I have to admit. Deciding to take a long road trip across 17 states during a pandemic was probably not the smartest idea. I’m sure many people looked at my plans or pictures and thought I was crazy. Heck, sometimes I thought I was crazy myself. A lot of planning and discussions went into the process to decide on making this trip. I did my best to think of everything, but I wasn’t fully prepared for the toll it would take on my along the way.
So let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Stay home. Wear your mask. Don’t travel. Limit contact with others. All the things I had done consistently for 5 months. I sat at home, mostly alone, and only went out for necessities. I cut off all travel and event plans that weren’t cut off for me. I was following the guidelines pretty heavily. But I was struggling mentally for sure. Some of you may not know this, but I have an autoimmune disorder or two, and would be in the “high risk” category for sure. So the decision was definitely made tougher on whether to go, but I obviously decided I could manage.
It didn’t stop with that initial decision though. I packed all the masks, sanitizers, gloves, wipes, etc and always had that with me everywhere. I looked at all the laws/regulations for the states I was visiting and realized I was likely to not follow all of the rules. I did my best along the way to limit contact, only go to outdoor sites, and get takeout or delivery. I wore my masks everywhere, both inside and outside, and kept my distance pretty much everywhere. But that didn’t matter. It always weighed on me. Both that I could potentially get sick and that I was possibly violating other state’s guidelines. Honestly, I almost turned back multiple times in the early days of the trip.
Stress, Anxiety, & Allergies
These things probably don’t make a lot of sense together, but let me explain. See, over the last few months, I have tried to be a more open person and confront stresses/issues instead of avoiding. That has led me to be more open to stronger feelings and anxiety throughout daily life. Prior to this year, I probably did a much better job of keeping this internal (I know, probably not the healthiest) and not letting it affect me too much. But stress, anxiety, and panic attacks were becoming a reality at times dealing with the pandemic, isolation, and current issues in society.
That was especially true in planning this trip and going from place to place. I was stressed out on the decision whether to go on the trip and worried about what people were thinking of my decision. Travel anxiety is a common issue with going on a trip. I was traveling to a new, unfamiliar place every 3-4 days and sharing that space with people at times. I got this anxiousness on the road to each new place worrying about it all and would have to take some deep breaths and listen to some calming music. It did start to calm down as the trip wore on though.
Finally, the allergies. This all ties in because, when you combine the symptoms of stress/anxiety with those of allergies, it can resemble many symptoms of COVID. Traveling to new areas, experiencing unknown allergens to my system, and camping outside for large portions, were all contributing to my allergies going crazy. Even with a regular course of zyrtec and benedryl I was struggling and was always worried about possibly having COVID. I took my temperature daily though and that usually helped calm me down. It all definitely didn’t help me keep calm along the way and always enjoy myself.
So that is a lot that weighs on you. It can add extra weight to your mind or shoulders on a weekend trip, but I was doing this for 38 days. As the trip wore on, it all wore on me. I noticed this and took a night off in some cities to let my body/mind recuperate a little. Driving or walking around the different cities definitely helped my mind escape awhile too. But it was a lot of walking for a body that had mostly sat around for 5 months (or more pre-pandemic lol). I averaged 4 miles a day, with some days as high as 15 miles, and don’t forget about the hills and elevation (of which FL has none).
At about 3 weeks in, I realized the mental/emotional impact of it all was definitely weighing on me and all the walking was taking its toll. I was already running low on energy with a few stops left. The energy I brought to my early stops definitely was gone and I was taking it easy more, walking less, and driving more. In one of my last stops, I seriously considered cutting it short and heading home. I was ready to be home, but I dug deep and finished the journey with the little energy I had left.
This road trip was an amazing adventure and really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There were so many amazing things along the way, but I felt it was a disservice to not confront the bumps in the road. The mental and physical issues along the way are part of the journey. Finding the strength inside yourself to keep going to create more memories. Discovering ways to find peace/calm and disconnecting from negativity at times. It wasn’t all beautiful sunsets, cruising on lakes, and views from mountains. It wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it!