Working Up Escape Velocity

POSTED September 10, 2023 IN
eagle taking off to fly

Image source: Bigstock | ©ca2hill

A friend recently said she was dreading a trip to another state for a wedding. It wasn’t the wedding that caused distress, it was the traveling to and from her home. I share with her this particular anxiety. As the years and decades have passed, my excitement about travel has increasingly diminished. It’s not that I don’t love to be in a new place and experience new vistas, meet new people, and be amazed by walking down a new midway in this carnival of life. It is the leaving home that becomes more and more difficult. It’s the resistance I feel to facing the trials and tribulations of airport security, folding myself up like a pretzel in too small a seat on an airplane, figuring out how to get to and from the airport (should I ask a friend to take me or should I park in long-term parking?).

Even though I’ve made what I call my travel checklist of standard stuff to always pack for a trip – cell phone chargers and laptop power cords, medications and vitamins, extra glasses, license, passport, etc. –  I’m always tense about forgetting something important. The last time I went for a simple overnight (which sometimes takes as much to pack for as a longer trip) I found myself having to travel back home that night to pick up a power cord for my breathing machine. That was a 200-mile round trip omission. Thankfully I had an audio book to listen to.

Besides the things to pack, if it is going to be longer than a couple of days I have to think about my cat and my mail. Who will feed the cat and change the litter and how will my plants get watered? Should I stop my mail or get someone to pick it up for me?

Handling the details of traveling in post-modern times is what I call “working up escape velocity.” It feels as if I’m sitting on a rocket ship working up the torque to blast myself beyond the gravitational pull of my home. I’m reminded of the scientific concept of inertia, which is: When a body is at rest it tends to remain at rest and when a body is moving it tends to remain moving. Mostly I’ve been at rest, and to get myself moving becomes a major challenge. I’m already edgy with anticipation of a trip that will not happen until October. I’ve been making lists about what I need to do prior to departure and what I’ll need to take with me. It’s absurd.

Travel used to be so easy, and those of us who have been around for a while have direct knowledge of what it used to be like. Years ago it seemed so straightforward – just throw a few things in a bag and take off for the airport. Park close to the terminal (making sure to have our tickets) and check in at the front desk, then take a leisurely stroll to the gate. Simple. People under 30 don’t know about the “shifting baseline” of travel convenience.

With every passing generation what is considered “normal” in travel gives us increasingly fewer options. Thus, navigating even the most simple trip becomes more complex. It’s not surprising then that I go into a bit of resistance before a trip and, for this, I can find personal forgiveness. It is a comfort to make lists and I now keep these lists for future reference. It not only helps, but it is following in the footsteps of all the participants of any NASA space shot. My lists may not be as complex as theirs, but I find I increasingly need them for my own peace of mind.

May you find your own personal methods to reach “escape velocity.”  I wish for you a summer of safe and stress-free travel.

—Justine Willis Toms
Cofounder, Executive Director, Host
June 2015

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