As I write this in June, I recently saw in my facebook memories that two years ago this week I got my first passport. I shared the memory and jokingly wrote “this didn’t age well.”
At that time I was only a few months out from my wedding in October of that year, and our original honeymoon trip plan at that time included a stop at Niagara Falls in Ontario. I was so excited to have a passport. I hadn’t been to Canada since I was a teenager before you needed passports to go there, and I have never left North America. My mother’s side’s nationality is fully Irish, and I have dreamed my whole life to travel to Ireland someday and be surrounded by my heritage and a culture I had always been drawn to. I was really excited to travel and use that passport.
Unfortunately, I had a surprise job change right before and after our wedding (the good part being that I had a nice little unplanned vacation around our wedding!). So we had to abbreviate our honeymoon trip so I didn’t miss too many days at my new job. We had another trip to Canada we had been hoping to plan with another couple so I would still soon be using that passport…or so I thought.
Then COVID hit.
My husband and I really enjoy traveling together. One of the early most important times in our relationship was a road trip down the east coast. He has travel skills I don’t have (such as visual spatial skills to make full use out of space in the trunk of our car). For my NVLD challenges, it has made a huge difference to travel with him and the fact that he understands how the whole process can be challenging for me. He understands how my brain works and that allows for the process of traveling to be less taxing and more fun for me. But even before my husband I loved traveling, it has always been so fun for me to adventure in a new place.
All four years in college I chose to do Alternative Spring Break where you spend the week serving a community in the United States. This New England girl did Habitat for Humanity and elementary school tutoring in South Carolina, Habitat for Humanity in North Carolina, trail building in Tennessee, and Habitat for Humanity in Georgia.
It was a great experience, but it was challenging as an NVLD-er. One challenge was spending the whole week in those fairly large groups where only a few were friends of mine, and most I had only first met in trip planning meetings, which meant that I didn’t have any social down time. By college I had turned a corner in becoming pretty social, but I realized I still needed some time each day, or at least every couple of days, to recharge especially when spending 24/7 all week with lots of people I had not gotten to know yet. A therapist once described me as an extrovert with NVLD. No matter how much I enjoy people, I still need to process things. Somehow, I still seemed to make it out fine on these trips and they were still worth the challenges.
The last time I went on a plane was 2016. I hadn’t flown since 2006 at that point. Also, it was my first time flying alone. I was 34, but still there were a lot of NVLD related challenges that you need to process when you travel alone and cannot rely on others.
I love airports and flying because traveling makes me feel so excited. I can just feel the energy of the excitement of the adventure I am about to go on in those environments, but they are also challenging to navigate with NVLD, at least with my specific weaknesses. An error in figuring out where you are going could lead to missing a flight. You can’t turn back on a plane, or even once you arrive at the airport, in most cases, when you remember you forgot something. You can’t be prepared for what things are going to be like at the terminal you land in because you have never been there before. The stakes feel really high, so I leave early and give myself a lot of space to think about where I am going. I plan ahead before I leave.
I miss traveling. I can’t wait until my husband and I can take a week off and do a road trip again, or plan that Nova Scotia trip with our friends. And I can’t wait to board a plan again, this time to finally leave North America. Traveling will probably always push against the challenges brought on by my NVLD, but as long as I am aware of them and take care of myself and my stress and energy levels I hope to continue to have many years enjoying travel with my husband, and maybe even at times by myself again.
Anna has dreamed about making the world a better place for people who think differently her whole life. She has worked as a newspaper reporter and in supported employment within community mental health to achieve these goals. When not writing her blog, This NVLD Life, she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and their cat, Mia. Anna is a Project Social Ambassador for The NVLD Project.Share your own story