In just over a month I will be flying to Madrid…by myself….being away from Dan and home for eleven days, attending the International Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest. For many people, that would be cause for excitement and celebration, but for me…well, the nightmares and feelings of panic have begun. I am working on turning that around, though- what a wonderful opportunity this trip is- or will be- if I can get my head on straight. Traveling with this guy is a joy…
I am Secretary of the ICA, so there is no turning back. I have to be there to serve the organization, and to perform on the Board recital. I truly want to be there to experience the beauty of Madrid. Originally, Dan was going to travel with me, and we were going to add on days in Barcelona and Portugal, as we did with our trip to Italy two years ago, but his schedule at the theater is just too busy for him to get away, and we have to have some foundation work done on the house in the fall…it just didn’t make sense for Dan to go this time. Intellectually, I understand, but my heart hurts to not share this experience with him. And- I will just go ahead and admit this- I am terrified of traveling to another country by myself. Chickenheart- that’s me when it comes to things like this.
My fears were mollified somewhat when my best friend decided that she would go to the conference early with me (the Board gathers for several days of preparatory meetings before the five day conference). I love traveling with Diane, and knew that together we would somehow end up in the correct country…something I can’t guarantee for myself. But…my dearest friend in the world is dealing with breast cancer, and will be going through rounds of radiation that will prevent her from attending the conference after all. I will miss having her with me, but the most important thing is that she does what she needs to do to be healthy. Travel buddies…always an adventure (and lots of laughter).
So, now I have to face one of my biggest fears, flying alone to a far away country where I know very little of the language. I was in the Spanish National Honor Society in high school, but that was twenty-nine years ago and that ship has sailed. I am also such an introvert, that the thought of going to this conference without someone that I feel very comfortable with gives me the heebeejeebies. There will be many people I know there, but it is just different. And…I have to perform in front of all of those people as a Board member this time. I feel the pressure building…pressure of my own making.
Basta! Enough. Now that I’ve put my fears out on the table, it’s time to face them and embrace them. I have been to Madrid before during my Master’s degree, on tour with the orchestra. The city is beautiful, and I will never forget my visit to the Prado, some of the most amazing art I have ever seen. How lucky I am to get to revisit Madrid and see it with older and wiser eyes. Travel is an amazing gift, opening our eyes to different people, different ideas, different vistas, and to history. Travel has the power to open our minds and our hearts, something I want to keep doing until my last breath. Our hotel room in Assisi looked out at the Basilica of St. Francis…breathtaking.
This trip will be really good for me. It will prove to me that I am stronger and more brave than I think I am. I have flown by myself many times, and I will have books on my iPad, music, and- very importantly- Bose noise canceling headphones- to help me pass the time. I will practice Spanish phrases to help if I get a bit lost, and I will map out where I will be going beforehand. I have my handy Rick Steves travel guide, and I know what to expect, having flown internationally just two years ago. I will be busy working at the conference, and the eleven days away from home will pass quickly…and I will have many stories and photos to share with Dan when I come home.
I’m fifty-two. It is high time to quit living in fear about things- especially opportunities to see other parts of the world while attending a conference where I will get to be inspired by the best clarinetists in the world. I will learn so much about my instrument and myself. Going without my safety net of Dan, Diane, and home will be good for me, even though I will miss them. Maybe this is my chance to prove something to myself that I have needed. Maybe by embracing what scares me most I will conquer the fears once and for all. I’m counting on it- life is way too short to travel with fear as a companion. Here’s to many more adventures!