Practice Travel: Getting Used to Discomfort

Wed 08 September 2010

Fall has arrived in New England. Ragweed arrived with it. I tried allergy shots this year, and it seems to have cut down my reaction. I'm only somewhat uncomfortable, while my friends are miserable.

Allergy shots contain a bit of the thing we're allergic to - the hair of the dog, if you will. Each dose annoys the immune system a little. If it's not enough to provoke an immune smackdown, the next dose contains a little more. Over time our bodies learn to tolerate a lot of the allergen with no reaction or a much milder one.

I'm ramping up on travel the same way. Four of the last six weekends have been spent with friends and family or sightseeing. Here's what I've been practicing:

  • Becoming less settled. I'm a homebody. It's a delight to sit on the porch or sink into the couch and watch a bad movie. It's the Friday kick-off-the-shoes I-am-HOME feeling. It'll be a while until I feel that in Cambodia. Best to taper off while it's comfortable.

  • Living with less stuff. It used to take me a long time to pack, and I would overpack. This summer I forgot a few things, but found ways to work around it. I can pack for a weekend in about ten minutes. I know I'll have what I need.

  • Making it up as I go. Yes, I scheduled a time to be spontaneous. My only agenda for a trip to Acadia National Park was to see the Perseid meteor shower and do minimal planning. I packed a tent, some clothes and gear, and the phone numbers of some campgrounds. ( Bar Harbor isn't exactly roughing it in the back country. The cost of mistakes is low.)

    On the long drive up, I brainstormed lodging plans B, C, and D. Having alternatives at hand made me relax.

    I'd hoped to get one of the walk-in reservations at the park's campground. No luck, of course. A record number of tourists visited Bar Harbor this year. My fallbacks were full, as were the first six sites on the park's list of suggestions. This would have freaked me out a year ago.

    It worked out that I stayed one shuttle stop from the park Visitor Center. Had a great time, and saw dozens of shooting stars.

  • Talking to strangers. So many travel blogs mention great conversations and chance meetings. How do you get beyond "Excuse me, does the bus stop here?" I'm not sure, but I had the mojo in Acadia. I met seven lovely ladies from Kentucky, learned about an Arizona family's reunion, and got a ten year old's recommendations on the best techniques for eating popovers.

I'm by no means immune to feeling unsettled yet. These benign irritations, taken in controlled doses, have improved my tolerance.

Category: Getting There

Tags: prep /