It started with me being super-stressed, period. Like, all kinds of mess at work, and “this is all too much and I need to get away” kind of stressed. Which resulted in some very haphazard visa arrangements, which led to a rushed selection of travel destinations, which led to committing myself to an itinerary that simply does not make sense. At least to me. Everything is just…off.
And the thing is, this trip is taking me to two out of my six dream destinations, which I wistfully described just a few months ago, thinking it would be years before I experience any one of them. And here I come, checking off spots 2 and 6 off the list! Yet, instead of feeling excited, I am a giant ball of anxiety. All I can think of is that nothing will work out, that everything will be terrible, and that I will come back from this vacation more tired and stressed than when I will have left for it.
This has never happened before.
I have traveled many different ways. I’ve gone hiking in the no-man’s land that is Yellowstone and Yosemite in November. I’ve visited all the major sites of Venice, Florence, Rome, Pisa and Cinque Terre in a span of 9 days in peak tourist season. I’ve managed a cranky boyfriend through a New Year’s in London. But never before have I felt so discombobulated. And stressed.
What am I stressed about? Let me count the ways. Or the reasons. Or whatever is the grammatically appropriate here.
First of all, I am stressed that I won’t get to see and do everything that I want to see and do on this trip.
OH! Hey there! This is where I realize that I probably should have told you where I was going. Here is it: Germany and Italy. Two weeks. Frankfurt / Rhine Valley / Munich, followed by a farm stay in Bologna/Emilia Romagna.
So yes, I am afraid that I wont see the castles, or drink the good wine on the top deck of the cruise boat, or take the perfect photo of a perfectly-Disney German village, that I won’t get to ride the Italian stallion – no euphemism, I do mean horses! – over the rolling hills of Emilia Romagna, taste the REAL, $100/100ml-bottle Modena Balsamic, or hike the foothills of San Marino. Yes, I am going to the two gluttony havens of Europe and I am afraid that I won’t eat well.
I’m worried that the people won’t like me. I never cared about this, but suddenly I am craving to be Audrey-Hepburn-in-a-romcom-charming (I don’t know how to do ‘charming’). I want selfies with the Parma butchers, and all that. I want to be invited to a random grandma’s house where nobody speaks English for a ravioli-making lesson. I don’t even cook.
I might have to drive, so that’s another thing that stresses me out. I hate driving. And I am bad at it. But I might not be able to do without, because countryside vacations aren’t conducive to other means of transportation. My farm (villa-lite, really) has bikes, of course, but today I hurt myself with my friend’s bike while standing practically still next to it. So that’s out. There are cabs, as well, but if I take taxis around Italian countryside then I will quickly run up a tab that would otherwise get me a week on a luxury yacht with my own chef and a masseuse.
So yes, I’m afraid I will run out of money, because I never set a travel budget but I know what I can or cannot afford. I’m afraid that I will forget to turn off the “cellular data” option on my iPhone when I take off, and come back to a $10k phone bill. I’m afraid that there won’t be WiFi in restaurants. I’m afraid that I will fall off the horse while trying to keep up on a gallop (that’s happened before). I am afraid that there will be no cars with automatic transmission when I go to rent one. I’m stressed because of the inherent incompatibility of driving a car and drinking Lambrusco all day long.
I am afraid that I will be bored in Germany. And that I will be bored by the pool in Italy, but tired and stressed if I fill my days with sightseeing trips – which won’t be that good anyway. That there won’t be good hiking trails, or I wouldn’t be able to get to them because I would need a car and I couldn’t get one because transmission/wine/money. I keep worrying about money even though all of my hotels, flights, trains, and even a Neuschwanstein day trip are all already paid for, and even though there’s no way I am going to spend any more on food and taxis than I do in Moscow on a regular weekend (two words: designer cocktails).
I am afraid that I will miss one of my gazillion train connections and will be stuck in the no-man’s-land that is Western Europe and my life will be over.
I blame Crimea.
Have you ever had mind-blowing, life-altering sex with someone and – if that someone wasn’t your life partner – thought, “man, he/she/they have just ruined me for all the others”?
I think Crimea has ruined me for all other vacations. Those 18 days last summer had literally EVERYTHING. Crazy adventures all over the peninsula while staying in one place. Palaces, caves, beaches, horses and seaside cafes. Crazy nature and crazy culture. Hyperactivity and relaxation. HORSES. NO DRIVING. Ruble-denominated goods and services that weren’t suddenly twice as expensive because my salary just got halved vis a vis the local cash-money (damn sanctions; yes, I understand the inherent irony of mentioning them in the same breath as Crimea). HORSES. New foods. Wild cherries. Hedgehogs. Amazing people. Amazing wine. Kittens that stole my heart. Secret beaches. Rolling hills. Baby lions. Stupid attempts to scale slippery cliffs. Fishing. Soups made with fermented milk. Cucumber salads made of raw garlic. Breathtaking landscapes. Fascinating history. Ridiculous Putin t-shirts. ROSE OIL! Quiet evenings spent just writing. Volcanoes. Pirate boats. Swimming during a sea storm. Miraculous waterfalls. Watercolor sunsets. Draft kvas on the boardwalk. Birdsong alarm. Horses….
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I didn’t want to go to the same place two years in a row, so I haphazardly threw together a vacation that simultaneously will take me to two of my dream destinations and that might also kill me by the way of an anxiety-induced heart attack, or a heart, broken by disappointment. All attempts to talk me off a vacation ledge are henceforth fully appreciated.