I have to admit: I consider myself pretty lucky. My hubby and I became a couple when he and I were in high school. Because of that, I thankfully missed out on the unpredictability of college dating and the awkwardness of online dating apps. We had each other through all of life’s big changes that happen in early adulthood; he is my person. One part of being a team for so long, though, is that there is very little we have experienced without each other. For me, one of those things is traveling alone.
That’s where my 40th birthday comes in. You see, for my 40th birthday, my husband planned the most amazing present: a surprise trip to visit my best friend of over 30 years at her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, over my birthday weekend. His goal, following the inspirational lead of The Yes Theory, was to have me seek discomfort by traveling short notice and alone to see my friend. He and my friend conspired together and had everything arranged, including TSA-approved toiletries ordered and packed. Just a few days before this surprise gift was to be presented, though, I broke my foot simply walking down the stairs in my own home. The injury meant I was given the gift a little early because I had to make a decision: to travel injured or not. As excited as I was for this trip, I didn’t feel comfortable traveling alone across the country, immobile, in a boot, and on a scooter.
A part of me–out of the fear of the unknown, and general discomfort of the idea of traveling alone–wanted to cancel. But at the same time, I was incredibly grateful (and impressed!) by the surprise gift. My friend has lived in some pretty awesome locations over the past few years (Long Beach, for example), and I have never had the opportunity or the finances to see her. Now that her days were on the East Coast were limited, I knew I couldn’t let this trip slip away. After a year of teaching hybrid and in-person, as well as currently raising an incredibly independent and feisty four-year-old, I needed a break and some reset time with my friend. I was determined to do all I could to make this trip happen. I followed doctors’ orders and didn’t hesitate to set another travel date a little over a month later. Once my doctor approved a week before the new travel date, I started packing and planning. Was I nervous? Anxious? Excited? Scared? Hesitant? YUP! Would I (or the conspirators) let me talk myself out of this opportunity? Nope!
Leaving was kind of surreal. Saying goodbye to my kiddos felt like just a weekend getaway with my husband. It wasn’t until he and I parted ways at airport security that I realized I was really on my own and completely dependent on my own abilities (and the helpfulness of strangers) to get to Raleigh, successfully and safely. Getting through airport security was a little awkward since I was still hobbling around in my boot. Once they determined I wasn’t smuggling contraband, I was on my way with my two carry-ons. Next, I had to work on getting to my gate as well as finding supper. Feeling incredibly anxious and hungry, I grabbed food at the first sit-down spot I spotted, since my husband asked me to find a dinner that also included a beer. Snagging the first place I saw was not my best idea because it was far more expensive than I had imagined, and there was a Buffalo Wild Wings a few gates down. Dinner was really tasty, at least.
Too soon, it was time to get to my gate, which was about 17 gates away. There I was, hobbling as best I could and as fast as I could, even on the moving conveyor belts. I was getting some curious looks. The panic started sinking in, then, when I realized I was moving even slower than I thought. The negative self-talk kicked in, too. Unexpectedly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman (with crutches) riding on the back of an airport tram pointing and waving me down. Before I knew it, an airport attendant was loading my bags and practically lifting me onto his cart! He asked what gate I needed, and off we went! Fast, too! I made it to my gate just as they were calling my name!
Getting on the plane was awkward and uncomfortable, so the anxiety and negative thoughts started again. The aisle was really narrow, especially with my boot and luggage. Both the flight attendant and passenger behind me assured me they were in no rush, and to take my time. Thanks to them, I refocused and got to my seat and my luggage loaded without much help. Both were quick and easy. Once I was seated and had my latest Netflix binge loaded, I felt triumphant. Admittedly, I did drop a few tears as my kiddos called to say goodnight before take-off, but beyond that, I was good. I was better than good. I was victorious in seeking discomfort!
Once the plane was in the air and I could see the sunset on the horizon, I knew that I had achieved a new level of inner strength. Sure, spending a long weekend with my friend and her family (surrounded by good food, amazing coffee, warm weather, sunshine, and azaleas) was incredible! But there was more to this trip. I began to notice little moments where I was seeking independence, like changing my seat to something more comfortable for the flight back on the Delta app. I think the real gift, and my husband’s intention all along, was my newfound confidence in myself and a new personal goal to seek discomfort more often.