I love to travel but there are so many moving parts and elements that I cannot control. I worry about forgetting something. This is magnified a thousand-fold when traveling, because if I forgot something I can’t just go back for it later or get it in a few hours. I start to catastrophize—like what will I do if I forget my medication? Or what if I forgot to turn off the oven and my place burns down while I’m gone?
Sometimes I control everything I can, double check everything, write lists, but I still can’t prevent catastrophe.
We just came back from travels to visit family after ten days away and found that a leak from the ceiling of our building had destroyed our wood floors. And now we have to replace the floors. I didn’t even think to worry about this and not that it would matter if I did—this would have still happened. I can’t control the whole building.
And I can’t prevent delayed flights or bad traffic no matter how early I leave. I can’t prevent bad weather or technological problems. I’m at the mercy of the transportation companies.
And I hate that. I get antsy. I do every little task I can think of instead. I clean everything. I take Ativan when it gets to be too much. I take out recycling and the trash. I organize everything even more than I normally do (which is a lot). I organize my suitcase and tote bag. I double check for the essentials—meds, chargers, ID, etc. I make sure that I don’t have any liquids. I do this over and over again even when I don’t have the daily compulsion to check. Traveling is an exception.
It doesn’t help that traveling upsets my routines, organization, and physical accommodations. I struggle to sleep when I’m not in my bed on my firm mattress with blackout curtains and my sound machine. The struggle to sleep and the bad mattress leads to exacerbated back pain already increased by flying and driving.
Then my mental health conditions kick into overdrive. And the cycle continues. I have to work hard to interrupt this cycle. I mentioned earlier that I take Ativan. I try to work out although that is also a routine that gets interrupted by travel, especially with family when we stay at their home. Sometimes the only thing I can do is try to shut my brain off and nap to halt everything.
It’s such a relief to be home. I can put everything back in place, including my brain. I miss being home even when sometimes the place I’m in is really cool or fun. For an OCD brain, there truly is no place like home. Even luxury and amenities can pale in comparison.
However, I actually do like to travel and see new places! I just don’t think I would make it full time. I need to come home and recharge and reconnect to my setting. I need to fall back into my routines—even the ones that seemed to grow stale before the trip.
I usually come home and immediately unpack everything and do laundry. Having clean clothes is another thing that sometimes falls by the wayside when I travel, but which makes me happy. Sometimes on the plane home, I daydream about washing my clothes thoroughly and lying in my own bed.
In this way, travel makes me grateful for my home—although I’m generally more grateful when I return and the floor hasn’t flooded!