As I write this I am at the airport, trying to kill time. As per usual, I am more than an hour early before the check-in time for my flight. It’s a thing I do, no matter where I’m travelling, that I put in lots of buffer time so I will more often than not arrive way too early and need to wait. It’s not just for flights either – I have a tendency to arrive early for any sort of time sensitive appointment. (Except work of course, where I often take what I call “tactical lates”, but that’s a story for another time)
The buffer time and arriving early is a form of risk management I suppose. Since flights are costly to miss, you have to manage the risks involved. It’s also a form of anxiety I guess, something I’ve been prone to lately – worrying about all the things that could go wrong. I’m especially familiar with travel anxiety given how much I’ve travelled this year – this is now my fourth time flying out of the country for a while. I plan to go easy on the air travel next year, I’m kind of burned out a bit by it. Not that I don’t like visiting new places, but as I mentioned above there’s a lot of anxiety around it. Some sources of anxiety are:
Traffic. Metro Manila right now is one of the worst (if not outright the worst) city in the world with regards to traffic. On a normal day, you’re pretty much rolling the dice on any estimate of travel time as the traffic will randomly grind to a halt unexpectedly. And I just happened to be travelling during the week that we are hosting the APEC summit, which means random road closures and traffic congestion in the southern part of the metro where the city lies. Granted, I’m targetting to arrive at the airport a bit after midnight so the risk of a traffic jam is very low, but I’d prefer not to roll the dice
Flight cancellations; this is pretty much a unique risk during APEC week as a number of flights have been cancelled due to visiting dignitaries and security and whot not. There is supposedly a no-fly zone on the airport until the last day of the conference, and I’m flying out on the last day. My flight wasn’t on the cancellation list, but I couldn’t get a straight answer from any of the official channels whether the no fly zone would affect me. The airline’s helpline just kept me on hold for a while, not enough to hold my patience when I just wanted to confirm my flight eill push throu. Given it’s an early morning flight, the risk is again low, but still someing to think about.
Scams. Before APEC and the Paris terrorist attacks took over the local news cycle, one of the big causes of worry for travellers was the so-called “laglag bala” scam where unscrupulous airport staff would plant bullets in your luggage and proceed to extort you when they are detected at the xray machine. I don’t seem to be the target audience, but I plan to check in my luggage to minimize the odds of such problems occuring. It’s a shameful issue but the good news is that it has brought to light the sheer incompetence of officials in the transport department.
Forgetfulness. There’s always a risk that you arrive at the airport and realise you forgot something important and have to go back. My mom likes to tell the story of hpw she once almost left for the airport to travel to Vietnam and had to go back home because she forgot her passport of all things. Or even worse, what if you travel to a foreign country and realise you forgot to pack any socks? Or underwear? (Not a true story). Nowadays I always prepare a checklist ahead of time of what I plan to bring, to minimise the risk of forgetting things. Of course, you need to remember to check the list again on the way back home – during my last trip home I left my phone charger at the flat we were staying at and had to double back for it
Accommodations/getting lost. This is more of a problem when you’ve already arrived at your destination and there’s some problem with the accommodations you’ve planned out. Maybe there was a problem with the booking or you got lost on the way there. For the first night on this particular trip, I’m staying alone at an airbnb in a country that isn’t primarily English-speaking. It’s also my first time using airbnb. So I have a number of things to worry about: will I be able to find the place? Will I be able to communicate well with the owner? Will he murder me in my sleep? (Ok I guess the risk of that last one is probably pretty low)
Flight problems. Well, I don’t have a fear of flying per se, but I can imagine some people might, especially given how there’s a lot more incidents of flight problems, crashes or even disappearances happening latly. I would guess it’s pretty much a product of the information age
Well, worrying too much about all of these things isn’t helpful of course. It’s a habit I have to rid myself of – I need to learn the right amount of worrying that’s appropriate enough to manage the risks, but not enough to drive myself crazy. After all, one of the reasons for travelling is a sense of adventure and to anxiety so I should learn to let go of my worries and enjoy being out of my comfort zone for a while