Hypochondriac on the Loose
My long stand-off with hypochondria began around the time I broke my shoulder in a death-defying riding accident when I was sixteen. As my horse came crashing to the ground I thought, this is it, the end. All I could think about was how embarrassing it was to wipe out in front of so many people. Now I have fallen off horses plenty of times, I’ve been riding them since before I could walk, but it never seemed to phase me before. This is a sign of growing up, I know, realizing your own mortality, but I was just stubborn enough to continue pushing the envelope.
A truly lucky person will escape death once and live the rest of their lives thanking God, Allah, Buddha, their mother or whoever and appreciating each and every day. Some people live in constant fear, unable to make even a tiny leap into the unknown. Then there are the people that like to tempt fate. These people get on a lot more airplanes, or jump out of them. I’ve done both and let me tell you, I’m sticking to the inside from now on. But more on that later, for now let’s discuss how a self-described hypochondriac is going to survive an around-the-world journey into the wilds unknown.
Everyone knows that the first phase of any major journey involves a lot of planning. To a hypochondriac this means vaccinations. Not cheap flights, good hostels, travel buddies or finances. Hear me on this, I may be traveling by myself in the middle of nowhere with no transportation or friends but I WILL have my series of hepatitis shots. Of course, then there is the moment in the hospital when the nurse informs you that the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, all three of the series, may cause sudden cardiac arrest. Rabies is another tricky one, it costs about as much as a small sedan. So those two were out, but everything else, Polio, tetanus, typhoid, etc. were taken care of.
With the most important thing out of the way I could start looking into where I wanted to go. I’d already decided to start out in Europe for the summer. I had some friends over there and in this day and age, what college student doesn’t go to Europe after they graduate? Thailand was my dream destination, cliché I know, but it has to be a popular spot for a reason, right? I was psyched, I’d been torturing my travel agent for weeks trying to figure out dates and destinations and I’d had the satisfaction of informing my parents that they really couldn’t stop me or change my mind. Then it hit me, CNN that is, announcing bird flu as the new “SARS on steroids” in Asia. The conversation I had with the nurse at my school’s student health center went something like this:
“I need to get a bird flu vaccination!”
“They don’t make one for humans yet, it’s for birds.”
“What are you talking about I really need to get one I’m going to be in the “hot zone” in Asia.”
“I’m sorry ma’am but it doesn’t exist.”
“Are you lying to me?”
“Okay, thanks. Have a nice day!”
Clearly this caused a slight panic attach on my part. Usually when I freak out I do something stupid, like go skydiving, almost like an F-you to myself. A perfect example of this is my love of scuba diving. I am terrified, and I mean absolutely and completely, of sharks. Why on earth would someone who is afraid of the ocean love it so much? It’s a rebellious thing.
When I was in Fiji, I went scuba diving and saw four reef sharks in one dive. This is pretty rare during the middle of the day when the little man eaters ought to be far out to sea or at least napping in the reef. One swam right below me and what did I do? I followed it until my dive leader grabbed my fin and pulled me back. When we got out of the water he asked what the hell I was doing with that shark and I looked at him and thought “what, you want a piece of me? I just took on a shark.”
Someone once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” and I think they may have been onto something. The rush of adrenalin and satisfaction which comes from concurring a fear is addictive. Maybe that’s why adventure junkies the world over do things that make most people shake their heads.
Traveling alone is an intimidating idea. What if I get hurt or lost or worse? My journey is going to be a solitary one, for the most part anyway. I have some friends here and there but I like the idea of an independent adventure. This obviously brings up issues such as camping alone is always a no-no and girl alone equals brutal assault victim. On the flip-side, however, the ultimate freedom of doing whatever I want when I want is just too beautiful to pass up.
So I’m going, possibility of rabies and all, and I can’t wait. You only live once, right? Sure, there will be moments of panic along the way but in the end it will all be worth it.