Travel Hiccups & How to Deal with the Stress of Long-Term Travel

Travel Hiccups & How to Deal with the Stress of Long-Term Travel
 
 
Dogs must also usually have a tapeworm treatment.
-UK.gov

 

If you Google “travel stress” right this minute, more than 153,000,000 results will appear in 0.78 seconds. After public speaking, death, and moving, traveling is a major source of stress. Thinking about the money you’re spending, the train you’re going to be late for, what’s in the sandwich you’re eating, being crammed in tight quarters with a million other tourists (who always happen to move *very* slowly): Traveling can be a huge drag. Lately I’ve been starting to feel burned out from living on the road since August 2016, and these past few days have probably been my worst yet, or at least since I had to scramble to get out of Sweden. Just like when I tried to travel to the UK from Sweden with Mango, a few days ago I tried to board a ferry from Holland to the UK and was turned away because Mango had not received deworming treatment. So, once again Mango throws a wrench in my travel plans. (Just kidding, Mango didn’t cause any problems; I did as his owner.)

Traveling with a dog can be a hassle, but it’s worth every bit of it. After doing some intense research on how to get into the UK with Mango, I knew that planes and trains into the country don’t carry dogs but the ferry does. After reading this article  six months ago, I immediately booked a ferry ticket from Holland to the UK. Fast forward six months: On Monday night at 8:00pm, after making the trek from Edam to the Hook of Holland (where the ferry was to depart) involving two trains, a bus, and a few hours exploring The Hague, I arrived to the station only to wait behind another couple with a dog. The ferry employee fussed over them for a while and sent them away with long faces, not a good sign in my mind. The lady turned her attention to me and soon delivered the same bad news: My dog didn’t have the mandatory deworming treatment required by the UK government to board the boat and I’d have to come back in at least two days after visiting a vet to get the procedure done. And if that wasn’t enough, the lady told me that the couple before me had taken the last available pet-friendly hotel room in teeny tiny Hook of Holland. Having checked the website last night, I told the lady that I understood the tapeworm test was not mandatory per the policy language but she wasn’t interested in hearing that (please read the text in the screenshot and you tell me if it sounds mandatory). Ugh, I was too exhausted and upset to even try to cry. With no internet to turn to, the lady kindly helped me find a hotel in Rotterdam 45 minutes away and I wearily schlepped Mango and my stuff back on to the train. (Oh, and it turns out that there was suspicious activity on my only credit card, so that account was suspended and I’m currently without a card; a replacement card is to be sent to one of my UK stops so cross your fingers it arrives in time.)

I’ve come to realize that if you are living on the road with no fixed address for longer than two weeks (such as myself), more travel means more opportunities for travel problems. It’s like I spend an enormous amount of time and energy planning a seemingly never-ending vacation, and I almost need a vacation from my vacation. (Bonus: If you are absent-minded like me, you’ll spend extra time reviewing details to make sure you don’t book the train for the wrong day again or plan a trip to the wrong city again.) But as much as I sometimes want to throw in the towel and find a place to settle down, I have a plan in my head and I’m going to stick to it. Traipsing around different countries to see wonders like Roman ruins, royal palaces and unique architecture is thrilling, and I love experiencing new places for the first time. Throw in some delicious local food and quirky customs and what’s not to love about traveling full-time? During crappy situations like the one I’m in right now, I must keep my head clear, stay focused on goals, and, most importantly, enjoy the ride because I’m pretty darn lucky to be able to travel like this, especially with Mango.

But something happened recently that gave me a new perspective on being grateful. On Monday when we were riding the rush hour train from The Hague to Hook of Holland, Mango, my bag, and I sat crammed in the car. Next to me was a free seat, and almost from nowhere a gentleman with one leg literally hopped on the train and took this seat. He was a cheery and attractive older man, and we chatted a bit on the ride (I had to power through the halitosis in tight quarters). The man mentioned a few times some canoe trips he and his wife had taken and talked about a museum card free to Dutch citizens that allowed him even great accommodation with his missing leg. Like I said, he was an upbeat fellow and seemed to have taken his missing limb in stride, choosing to focus on the silver lining instead of the rain clouds. We laughed about how he could (and would) milk the museums to accommodate him in all sorts of ways. At one point he mentioned “before the accident” while pointing to the space where his leg should be, but I didn’t push it; I got the sense that his hardcore travel/tourist days were far behind him and now he enjoyed a slower travel pace. Thinking about this encounter after my travel hiccup at the ferry, I realized that this trip interruption was no big deal. Missing a few nights at my apartment in London meant I was out a few hundred dollars and had to figure out Rotterdam/deworming, which isn’t the most devastating thing in the world to happen to a traveler. In fact, I was proud of myself for not staying in a bad mood as I enjoyed my time back in Rotterdam and was able to see a few sights I missed in my recent day trip there, including a UNESCO site. (Which reminds me of this.)

I have realized that most of the stress in traveling comes from my anxiety about getting something wrong, like with not checking on deworming before traveling to the UK. Sometimes my travel anxiety gets so overwhelming that it’s practically paralyzing, so what do I do to avoid those situations? Seeing the silver lining in each situation for one, like my train buddy does. Breathing in deeply, meditating in the morning, avoiding TV, alcohol, and sugar, exercising, staying organized, listening to podcasts, keeping detailed notes, being productive when I wake up, packing light, and being as prepared as possible also help me get through the stress of traveling long-term. And since rarely does a trip go as planned, I find myself frequently breathing in deeply and reminding myself that “this, too, shall pass.” These past few months I have really been thinking about my future, and I’m excited at my plan of traveling to Spain in June, where I will apply for a freelance visa so I can live and work there for a year or two. Ideally, my freelance career involves working with writing, traveling, and urban planning (in what capacity is still up for grabs) so I’ll have these next few months in the UK and Ireland to mull over that.

Off to the ferry again, and this time I hope I get on board :)