|Piglet in the passenger seat.|
In February, Matt and I are exploring location independent living even further than we have before. We decided to travel for the entire month spending one week at a time in a different location.
Our itinerary is as follows:
- St. Augustine, Florida
- Savannah, Georgia
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Wilmington, North Carolina
So, here is the embarassing travel secret:
I have extreme anxiety while riding as a passenger in a car.
It is literally a flight or fight response. I feel absolute panic, I don't trust any other driver on the road, and I feel trapped. I scream at the slightest indication that something could go wrong. My brain simply won't let me sit back and enjoy the ride.
This is crippling for someone who really loves to travel. (And, as you might imagine, difficult on a relationship.)
I simply had to find a solution.
It turns out passenger anxiety is extremely common. I talked to my doctor about it and he prescribed a few anxiety medications. None of them really helped. Stronger medications completely knock me out and depending on the length of the trip overall that can actually be a problem since I might not be entirely conscious when we arrive to our destination.
So I read a lot about how other people cope with it.
Some people solve this problem by always driving. It can be a control issue so that makes sense. However, I am not really any more confident behind the wheel than I am as a passenger so it isn't really the best solution for me. I get even more anxious if I am not familiar with where I am going.
Others try to distract themselves with a book or games on their smart phones. I, however, get car sick immediately as soon as I try to read something so that wasn't going to be an option either.
I was not making this very easy on myself.
I also read about people who try some form of sensory deprivation in the car. Many would build themselves a nest in the back seat surrounded by comfy blankets and pillows and restrict their field of vision as much as possible. Now I was on to something.
Since Matt and I downsized in everything, our car is also small. If we have to take suitcases, computers, guitars, and all of Piglet's accessories we usually have to fold the seats down in our Nissan Juke to fit things in. I can't take up valuable cargo space in our small car just to avoid a complete meltdown. So I had to find a way to stay in the front seat.
Enter: the sleep mask.
Yes, that's right. Just a regular, every day sleep mask. I bought a cheap one at the drug store and later replaced it with a better one I got for free on the flight to London last year. I was able to entirely solve my panic in the car problem with this tiny accessory rather than expensive medications.
I have field tested it many times over the last year. We have driven as far as Minnesota and Michigan and it works perfectly. I don't use around the city here in Asheville but if I am riding in the car for more than an hour, I take the mask.
It keeps me from seeing what other cars on the road are doing so I don't exclaim out loud and distract Matt or make him nervous. I am still completely conscious and I can have a conversation with no problem. And, if I do fall asleep I am less likely to be woken up by small distractions. I can also take off the mask for parts of the drive where there isn't much traffic if I want to and just put it back on when I feel the panic coming back.
I thought I might share this insight because I know a lot of other people suffer from passenger anxiety. If your problems are similar to mine, this may help.
Over the next couple of months I am going to be concentrating on the travel aspect of our lives. I'll post about working remotely, the cities we're staying in, and how our tiny life has allowed us to do these types of things.