Post-Travel Stress Disorder
By Dave Fox
I should probably write something here. Either that, or shut down my blog for good. Because, let’s face it, writing one blog entry every couple of months is kind of like … oh, I don’t even know what it’s kind of like.
I’m having trouble thinking today. Having trouble focusing. I am jetlagged. I have a cold. I am hopped up on antihistamines. I have somehow injured my ankle. These things are all distractions.
I flew home from Europe Tuesday. Landed in Seattle at 7:30 p.m. and, after 17 hours of flying and airports, raced directly to Seattle’s Meet Plan Go! travel event. I felt a need to be there. My own new tour company, Globejotter Tours, was a national sponsor. I have never been a national sponsor before for anything. I wanted to see what I was nationally sponsoring.
What I did not want was a standing ovation.
My intent had been to slither in inconspicuously, say hi to a few select people, and be on my way. But as I walked in the door, dragging my travel bags with me, a lady I had never seen before looked at me and said, “Did you just fly in from Rome?” Rumors, it seemed, had already spread. Then my friend Betsy, one of the Meet Plan Go organizers, spotted me, and it was all over. She interrupted a panel discussion to herald my arrival. She announced to a roomful of 150 people that one of the sponsors had just raced to the event, directly from Italy, and they should all give him (me) a standing ovation for being there.
A standing freaking ovation! Just for being there!
I mean, come on! People were not standing and ovating because they love my books, or because I just won the Nobel Peace Prize, or because I did anything at all … other then blow 55 bucks on a cab ride from the airport and show up feeling exhausted, sick, and anti-social. People cheered. And when the applause subsided, Warren, Betsy’s husband, who was moderating the panel discussion, announced that I should go sit next to my fiancée in the front row and hold hands with her because I had not held hands with her in a whole month. So much for inconspicuous. Then Warren asked me a question in front of everybody. I have no recollection as to what the question was, but I felt pressured to respond with something witty.
I was too tired and sickly to say something witty. Instead, I sneezed and took my seat.
I got there for the tail end of the panel discussion on why you should travel (answer: because I should not be the only one who has to endure 17 hours in economy class), and then, the end-of-the-evening networking began. There were people I needed to talk to. Tour operators, fellow travel writers, potential tour customers. But at the moment, I had the conversational skills of a warthog. A very tired warthog with a snout clogged with phlegm.
Eventually, I managed to exit. Kattina drove me home, back to the condo I had not seen in a month. Little had changed. The magical cleaning gnomes, who were supposed to show up while I was away and do something about the apocalyptic mess I had left behind a month earlier, had not come. I did discover a few spiders who I am pretty sure were not living there when I left.
I ran into one such spider yesterday while shuffling through my kitchen. He (or she; it’s hard to tell) was scampering across my kitchen floor. For a moment, I pondered finding something to whack it with but I was too tired. I went to make myself some tea instead. At that point, the aforementioned spider came strolling over and – I swear, this really happened – did a tap dance on my left foot!
I was all like, “Hey, spider, get the hell off my left foot and go do your stupid tap dance somewhere else!”
The spider responded with a giggling sneer. Little did it know I did not need the coupon book that was sitting on my kitchen counter. I whapped the spider. It’s dead now.
Is this making any sense? Or is it just a rambling plea to be hospitalized? I don’t know. What I do know is that I go through this at the end of every tour season. I’ve spent weeks on end working with people – seven days a week, sometimes 15 hours a day. I get home. I hibernate. I whine. I wake up at three in the morning and watch Tivo’ed episodes of bad reality television. I take multiple naps daily for several days. Then I complain that I can’t sleep at night.
I’ve got things I should be doing. My Vietnam tour begins a month from today. I’ve got hotels to confirm, info to send, cooking classes to organize, friends to contact to let them know I’m coming. I need to apply for my Vietnamese visa and change my plane reservation. I also have bills I forgot to pay during my two-week break, which I should probably do something about. I have a sticker I need to put on my license plate so my tabs no longer look expired. I have messes to clean up because the lazy-ass cleaning gnomes are obviously not coming. And so much more.
But I don’t want to. I don’t want to do anything. I start doing stuff, but after a maximum of seven minutes on any given project, I get distracted. It’s a severe, jetlag-induced case of Attention Deficit Disorder. I got distracted halfway through writing this. If I finish and post it, it will be my greatest accomplishment today.
Tour guiding does this to me. For a couple of months, I am meticulously organized, ready to troubleshoot any emergency on a moment’s notice, and appearing in control at all times regardless of whether I am or not. But I come home and it all falls apart. I hide out from the world and whimper. And in this particular episode, it all comes with the added bonus of making gross snurfly sounds every couple of minutes because I am too lazy to get off the couch and blow my nose.
This is not, I realize, anything to be proud of. Writing about this, I’m like one of those attention-starved social misfits who goes on a reality show and shows the world what a loser they are. But this is my deep, dark secret, and here I am revealing it – because this is more fun than attending to the work I should be attending to. This cranky, pathetic, self-absorbed whining occurs for a few days every time I fly home from tour guiding. At least this time, I got a standing ovation.