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- Relax (2006-09)

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Travel Plans (October 2006)

Planning a trip for relax can ironically turns out quite stressful, and the intensity of that anxiety can exceed many other supposedly more stressful events in my life, say, a big project I am handling at work which I am going to share with you here soon. This is not the first time that I am stressed out because of planning a trip. If you want to upset me, plan a really fascinating trip with me and then mess it up. I'll be depressed.

This October I was rather pre-occupied with one of my coolest travel plans ever - Nepal. I planned to visit Nepal and do a 4-day trekking in November, the only best time in the year for such activity. I started finding travel partners in September, but not until early October could I find someone who was interested and could actually confirm the availability. Then I proceeded to tickets, which had never been a problem in my experience. There were only two airlines that I could fly with, namely, Royal Nepal Airlines and Thai Airways. Despite the terrible reputation, the former didn't even allow for putting anyone one the waiting list. I picked Thai Airways, with even better schedule, and was quite optimistic to confirm our tickets even though our compromised schedule left very little flexibility in changing dates due to office commitments.

One week passed. No luck. Two weeks passed. Still no luck. According to experience, two weeks' wait should normally be enough to confirm. At this point I became less optimistic and started to get anxious. What if my wonderful plan turns sour? There aren't many seasons suitable for trekking in Nepal and, more importantly, aren't many people who are interested in it AND have time to go during the best season.

Cancel my leaves? My company required employees to clear their leave balance by the end of the year, and colleagues in my team each had their own leave plans already. But if I were to go on leave, how should I spend it? Stay at home? It's nice to stay at home doing nothing for a few days - I actually enjoy that - but staying at home for one whole week did not sound appealing.

Find another destination? My travel companion stated clearly that he would go nowhere except Nepal. That's understandable. It was the destination not the activity of traveling per se that was attractive. So for me, going somewhere else means going by myself. The most unfortunate thing for a person who loves traveling is that he or she does not enjoy traveling alone. I enjoy doing many things all by myself, such as swimming and cinema-going, but unfortunately not traveling. I went to Lake District, England alone in 2001 for a couple of days, and I knew two days was not far from the maximum length of time that I enjoy by myself.

Contingency plans. I thought of going to places where I have friends or relatives, so that I would have some one to talk to in the evening after a day of being alone. Vancouver - good timing with leaves turning red, but since all early bird tickets were gone by then, and with the rising fuel surcharge, a ticket to Vancouver would cost me HK$8000. (I opted out Northwest Airlines as transit in a US airport would require another $800 for US visa, just offsetting the cheaper price!) Spending HK$8000 just on air tickets for a Plan B was too much. Munich - going to Europe in November, with day-time much shorter than night, was not entirely wise. I wouldn't mind if I could experience a European Christmas or New Year - I was in Paris when the new millennium set in - but November is too early for any festive atmosphere. London - if I could not enjoy being alone most of the time, I'd better find a less gloomy place. Well, I have friends in other parts of the world, but those places were even less suitable. So I scraped this idea of finding another place to go.

I know I could not do away with my fear for loneliness on journeys right away, although this might be the ultimate solution for a person who loves visiting different places. The only option left was to cancel the trip - I experienced some complications in canceling the flights bookings, which caused me even greater anxieties - and find some time between now and year-end for my leave.

I was lucky that that no one in my team opted for Christmas so far, unlike last year when two colleagues competed for this period, so I would still have the chance of getting Christmas. When I felt so stressed finding an alternate destination, I heard about a friend's plan of visiting Austria during Christmas. Hm... that might save me, if air tickets do not fail me again...

Trust me, planning a trip requires more luck than effort. For some perfect trips without hiccups I had in the past, they were results of sheer luck.

(Pictures on this page: My colleague planned a outing to his family's farm near discovery bay, and that required more effort than luck. Thanks to him that I can still have some peace in the midst of all the anxieties.)

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