Tomorrow (very early), Mountain Man and I leave on a week-long trip. I wish I could say it was to Hawaii or Europe or someplace exotic, but, no, it's to Pennsylvania. You see, Mountain Man, during the day, masquerades as a manager of facilities compliance for a biotech company. He will be attending a conference on calibration and maintenance management near Penn State. Doesn't that sound exotic and exciting? He attended this conference last year and really enjoyed it. They even interviewed him for their promotional video and he had a cameo in it. Last year, he realized he was very near many historic locations, and being a history and Civil War buff, he crafted a plan to work some sightseeing into this year's trip. AND, to make it more fun, me to come along!
Now, I'm not one to turn down a trip, but our agenda sounds like a long school field trip. We'll be visiting the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. Possibly also Washington, DC, but that's up in the air. We fly into Baltimore, spend the first night in York, PA, the second night in Harpers Ferry, WV, then three nights in State College, PA. Then, we'll finish the week with two nights in Alexandria, VA where we'll visit my cousin. We'll see Gettysburg, Antietam battlefield, the campus of Penn State University, and the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria. Jeff will get his Civil War fix and I'll take tons of pictures. While he's at his conference for three days, I'll explore downtown State College, shop, drink coffee, upload pictures, and blog. That part sounds pretty amazing to me.
I'm already packed (a miracle) and so now I'm going through mental checklists to ensure I haven't forgotten anything. Of course, that includes worrying about the house, the kids, the pets, and pretty much everything else. I always leave a list of things for the kids not to forget while I'm gone: let the dog out, check the mail, lock the doors. I've now added "don't text and drive" because as the kids have grown older, there are new dangers. I used to stock the fridge, send detailed agendas to the neighbors, make tedious lists.....I can't help it, I'm a mom. I worry incessantly about all the awful things that might happen. Plane crashes, car crashes, sudden illness, pistol-whipping bandits......am I the only mom to catastrophize when I'm leaving town? (P.S. that's a word. I looked it up).
My anxiety is such that I talk myself out of things often. For years, I wouldn't fly on a plane. I was fine before I had kids and then suddenly I developed a terrifying fear of airplane travel. I'd been on dozens of plane trips before then, why all of a sudden did the thought of taking a vacation make my blood run cold? I could only attribute it to a primal fear and need to protect my young. Avoiding dangerous (or potentially dangerous) things ensured nothing bad could happen. Never mind I drove them all over the damn place in a car all day. And that my chances of being in a car crash far outweighed my chances of being in a plane crash. But no logic could assauge my fears. I simply would not do it.
In the past three years or so, I've been on numerous plane trips. I barely even give it a passing thought now. I can only attribute this change to excellent anti-anxiety drugs. And while I no longer worry (much) about flying, my heart still races during turbulence and I have a hard time sitting still on long flights. Tomorrow's flight will be about five hours (direct, no stops to break it up). I'll be stir-crazy, and I'll need distractions. I've uploaded dozens of books on my Kindle, purchased a few magazines on my tablet and loaded multiple games and distractions to keep me busy. I love traveling to other places, but the getting there makes me nuts. I have no idea how I'm ever going to handle international travel but I WILL do it. Someday.
In the meantime, I really need to read up on all these historical stops we're going to make. I'm embarrassed that I remember very little about them from my brief grade-school education. As I type this, Mountain Man is watching a documentary on the Civil War. I should probably pay better attention. I do know the casualties were staggering. It all seems very depressing to me. Visiting a battlefield where thousands died is not my first choice for a vacation spot. But I know my husband will enjoy it and I'm always up for an adventure with him.
I just hope the kids cook some real food, keep the house clean, stay out of trouble, and let the dog out while I'm gone. And empty the cat box. And lock the doors. And vacuum once or twice. It's exhausting leaving town. The "kids" are nearly adults now, so I've relaxed slightly. I know they can feed themselves, take care of minor inconveniences and sign permission slips for younger siblings. So, why is it that just before every trip, I have a sudden desire to hunker down at home and keep my family close? I love adventure. I love travel (and I'm loving it more and more as I get older). But I also love home. It's great to escape the every day now and then and do something completely different. I've thoroughly enjoyed my solitary explorations of the various cities in which my husband has had a business trip. I've walked for miles in San Francisco, done a city-wide geocache in Fort Worth, and spent entire days in San Diego on my own. These little slices of solitude have been rare treats in my 22 years of raising four kids. With no schedules to juggle, no dishes or laundry to do, no job weighing on my mind, I'm left with just getting to know myself. It's both scary and delightful. I'm getting outside my city, my comfort zone and myself just by boarding a jet plane. I can't wait to go and I can't wait to get home again.