I went on a family vacation trip this past week! Hung out with some cool animals, ate good food, got a good tan, spent hours with family, and slept in a comfortable bed. Awesome right?!
Except that traveling can be stressful for me: packing, being on time for the plane, going through customs, getting used to a new set of food and sleep routines, lowering boundaries with family, navigating cultural differences, etc.
What many people see as rest and pleasure, actually feels like an obstacle race for me. In moments of stress, I tell myself that I just need to get through this before I’m back in the warm embrace of my routines (with my wife and dog 👩❤️👨🐕 of course)
This can be a difficult feeling to accept. Why can’t I enjoy what other people do? Am I simply not cut out for family trips? Is my body too anxious, scared of change? Do I need to fundamentally change how I see challenges? Am I broken?
In having all these question, I’m relieved by a few ideas and I thought I’d share them with you:
- Yes, here’s your reminder that there are no objective truths about the pleasures of resort living. We are free to value different things! (I sometimes wish I was playing Zelda back at home to be honest.)
- I am probably stressed because my mind can be a hypervigilant catastrophizing thoughts machine. I am responding to all these “what ifs” about my safety and wellbeing like it’s my fulltime job. Just because I think it, doesn’t mean I need a plan for it though. In fact, some ancient and modern schools of thought talk about thoughts as if they were kinda “external” to us. Thoughts are more like an additional input of information (like an additional sense) than they are the true “I”. 🤯 tl;dr No need to take anxious thoughts very seriously.
- I can change my relationship to challenges. The Stoic philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote about this:
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
- I would like to think that these obstacles I’m referring to are themselves an opportunity to dig deeper into what it is that gives me stress and live a life closer to my ideals. In fact, they inspired everything I’m writing today.
- I’m grateful for all of this. I’ve had beautiful moments and interesting insights that I would not have gotten if I didn’t travel. Psychologists actually say that feelings of gratitude are a big component of happiness, so here’s me saying thanks. 🙏
All in all, it’s not so bad! Traveling is actually kind of cool.