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Verity Johnson: Why you’re so anxious about traveling again

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Verity Johnson: Why you’re so anxious about traveling again

Every friend who has gone overseas recently has spent at least a month beforehand stressing out over it, writes Verity Johnson.

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Every friend who has gone overseas recently has spent at least a month beforehand stressing out over it, writes Verity Johnson.

Verity Johnson is an Auckland-based writer and business owner.

OPINION: I have always cried on planes. Put me in seat 34A and I’ll sob like I’m at an Adele concert with my Mum after two vinos. They’re happy tears though.

Well, they were pre-Covid. Back then I’d be so full of excitement about traveling that even the balding, bedraggled seagull taking a crap on a chip packet outside could make me weep at the beautiful possibilities of life.

But last week, I found myself in that plane seat again and the tears were bad ones. It was my first proper trip overseas since Covid, but it felt like my first trip ever. What if I lost my passport? What if I hadn’t got the right visa? What if I was denied entry, confined to a transit lounge and made to live off in-flight peanuts and boiled travel socks until my woefully incompetent ass was extradited!?

But it’s not just me who’s been freaking out at the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčtraveling again. Every friend who has gone overseas recently has spent at least a month beforehand stressing out over it. One mate, who’s a seasoned global go-getter, summed it up with, “It feels like I’ve completely forgotten how to travel…”

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She wasn’t the only one. Departures were filled with nervous day drinkers, obsessive passport checkers and sterilised, sanitized couples who’d bandaged their heads with so many surgical masks they looked like hypochondriac Egyptian mummies.

Now obviously we’ve been inside for the past three years, and so clearly we’re rusty. But it’s not just god-I’ve-forgotten-how-to-go-through-security-jitters. When I looked at why I was so antsy about traveling, I realized my attitude to the unknown is completely different to what it was in 2019.

Back then, the unknown was infinitely, deliciously surprising. And travel was an all-you-can-eat buffet that showed how infinitely, thrillingly unexpected life can be. But now, the unknown feels terrifying. And traveling just felt like a long list of all the things that could go wrong.

Verity Johnson:

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Verity Johnson: “John Key got it right when he called us a hermit kingdom.”

It’s a jarring thing to recognize in yourself. But I think it’s also how a lot of us have been approaching life recently. It feels, especially in Auckland, as though we’re perpetually waiting for the next thing to go wrong.

And it makes you want to shrink down our worlds into the tiny, predictable things we can control. Hence, why traveling is so terrifying, it’s stuffed with unknowns. It’s one big lolly scramble of unexpected scenarios, and we’re terrified of biting into another of those gross, green minty leaf ones. And this fear feeds the darker half of our travel psyche.

See, one half of us Kiwis is the eager explorer, always metaphorically powering off up a mountain fueled by scroggin and insatiable wonder.

But our other half is the exact opposite. John Key got it right when he called us a hermit kingdom. The fact that we slipped so easily, and stayed so happily, in glorious isolation for the past three years speaks to the deep streak of insular, myopic pull-up-the-drawbridge-and-man-the-barricades-ness in our world. view.

Verity Johnson:

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Verity Johnson: “See, one half of us Kiwis is the eager explorer, always metaphorically powering off up a mountain fueled by scroggin and insatiable wonder.”

One half of us is Sir Ed with a smartphone, the other half is a hairy hermit hobbit who wants to stay in the shire where it’s safe. But we can’t just stay where it’s safe. For a start, staying where we are is no actual guarantee of safety, it’s just a lie we tell ourselves.

But more importantly, yes it’s scary. But we need to do it anyway, because that’s how we relearn how to be curious about life again. And curiosity is what keeps life fun. Otherwise, it’s just one long smear of taxes and microwave lasagna until death.

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