Tag Archives: Fear

Curio Schmurio

I spent a night at my son’s before I left for Japan, so he could easily give me a ride to the airport the next morning and use my car while I was gone.

There are so many logistics involved in a one-month trip, and the more stuff you have, the more thinking and planning it takes.  My car—much as I need it and love driving—falls under the category of stuff.  I couldn’t leave it parked outside my house; it might have been reported as an abandoned vehicle and towed.  My first plan was to leave it in my brother’s driveway, but that would have made getting to the airport challenging because he was already transporting my sister-in-law and two nephews and their baggage in his small car.  I could have taken an Uber or a taxi from there, but Vince said he’d be happy to use my car, which gets better mileage than his minivan.

I know I’m not alone in struggling between liking my stuff and wanting to heave it all out the window and run away forever.

Yesterday I acquired the ultimate piece of stuff, an antique curio cabinet that has stood in successive generations of my family’s homes, most recently my aunt’s.

Why, oh why, did I take it?  It’s a lovely but useless piece; the worst combination of both fragile and heavy.  But there’s a strong tug of nostalgic value.  I have childhood memories of gingerly opening the glass front and taking out the trinkets my grandmother kept inside.  Once a year or so we would do the same at my aunt’s, and she would tell stories about the origins of the cut-glass pickle boat or the bisque Christmas ornament of a roly-poly little man we called Happy Fat.

Molly, my cousin, said she always felt the curio cabinet was a ball and chain.  “We could never run around the house without mom yelling, ‘Be careful of the curio cabinet!’”

It’s a symbol to me, this curio cabinet.  A symbol of my ties to ancestry and place, but also of being stuck in Minnesota and never being able to escape its gravitational pull.  So I’ll try to sell it.  Some nice gay couple may want it for their Lalique collection.

I struggled the day before I left.  Why was I leaving?  It was summer, which is so fleeting and precious in Minnesota!  Summer is our reward for getting through the long winters.  Why wouldn’t I stay, and spend time with my son’s girls?

Of course I went, and here they are examining the Japanese food items I brought home a month later.

People aren’t stuff.  But, like belongings, they make it difficult to run away from home, temporarily or permanently.

I came across this quote from Henry David Thoreau:

There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself….

I’m not sure what it means, or what it means for me, but I do know I’ve got Post-Trip Depression Syndrome (PTDS) and maybe Thoreau—the ultimate case of someone who chucked it all and went to live in the woods—can help.

My travel to Tokyo was completely smooth until I exited Hamamatsucho Station with my suitcase and attempted to find my hotel.  I had chosen not to pay for a portable hotspot or data, so I was going off printed directions, which said the hotel was a 10-minute walk from the station.  How hard could it be?

An hour later I was trudging down the same tiny alley for the third time, squinting to scry English anywhere but mainly to hold back tears of frustration and anxiety.

I was also hoping a stranger would feel sorry for me and help me find the hotel without me having to ask for help.

Finally I walked a half block farther than the city blocks I’d circled four times.  I saw something that looked like a hotel and … it was my hotel.  Whew.

Here’s another quote I totally get, from the travel guru Rick Steves.

Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.

Fears of Flying

Here is a photo that summarizes my trip-planning progress:


I depart in 15 days.  I am in full-blown “What if?” mode.

What if I get pickpocketed in Rome (not a far-fetched scenario—my nephew’s wallet was stolen in Rome last year).  What if I’m packing too much into this itinerary and I won’t be able to appreciate it all?  What if I miss a flight/train/bus?  What if people feel sorry for me, a woman traveling alone?  What if I forget my phone charger?  What if I show up at a hotel and they have no record of my reservation and no rooms? What if I rent a car in Spain, and I forget to ask them to give me an English-language GPS, and my Spanish isn’t good enough for me to follow the directions?  What if my son doesn’t water my plants while I’m gone and they all die?  What if I fail to blog along the way, which means I’ll have schlepped my laptop all over for no reason?  What if I trip and fall into a cistern at Pompeii and it gets dark and no one knows I’m there and … are there wild jackals in Italy?

So you see, I have been busy.  I really should have pursued a career in disaster planning.  I would have been a natural at it.

I laugh kindly at myself as I observe the endless chain of what ifs come and go. I will prepare as well as I can. I will resist the urge to over prepare, because that would allow no space for spontaneity. I will deal with anything unexpected as it arises.

On Friday night my sister joined me and some friends for happy hour.  Long-time readers of this blog will remember that while my son was in prison, there was plenty of additional excitement in my life.  It’s never just one thing, is it?  There was a plumbing problem in my apartment which caused me to have no kitchen for six weeks. I tripped and sprained a knee ligament and was on crutches for about the same six weeks.  My mother was her third major car accident, which caused micro fractures in her spine and led to her giving up driving.

And then … my sister was battling Stage 4 colon cancer. She went through hell.  She’s been cancer free for a year and a half but she’s still dealing with the lingering effects of it all—the  surgeries, chemo, radiation, and all the other aspects of life that are affected by a life-threatening illness—finances, keeping up with a house and yard, two teenage kids, getting her strength back.  The list goes on.

How is this connected to traveling?  Because at happy hour we talked about the phrase “You’re so strong.”  My sister hears it a lot.  I used to hear it a lot when I was a single mom pulling myself up by the proverbial boot straps.  Other friends had been through trials and had heard it too.

We all agreed that we hate the phrase.

“What choice did I have?” my sister asked.  Right.  I had thought the same thing many times when people had said “You’re so brave!”  What choice did I have?  I admit I had occasional fantasies about dropping my son off at my mom’s and running away to Florida. I know there are people who abandon their kids, and people who avoid getting treatment for serious illnesses because they’re in denial or afraid.  But the vast majority of us just do what needs to be done because the alternative would be hurtful to ourselves or others.

“Being strong is when you are afraid of something,” said a member of our group, a psychotherapist who is also a cancer survivor.  “And you do it anyway, even though you could choose not to and there wouldn’t be any consequences.”

And that’s how this relates to travel, especially for someone like me who travels solo a lot.  I do have anxious thoughts about getting lost, being swindled, being disappointed.  But I go anyway.  The fear of regretting that I never saw the Amalfi Coast is stronger than the what ifs.