I was really nervous about travel this time around--which isn't normal for me. But it's been a while since I've been on the road alone, and while the parts of Asia I'm visiting have pretty sizable English-speaking populations, I have this fear of being alone in an airport, completely unable to get myself to a hotel or on a plane or anything at all.
That fear isn't totally unfounded. It almost happened to me earlier this year in Villavicencio, Colombia, where the plane I was supposed to catch to Bogotá was canceled, and no one in the entire airport (if you could even call it that) spoke English. I got myself a juice at a little cafe and patiently (and hopefully) called the team I had been traveling with. Fortunately, they were still around and I just joined up with them and headed home. But the thought of negotiating a new plane flight in Spanish (which I speak, but not very well . . . certainly not well enough to arrange that transaction) was more than just daunting--it was terrifying.
I haven't felt that alone in a long time, and it was the worst kind of alone--alone, surrounded by people.
There's this girl named Carly who was recently in a serious accident and who is recovering amazingly (miraculously, even) but who cannot communicate yet with her family. She is an old, dear friend of some of the finest people I know.
I don't know her, but I think that moment in Villavicencio--when I was surrounded by people who wanted to help me, but we couldn't seem to get the words to mean anything to each other--that moment is probably something like what she is experiencing now. It's the experience I don't want to have in Singapore, or Chiang Mai, or Shanghai.
Traveling is an adventure. It's a privilege that I get to do it at all, even though I miss my family fiercely while I'm away. But it's also a challenge, and there are moments that are utterly terrifying. I wouldn't trade the adventure to avoid the fear, though. I guess that's just how it is.