Coloring Is Magic, or How I Get From Point A To Point B with Travel Anxiety

by Michelle M. Johnson

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I don't like to travel.

Wait, that isn't a detailed enough sentence.

Traveling makes me feel like I am going to die for hours and hours and hours.

That isn't to say I don't adore being in new places, seeing new things (I draw the line at having new experiences - not all of those are good, so I always prefer to do my research on those.), especially museums, architecture, vistas, libraries, mountains, rivers, oceans, parks, breweries, vineyards, zoos (Have I mentioned the depth of my nerdom?). But, I do not take any pleasure in getting there. In fact, just thinking about traveling makes my heart rate pick up speed and pressure.

Why on Earth would I be writing about travel then? To write about something is definitely to think about it. I'm writing about it because it is all I can think about since the opportunity to visit New York City and to see my son perform at Carnegie Hall (yes, THAT Carnegie Hall) presented itself, and my knee jerk reaction to all that was "hell, no!" But, that response wasn't acceptable to me (This is my son's dream come true; I gotta see this in person!), to my nerd core (Omigawd - I'm gonna get to visit M.O.M.A., the New York Library, The Met, The American Museum of Natural History, and stroll through Central Park, the setting of like every movie I've ever loved - Piggy gave Gregory Hines the huggies in Central Park!) or my vision of what it means to age (I'm 43 - too young to have such limitations.).

I didn't always used to be this way. I have never been a traveler (and, yes, I know planes are safer than automobiles, mass transit better than having your own car, yada, yada, yada. I am devastatingly claustrophobic - to catch up on that read this post, please), but I used to be able to get from point A to point B, even if I didn't like it very much. When I was younger I had to have to travel frequently as I attended college out of state; I flew no fewer than 4-6 times a year (I count EVERY departure/arrival as a flight - going up and coming down affect me the most dramatically, so I count every one of those as flying.). But, once I graduated, got married and life happened, travel became less frequent. I have a very vivid imagination and I love cinema, so I have never been one of those folks who've had "bucket lists" full of destinations they need to mark off to feel that their life has been well lived. In many ways, I envy those folks a bit - I'd like to be able to say that I dream of going on safari, swimming in crystal clear Caribbean waters, climbing tall peaks, or shopping in colorful bazaars, but I don't. I don't plan vacations or surf tourism websites. I am very satisfied having a well-prepared picnic in a local park, and if I read about a momentous Indian summer in a far off locale or watch about it on the big screen, I feel like I've been there if the writing and cinematography is good.

This trip to NYC has been looming over me for months, silently taunting me "You can't do this; what the hell were you thinking?," but now that it is just around the corner, I have noticed my stress and anxiety levels about the travel increasing, a solid night's sleep getting harder to find, my brain buzzing off task more and more frequently, and my patience for anyone or anything deteriorating at an alarming rate (I've been apologizing...a lot.). This has to stop. I'm going to New York City. On a plane. And, there's probably going to be some subways thrown into the mix (who's big idea was it to make travel go under ground!?!). Oh, and snow, there might be snow.

How the hell did I used to travel?!?!

That's what I asked myself recently, out loud, in front of my partner, Steve. "You colored," he rudely replied (I was obviously having a private conversation with myself.).

Whaat?! I was dumbfounded that my brain had forgotten this about myself - I colored in order to travel (Thank the Maker, I don't get airsick!)! I used to have a travel box of crayons, a special book and everything (a book that is STILL on my bedroom bookshelf, thank heavens!)! Beginning in the fall of 1992, I would color in Sark's Inspiration Sandwich, a book that had been given to me by a kindred spirit, every time I had to board a plane.
It saddens me that this book is
no longer in print:(
And while I don't think the book was created with the intention of being colored, it sure as hell lent itself to being decorated by my crayons. I honestly can't even remember much about what is written in the book because I only cracked it open on airplanes for fear that its travel magic would run out, and I only paid attention to the lines I was trying to fill in with the colors from my 24 pack of Crayolas. If I did this, I could pretend that I wasn't trapped inside a metal box that I wasn't allowed, under any circumstances, to escape from (I do not ask to be seated by the emergency exit, and this is for the safety of all on board the flight.). The drawings are very free form, almost inviting you to color outside the lines, which is perfect as turbulence is a royal pain in the ass for creating coloring masterpieces.
Based on my caption on this
page, I imagine some crazy
bumping and boiling took
place on this flight.
The book also has this great little section for scrap-booking bits of your life that make you feel happy and centered:) How this book did not end up with the title READ THIS IN ORDER TO NOT TO LOSE YOUR SHIT WHILE SUFFERING TRAVEL ANXIETY I will never know.

How did I forget this vital piece of information about myself?! I colored in order to travel. My blog is called HAVE COLOR, WILL TRAVEL, for crying out loud. But, in my defense, I really have only traveled by car for the last 10 years, packing along with me what I call my "fun bag" full of coloring books, coloring tools, reading material and drawing/writing supplies, all meant to be used upon arrival, not during transit (I do get carsick); the bag settles my nerves about being somewhere out of my control, but does nothing for my nerves about traveling to get there (It's all about the verbs, folks!). I had forgotten how effective coloring was at helping me get from place to place! I have been encouraging folks to use coloring to focus their minds and express their creativity, but the history of my use of coloring is completely different. I've used coloring to distract myself, to divert my attention, to shut down my overactive imagination.

But, my "fun bag" is not TSA friendly or easy to lug around NYC, so I have permitted myself a couple of "Treat Yo'self" purchases recently, all with the thought that it is money well spent if it gets me where I need to be in one piece. First up, this totally awesome, waaay not for my age demographic, backpack:
Look at all these cool stickers!
There's even a pineapple!!
I'm calling it my "Super Fun, I Can Travel" bag:)
I love it!!!
It is the perfect size to hold just enough anti-anxiety stuff and not make me feel like my spine is going to collapse. The second thing I indulged in (but I really don't see as an indulgence, it's more of a necessity...but I can't eat it, might be perceived as indulgent by some) is Jenny Lawson's newest book You Are Here: An Owner's Manual For Dangerous Minds, which I have been excited about for about a year, and just so happens to be...wait for it...A Coloring Book!! Inspiration Sandwich is definitely coming with me to the Big Apple (now that I've dusted it off!), but how I've been feeling lately means that this journey is going to require the big guns. I need more than one book to keep me from hurting others or myself, to keep me having color, having travel, and having a safe time.

All this is to say that when I started this blog and named it HAVE COLOR WILL TRAVEL I promised to reveal why I chose the name that I did, and here you have it - coloring is magic. 

It isn't really, I know that, but anything that helps you get from point A to point B, helps you live the life you want to live AND not hurt yourself or those around you, is pretty damn epic. That my little flying feather is cheap and legal is all the better (Yes, that was a Dumbo reference. 10 points if you got it right away.).

I still can't believe that I had forgotten how I used to manage to get myself on planes (Brains really are devilish little boogers, more interested in our pain than our perseverance.), but I am really glad that I had someone around me that remembered how my 19 year old self problem solved. Because this person in the picture below in my copy of Inspiration Sandwich, THAT is the real me, not the me who has been waking up in the middle of the night, brain on fire, heart rate thundering, thinking "I can't do this, I can't do this" over and over. True, that gal in the photo is barely 20 years old, but she colored to travel, and so do I:)
In case you're wondering, this amazing place pictured
is Sedona, Arizona, the most beautiful place on Earth, IMHO.
 I didn't have to fly to get there, but I did have
to drive in a van loaded with 10 people for a really long time,
 and that's pretty much the same thing;)