Surfing in South America

I am a fairly seasoned traveler — I mean, I have my own travel blog so surely that’s some kind of street cred. But for some reason, with this upcoming trip, I have been really anxious (which is different from excitement or eagerness). For me it manifests as a feeling of trying to hold 15 over-filled water balloons that are covered in vaseline. Those suckers are slippery and at any moment one of them might pop causing all the others to blow, too.

Hi, I’m Josie. I have anxiety. But that certainly doesn’t stop me. (I am really sounding like a bad pharmaceutical commercial.) I am grateful for the various tools and techniques I can employ to help ground me and transform that anxious energy into more productive feelings. First, I call my mom. Then, I take deep belly-expanding breaths. I reflect on times I’ve been nervous before and how things worked out. Finally, I remind myself that the tickets are non-refundable and it’s time to get over myself. Voila! I am once again enthusiastically looking forward to this trip!

About 15 years ago in Miami I met a delightful new friend. Then, we had the good fortune of both living in San Francisco and continued our friendship. I cheered her (and her hubby, also a good friend, but this story focuses on her) as they moved to Paris with a brand new baby. Then, I was able to tag along for a leg of their European family road trip. Next, they moved to New York City. (I know, can they be any cooler?) Then, she went and became an entrepreneuer with a wildly successful crib sheet business. They now have two kiddos and my respect and admiration for her is immense. So why am I writing this Leslie Knope-esque ode to my friend? Well, she’s having a milestone birthday this year and she’s originally from Uruguay. Hence, why I am en route to Miami to meet up with six ladies to spend a week in Uruguay. Then, several of us are continuing on to Buenos Aires and Patagonia. Dang, I am lucky to have met that noble land mermaid. (That’s another Parks & Rec reference for those playing at home.)

Let’s quickly ride the roundabout back to my anxiety. I should be clear it has nothing to do with my friend or the soon-to-be-friends going on the trip. It also doesn’t have to do with the itinerary; I’ve been to these countries before and none of the activities are particularly hair-raising. You might think it’s related to coronavirus but the last time I was in South America was right when the Zika virus was reaching it’s fear-mongering apex. (Side note for long-time readers, remember the guy whose sign pointed to his friend and said “He has Zika. I don’t. Kiss me.”) Anyway, I am of reasonably good health (thankfully) and consider the long-term risk were I to contract covid19 to be pretty minimal. (Gosh, I really hope I don’t later look back on the naivete of this post and my arrogance.)

Suffice all of this to say that my anxiety doesn’t have much basis in logic. But, then, I don’t know if that would be considered anxiety. I’d probably instead call that common sense red flags. Anxiety (for me) is in the body not the mind. It is a nervous energy that buzzes just below the surface but close enough that it seems to constantly be threatening to breech. I share this because I suspect it may surprise some of you that I get anxious about travel. I believe it’s totally normal. However, as Jon Kabat Zin says, you can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.

And so, I’ve packed up my anxiety alongside my swimsuit and hiking boots and my hand sanitizer, and off to South America we go. (Please note, I will only be metaphorically surfing. I have ‘common sense red flag’ feelings about the ocean, namely I’m a poor swimmer and there are literally a lot of fish in the sea. Nope, no gracias.)