Next week, I’ll start traveling for over three weeks. It means this week and last week have been filled with putting my ducks in a row to leave—at work and at home. And, of course, there are the actual logistics of the trip: buying a random list of bug spray and camera accessories and shoes online; getting vaccinations and amassing a cache of medicines that covers any combination of wanting to be calm or energized, wanting things to stay in or come out, being in a little pain or a lot of pain, being infected by parasites, bacteria, or allergens; having more conversations about packing than I thought possible (both internally—I’ve debated what to pack for the forty-eight-hour layover in Paris en route to Africa for a disproportionate amount of time relative to its part of the trip (but, Paris! I can’t wear safari gear in Paris!)—and with my mom, with whom I’m traveling). It’s amazing how much there is to say about luggage combinations and how many pairs of pants to bring.
This is the longest I will have ever vacationed as an adult, so there seem to be a lot of ducks. And although this vacation has been a long time coming, with each duck comes just a little twinge of guilt over leaving for so long. Not enough guilt to internalize or make me think twice about the trip, but enough to know it’s there and wonder about its source. I’ve noticed that, often, the guilt is tied inexorably to doubt.
At work, being gone for so long necessitates putting a burden on my coworkers, especially my direct reports. I’ve tried to package them as growth opportunities, but will they see them that way? There are a couple of projects that involve people outside my normal group, and I’ve made checklists and ensured coverage, but will they be irritated at my leaving in the middle? I have a new report starting while I’m away, and there is a whole welcoming crew ready to receive her and we’ve met in advance, but will she be ok?
At home, being gone for so long means making sure accounts are in order—bills paid, subscriptions canceled. What if I forget something? There is guilt over leaving J for so long, not because he’ll be lost without me (I’m grateful for a partner who can get along quite nicely alone), but because I’ll miss him and he’s my adventure partner so it seems odd to be embarking on an adventure without him. We’ve also been dog sitting long-term and is my leaving putting those plans into a spiral because that’s hard to do alone?
Because there are so many ducks that need immediate attention, it’s been especially hard to hold any longer-term planning in my mind. After spending so much time in the past year wanting to think past the end of my nose, this is certainly aggravating at times—there are projects both at work and with my writing with balls I want to start rolling, and it almost seems pointless to start since I’ll be uprooted for a while. This is especially evident with running, I think. It’s hard to motivate to get that extra workout in each week or push mileage when I’m going to be three weeks in places it’s not guaranteed I’ll be able to run. Not holding myself to “having” to train while I’m away is a conscious decision on my part, because there are so many aspects of this trip that I want to focus on instead of figuring out how I can run, but it definitely brings some of that same guilty doubt over where running is on my priority list in general these days.
Like any vacation, I have the daydream of coming back refreshed and clear-eyed. With this trip, I’m hoping some time away will help clear away some of the weeds that seem to be hiding the path I’m on and, more importantly, other paths I might want to take, instead. It’s hard not to turn that hope into an expectation—I’m sure we’ve all had those trips where we’re sure we’re going to be a different person on the other side, all relaxed and mindful and perfect, only to have flights cancelled and illness strike or even just reality set in and somehow cloud the very wonderful trip just because our own totally trivial expectations weren’t met. For me, this time, I think it’s more about the timing. The time feels ripe for a reset, and so instead of focusing on the outcome and what I will “be” after the trip, I want to trust that this reset will happen regardless and that I’ll feel most satisfied and fulfilled by enjoying each moment, each day, and connecting with myself and my mom and the world.
And not letting those silly ducks get in my way.