Travel Anxiety

nature stroll
Path to the ocean

Who, me? A seasoned solo traveler? Filled with trepidation? And in anticipation of going to a place I’ve been twice before, loving it sufficiently that I’m returning, rather than exploring the undoubtedly many other magical spots located elsewhere in Costa Rica? Yup.

In the fall, I made reservations at my two favorite places—in Monteverde (three days) and on the Pacific coast (three weeks)—and arranged for the comfortable efficient shuttle service provided by Interbus to deliver me to my various destinations. Still, suddenly and without reason, I found myself worrying about details: would a taxi get me to the shuttle departure spot from my arrival hotel in time for my early Wednesday departure? There’s no reason to think not, although a month before departure, such feelings began to chafe at my consciousness. I stay at a small, family-owned hotel, Casa Tago (the proprietor’s daughter is a terrific artist), near the departure point (Denny’s-Airport) and taxis are plentiful. Recognizing that it was silly to worry about that leg of the trip, I began fixating on the next taxi ride – from bustling, touristy Tamarindo to my rustic Hacienda of Solitude situated twelve miles distant, partly on rutted dirt roads. It hadn’t been a problem on earlier visits, and this time I’m even prepared with the phone number of an English-understanding taxi driver, although there’s no dearth of taxis or Ubers in Tamarindo. Nonetheless, each time I thought about it, I felt my cortisol level rising. CALM DOWN, I told myself repeatedly.

Food became my next obsession. Although knowing that starving to death was extremely unlikely, the difficulty of getting food once there stimulated my worry machinery. One mile away from the house is a tiny bodega stocked only with survival supplies (rice, beans, sometimes avocados and eggs), but not much else I find appetizing. A mile and a half further down the road is a marginally larger bodega with a broader range of offerings. I walked there twice during my first, January 2020 visit, but each step in the sweltering sun on that shadeless road tormented me, especially on the return trip with a heavy backpack tugging at my shoulders. I could easily supplant that expedition with a visit to a nearby town I’ve never visited. A public bus headed there swings past my dwelling daily at 5:30, a convenient option to shopping but one that filled me with (unwarranted) anxiety, even knowing there IS a return bus!

To avert a dreaded hike to the bodegas, I decided to bring a half empty suitcase and staple-shop before arriving. When I visited in March 2022, I realized that the trucks driving past bellowing announcements I don’t understand weren’t making political declarations, as is often the case in Europe, but rather informing residents that they’re selling something – fruits and vegetables, fish, chicken and eggs. The only one I patronized then was the one that rolled past on alternate Saturday evenings. A bare light bulb dangled from the truck’s ceiling, illuminating crates of pineapples and potatoes, cantaloupes and onions, avocados and mangos. That saved me from the survival dining I practiced during the first visit, when I lived on avocados and eggs, rice cakes and peanut butter, rice, beans, corn chips, and cheese. And this time, I’ll run out to see what those other trucks are offering!

When I contacted the Hacienda of Solitude’s manager, he responded within ten minutes; he sent me the taxi number and informed me that the farmer no longer drives around, but that one can arrange delivery. Even better, of course, since one wouldn’t have to coordinate one’s consumption with delivery days. But I allowed myself to fret about this too: Did the phone number work? Could I communicate? Would he come? I wanted to know before arrival, since I hoped to minimize, if not eliminate, the need to traipse to the distant bodega. And had the shuttle service gone out of business since I made those reservations in October? I was having a field day of imaginary and completely gratuitous worry!

I understood my concerns were optional and unwarranted. But somehow that part of my brain didn’t communicate effectively with the emotion department. An underlying current of worry distracted me for weeks. Then, as if the universe were listing to my idiotic interior dialogue and decided, compassionately, to ally my fears, the non-problems tormenting me melted away one by one.

Over the past few months, I’d invited several friends – those requiring little interaction, desiring recuperative beach time, and happy hanging in one, rustic spot – to join me, but no one volunteered. I wasn’t disappointed about the lack of company but would feel less uncomfortable embarking on the bus shopping expedition if I had a companion. A week prior to departure, an acquaintance I’m fairly certain is similarly competent and low maintenance, jumped at the opportunity for a week in the sun. Although we’ll travel on separate flights, we arrive around the same time, so all my getting there anxiety melted away. Just like that! I don’t think the experience will motivate me to write another “Never Again” blogpost (see 21 November 2022) but stay tuned!

Yesterday, I texted the farmer with a list of my wants and asked if he could stop by the day following our arrival. Yes, he can! And his enthusiastic communications indicate that he’s reliable. So now all of my travel-worry problems are solved. At no point did I consider my anxiety  justified, and it certainly wasn’t provoked by past experience (which one should be careful not to always use as a predictor of future events). Living and learning is sometimes easier said than done!


By michellefacos

I am a multi-lingual art historian, consultant (art, travel, writing), editor, entrepreneur, lecturer, and writer who has lived along the shores of the Baltic, the Mediterranean, and Lake Erie, in New York and in Paris, and in the forests of Quebec and Sweden. While I’ve lived a semi-nomadic existence for the past few decades, I’m inching toward a life anchored in Europe.

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