I’ve traveled quite a bit in my day, what with having a dad who frequently traveled for work, going to grad school overseas, being a missionary, etc. But lately? I’m not a huge fan.
Maybe it’s the fact that now I feel like a pack horse, preparing and hauling most of the things for 2 children as well as myself (the husband can usually hold his own, thank goodness). Maybe it’s having to deal with said children during the journey. Thank goodness for ipads and iphones, right? Maybe it’s the kids being with us ALL THE TIME, even when we are sleeping. Maybe it’s the fact that I feel like I need a vacation from the vacation when we get home but instead I have to do laundry, go grocery shopping, and deal with post vacation depression from the family.
But vacations also present challenges/feeding ground for the OCD as well. New places, new “dangers,” and the absence of a safe, known haven can make traveling feel more like punishment than a welcome reprieve.
First of all, there’s the actual getting to wherever you are going.
Planes? Hello contained capsule of potential germs and sickness. Hello tiny bathroom where you feel badly holding up the line if you have, um, problems. Hello flight attendants making everyone’s drinks and touching the straws and cups and snacks and napkins. You get the picture. Plus, the whole anxiety of flying: will we survive? will we be on time? who am I going to sit next to? will they try and talk to me the whole time? what if there is turbulence? what if someone gets sick on me?
A road trip can similarly be full of stress: speed limits to follow, other crazy drivers, accidents, cops, traffic in general, potential car issues, car sickness, etc. And what if someone has to go to the bathroom and there’s no place to stop? What if someone pees their pants? What if we are starving and there is no Wendy’s—only Burger King? What if we get food poisoning? And on and on.
Once we arrive, the inspection of wherever it is we are staying begins.
Some OCD sufferers (I know this because I used to be one of you) feel the need to disinfect: door knobs, telephones, switches, toilet seats, bathroom counters, beds, you name it. Check the bed linens. Make sure there isn’t anything gross in the shower. How do the carpets look? Are there any bedbugs in the mattress? Where can I put the luggage that isn’t the floor? These things matter.
And then there’s the vacation or trip itself.
Where are we going to go? Will we get lost? Will there be bathrooms? Did I bring a change of clothes for the kids just in case? Do I have hand sanitizer, baby wipes, hand wipes, tampons, snacks, water bottles, tissues, or anything else we could possibly need? Where should we eat? What if we eat somewhere gross and miss an opportunity for a really good meal? We might never be back here. What if we lose our wallets? How will we get on the plane without our drivers licenses? And what if someone gets sick? Should we disinfect the hotel room again? What if we need to see a doctor? Will our insurance work wherever we are? Where is the nearest hospital? What if we miss our plane home? What if we are sick on the plane home?
It’s no wonder that traveling isn’t exactly fun for those of us with OCD. It’s exhausting to worry so much about every little thing.