For a long time, overseas travel was something I never contemplated. There were three main reasons why.
One reason was lack of interest. Visiting other countries did have some appeal, but not that much – and for a long time, I also had little interest in traveling domestically.
Another reason was the fear of pretty much everything that I had up until mid-2007. Of all the things to make me feel anxious, visiting another country was one of the most intimidating.
The third reason, and especially as my debt grew and grew, was lack of money.
All of those reasons reinforced each other, and so for a long time I thought it very unlikely that I would travel overseas.
During the past 10 years, however, some things made me change my mind.
One thing was the internet. During the 2000s as I began traveling more and more for domestic work and pleasure, going online was an enormous help in preparing myself for each trip.
Another thing was experience. The more I traveled domestically, of course, the less anxious I became about it.
A third thing, especially after my work experience in Canberra in early 2009, was discovering the enjoyment of staying in hotels.
The biggest thing, however, was my therapy and medication from mid-2007, which changed me a lot and made the world seem like a less terrifying place.
So the idea of foreign travel became possible.
And recently, it happened.
A few months ago, I was engaged by a work project based in New Zealand.
I asked the project managers involved if my work would include traveling there, and they said yes.
Thus, a couple of months of paperwork began and eventually I had my first passport, a letter of permission from my bankruptcy trustee to travel, and my flights and accommodation booked.
As my trip drew closer, though, I had mixed feelings about going.
On one hand, I was very interested and even excited because it would be an experience and I’d be spending a week living in a good-looking hotel.
On the other hand, though, it wouldn’t be a holiday. Of course, I would spending most of my time in meeting rooms discussing how to document processes and procedures – but most of all, I would have to adapt to a 9-5 working and sleeping routine. That may not sound like much, but on previous work trips my insomniac night-owl self had sometimes found it difficult.
As well, some of my old fears returned – much less worrying than before, but still there nonetheless.
Even up until the day I left, a small voice in the back of my mind part protested that it didn’t want to go and just wanted to stay in Sydney…
But on that day I still left, because I had to and most of me wanted to.
Saturday, 3 August 2013.
I got up at 5am to complete the packing I’d started the night before, with help from a checklist I’d put together during the previous week. That checklist was one of several I’d created during that week to complete a range of tasks like what paperwork to print, getting a haircut and acquiring some New Zealand currency.
(Yes, I could have gotten that currency when I arrived in New Zealand, as I had my corporate credit card and my ticket for the bus to my hotel – but my paranoid mind contemplated an ultimate worst-case scenario of no ATMs working at Auckland Airport, all systems down at all foreign-exchange kiosks and the bus not running, so I got NZ cash in Oz just in case).
A few hours later I was at Mascot International, four hours before departure. That was two hours more than I needed, but this time especially I wanted to give myself more breathing room in case of any more worst-case-scenarios.
Fortunately there were no emergencies at Mascot International that morning, but because of the volume of fellow travelers it took me about an hour to get through check-in and Customs.
So I found myself with three hours to kill until departure, and I decided to relax with breakfast and reading.
And I did.
Finally the moment of truth arrived.
I boarded my flight, settled in, looked forward to another three hours of reading and resolved not to look out the window at the ocean far from land (fortunately, I had an aisle seat).
Soon after, my first journey overseas began.
TO BE CONTINUED