delays or anything but I see so many people yelling and screaming about something the gate agent has no control over. I suppose I would be angrier if I had to spend the night in the airport but (fingers crossed), it hasn’t happened yet. Close but no cigar.
One thing I don’t enjoy, and I’m being honest here, are the screaming kids or the children allowed to run up and down the aisles. I’m also not a fan of people bringing and eating fragrant food onto a crowded flight. And what about those who feel it’s their right to bombard other passengers with their stinky feet? People who take off their shoes on a flight should be fined for indecent exposure.
But I digress from the point of this post. My main issue is how I feel after coming home from a trip. I plunge into a dark hole that I’ve come to know as post-departum depression with no disrespect for postpartum depression (I suffered from that also many years ago).
My symptoms include having a perpetual frown on my face, wandering about my house aimlessly, not talking to friends, finding no joy in any activities I had previously completed with a smile, and taking lots of naps. In other words, I become clinically depressed after returning home from a trip.
“The American Psychological Association defines depression as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. The association lists common symptoms of depression as including feelings of sadness or depression, change in sleep patterns and eating habits, loss of energy, feelings of fatigue, loss of interest in activities, and the inability to think, concentrate or make decisions.”
Yes to all the above. I’m despondent until someone in my family mentions they want to take a trip. My ears perk up like a Golden Retriever who has heard the word ‘walk’ escape from her master’s lips. No prod necessary to get me on the computer conducting research about the best flights at the best prices, places to stay, things to see, and getting recommendations from people about what to do in the new location that is off the beaten path. I always want to do things that the locals do and not just the tourists.
The post-departum depression is kept at bay as long as I’m doing anything travel-related.
The excitement builds until it’s time to buy needed items for the new climate. Then it’s time to do a mock packing exercise where I get out my travel make-up bag and put personal care products in as I use them. It’s a technique I’ve used for years and I’ve never forgotten anything. I shove in my foundation, face powder, blush, mascara, etc. and get a little rush as I remember everything I will need in the new location.
I make lists so that nothing is left behind, and I’m a reluctant list maker for any other reason.
Travel day arrives and I’m up and at ’em early. I’ve never missed my appointment with the shuttle company. I don’t even need my precious coffee to wake up. I tend to wait until after I’ve made it through security and am settled into a seat with an electrical outlet before I stumble over to the long line at the Starbucks; I wait my turn like the other bleary-eyed travelers. The only problem is I’m rarely blear-eyed — if anything, I’m overly chatty and annoying to all the other travelers.
Getting on the plane always makes me a little nervous but I learned how to cope through a Fear of Flying program. I used to vomit on travel day but no more. I am thankful for this program every time I fly, especially now that I’m traveling approximately 40,000 miles (or more) per year.
At the airport for the return trip, I’m usually content knowing that I will soon be heading home. While traveling either in the U.S. or abroad, I have this habit of wanting to change everything I’m doing once I get home. My goals usually include getting (and staying) more organized, getting out of the house more, asking my friends to hang out, exercising daily, eating better, writing more, and so many other lofty goals. For some reason, a trip is like New Year’s Day multiple times per year.
After landing back at SAN, driving up the freeway back to my house is always a bittersweet drive. I don’t truly enjoy where I live. I miss the trees, the green, and the water of my home state — Pennsylvania. California is beautiful, and I know I shouldn’t complain — it’s just that it’s never felt like home no matter how long I remain.
Looking out the window, I see only the palm trees and the wide open sky, the nonstop development, and malls of all shapes and sizes. I see the ocean I never visit because of all the tourists (odd statement coming from me — a nonstop tourist), the squat trees, and not much else. It’s not a welcome sight.
After a good night’s sleep back in my own bed, I wake up to reality. I’m in a place I don’t want to be in a house I don’t like, and with no idea as to when I’ll be leaving again. My only goal at my current age is to travel. I feel like a junkie looking for her next fix and when I don’t have another ticket purchased, I don’t know what to do with myself.
The other goals dreamed up during the trip start out strong but then I fall back into my habits of procrastination, disorganization, and sitting alone in my blue room pretending I’m okay.
But I’m not.
I’ve got a severe case (yet again) of post-departum depression and the only cure is travel.
One sympathetic seatmate on an American Airlines flight once mentioned that I should travel the world, visiting gardens and write about them. I’ve always kept his idea in the back of my mind but have never acted on it.
Perhaps it is time.