There was another lesson I learned from Alaska…I am way too prone to travel anxiety.
As I prepared for our trip, I read about giant swarms of mosquitos (so we gave our clothing a major bug killing spray and probably took a few years off our lives in the process), and about not sleeping because of the 23 hour day (so I bought industrial strength night blinders), and about the danger of getting feet wet on a hike (packed loads of extra socks) and ending up with frostbite and amputated toes.
And while we were in Alaska…we were given lots of terrifying warnings about bears. You can even buy 2-for-1 Bear Spray cans at Costco in Anchorage. (Not kidding! I saw a stack!) Moose, also, were reported to be shockingly dangerous.
Those warnings are all valid, meant for our benefit…and I realize guides need to alert hikers to danger so they pay attention.
Here’s an example: Steve and I went biking and canoeing on Wonder Lake in Denali National Park, and were given cans of bear spray to use, plus strict and scary instructions of how to use it. At the end of the lecture, at the point when I was teetering on scratching the whole biking and canoeing plan, I asked the guide if she’d ever had to use bear spray.
“Nope,” she said with a shrug (and she had grown up there!).
Hmmm…I wish she had started with that particular piece of info!
For those of us prone to travel anxiety…we’re already on high alert. What we need is less warnings and more encouragement to relax and enjoy the adventure. Because, in reality, I had one mosquito bite throughout a two-week trip, saw a lot of bears but they were far more interested in salmon than in eating me, and never did encounter a moose up close. In fact, I was prepared for Alaska to be a difficult, aggressive environment…and it was just the opposite!
What if I’d let anxiety prevail and missed out on an awesome day of canoeing on Wonder Lake? It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! No bears, either, though our friends did bicycle past a bear cub.
I’ve come back from Alaska with an awareness of how much anxiety I let creep into other areas of life. It’s sneaky, that fear stuff. Far more invasive in my thinking than I had realized.
What a wonderful lesson from Alaska…to unravel the tangles of anxiety, and not let it rob joy and adventure. After all, what might we be missing?