A Totally Normal Pre-Departure Freak-Out

So. It was bound to happen: I had my first pre-departure freak-out today.

Actually, I’m kind of still having it, in the midst of it, as I’m writing this. I’m sitting here, on one of the most goddamn beautiful days we’ve had in a shitty/foggy anti-summer, surrounded by trash bags filled with the various components that compose my life. I’m nauseous and hazy feeling and I can’t really cry anymore and I don’t know what to do with myself. So I’m writing a blog post about how I had a freak-out, and I’m writing about it in the past tense, because it’s easier to pretend it’s over and done with, passed like a nasty little storm cloud on an otherwise perfect, Indian Summer day.

It started with money. It always starts with money. There isn’t enough of it. Not ever and especially now. Maybe if I had a trust fund or a nest egg or a looming inheritance, but I’ve got none of that. I’ve got about half the money I wanted to have, and it’s entirely possible that I’ll land in Phnom Penh with only a couple hundred bucks to my name.

Yes, far less capable people with far fewer skills than I have landed in a similar situation and done just fine. (This is what I keep telling myself at least.) But I’ve always had a job, always had a reliable source of income, and I’m about to give that up for a very long time.

I keep recounting, obsessively adding sums and subtracting costs, best-cases and worst-cases and most-probable projections. They’re all fucked, I decided this morning. And I’m fucked with them.

And then I got to thinking about all there is to do. It’s a lot. Moving out of an apartment, going to the dump, going to the Goodwill, dismantling a life. There’s tons of people to see, appointments to keep, loose ends to tie up—disputes over medical bills to resolve and a car to sell. There’s goodbyes to orchestrate, a wedding to go to.

I don’t want to do any of it.

I want to cancel everything and curl up on my soggy-soft mattress, thin old sheets over blood stains, and stare out the window and do fucking none of it. I want to be Vicodin-floaty, detached, numb, not here.

But that’s the addict in me, who always wants to escape. And I don’t think that addict will ever go away, just kind of live inside me, flare up sometimes—times like this—but usually just more subdued, in the corner, a quiet but insistent whisper.

Of course, I know I’m going to do it all, take care of it. And of course I won’t be dropped on my ass and of course I’ll find a way to scrape together enough money and be okay. Of course it’s normal, I suppose, to freak out a bit before a huge transition—I’d be a little suspect if I didn’t freak out. Of course the sadness and the anxiety and the feeling, not of panic but of monumental, mind-wracking, gut-wrenching worry, in the face of a big blank unknown—of course all this is totally normal, right?


8 Responses to “A Totally Normal Pre-Departure Freak-Out”

  1. 1 Lesley September 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    It’s totally, entirely normal to freak out — I think it’s a sign you’re doing the right thing. You’re embracing something that scares the hell out of you. Every time I’ve done that in my life (every time!) it’s worked out for the best. The beginning is the craziest and most scary, but eventually you’re going to find your rhythm, and you’re going to re-read this post and feel like a different person.

  2. 2 laurenquinn September 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks Lesley! I think I know all this intellectually, but being reassured sure effing helps!!

  3. 3 Richard September 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I’m with Lesley. Things will work out – it’s hard to see the other side before you leave, because all the opportunities to adapt and find something to do to earn money/fit in/make a life are invisible to you when you are a world away. When you arrive, and you start to feel the texture of things, it’s always so much easier to find a foothold.

    I’ve never read a story yet of person-throws-life-to-the-wind-and-gets-fucked, but dozens where it works out. That’s got to count for something?

  4. 4 jenna September 20, 2011 at 2:44 am

    i’m with richard and lesley- and i think what you are doing is incredible.

    and i also think it’s totally normal to freak out, to me it’s just a sign that you’re processing it.

    it reminds me of how my dad always told me it was good to be nervous, it means you’re preparing yourself- something i always thought was good advice anyway!

  5. 5 Nick September 20, 2011 at 6:27 am


    You’ll be good, Lauren, and the heebie-jeebies are natural. Plus, although you’ll be a long way away physically from your loved ones, methinks you have a ready-made cyber-support group that has your back too.

  6. 6 Joshua Samuel Brown September 20, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I have been glued to Terra Firma, localized as it were, by the gift of a cottage. A dog is involved. To celebrate / mourn, I bought rain gear and a pair of shoes with toe-holes for climbing and gutter cleaning. In a month I will got to Los Angeles, where dreams are conceived, midwifed, crushed and buried in one fell swoop. Your tales of travel inspire me as always. May the road rise to meet you!

  7. 7 Joe Willand September 21, 2011 at 5:07 am

    Hey Lauren,
    it’s Joe, in Nam’. I want to go to the caves in November and was hoping you could either, message me with your contact in that area or maybe email me a link to your blog about that trip. We want to get ahold of him/them soon so as to have the best possible experience and get reservations locked down. Hit me at joewilland@gmail.com

  8. 8 Angela September 22, 2011 at 2:23 am

    It’s normal that you are freaking out, as you said it wouldn’t be normal otherwise. You are worried because you haven’t left yet, so you look at the big picture. Once you leave you will do one thing at a time and you’ll see first-hand that everything is possible, everything can be sorted out and you will get on well on any situation, it’s just our human spirit of adaptation 🙂

Comments are currently closed.

Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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