Many people look at my career from a distance and think, “What a glamorous life you lead!” Quite the contrary, although I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I work a 60-hour week, cope with the struggles of daily living every day as an aging Baby Boomer, and travel for work purposes that are not necessarily all fun but always enriching. I rarely talk about myself: as a well trained sex educator, sex coach and overall clinician we are taught to always focus the arrow at the client (or student). I am a master at that. But when it is about me, I am hesitant to share the goods or the dirt. This time I feel like sharing with you about my world.
For the 6th year in a row I am about to make my journey with my partner Dr. Robert to go abroad to train sexology professionals in an international setting. I love imparting my knowledge and skills to dedicated professionals who are seeking ways to help others with their sexual challenges. This is part thrill for the adventure in store for me, and part gulping (sometimes hyperventilating) in anxiety for the unknown things that can and do go wrong. And of course there is in the background the constant noise about terrorist threats at airports and in public venues that I may enter. Hey! Life is a risk no matter what!
I love to travel; yet travel is hard. There are long hours sitting in too-tight seating compartments that push your ankles into swollen balloons. You can’t escape listening to screaming kids whose parents are either clueless or have fallen into a deep snoring session while their little Johnnies are running up and down the aisles. You strain to watch B-tiered movies on a tiny screen that shoves in your lap when the person ahead of you decides to recline. You are forced to chomp on bad, I mean really terrible, food on most airlines, and all the stopovers at plane-change airports don’t provide much chance for sustenance on an international flight. Every time I fly, I swear it, someone is hacking next to me, with the ever-present threat of carrying some new horrific virus or just plain giving me a dreaded cold or flu. I try to keep myself in a bubble of avoidance and gulp 2 cups of water with Airborne fizzies per flight whenever I travel. Despite the array of neck enhancement devices or clever positioning, sleep deprivation is usually a common experience, even if you swallow the No Jet Lag pills that can make you shake like a leaf when you land at your destination with wide eyed mania, or if you happen to fall into a fog from the drugs your doctor got you. It all makes you resemble a semi-comatose homicidal maniac on a good day when the reality sets in that you are at your destination, need to be ready for action, and you are not really awake.
Oh, did I also mention the missed connections for flights, airport restrooms that are marked “Closed”, just when you reeeeeeaaaaly need to use one, or lost baggage? Like the time we had a return flight from Warsaw back through London for an event that was scheduled for just a few hours after landing. Usually that’s a safe bet. This time I had to find my hard-shelled purple suitcase among the sea of bags and wait two hours for the technician to wheel it over to me so we could make our bus for the UK trip we had planned in 20 minutes after that. Panting, I nearly fainted from the stress!
Not to say that I don’t fly a hair above the cattle car holdings; we do. But the flat beds are for the top 1% class, and I never go there. What I know is that travel today is risky. It shakes your bones and your nerves into a frenzy while sleep becomes a distant memory not your companion on those 10-+-hour jaunts across the oceans and lands between home and somewhere else. This year we stop over in London again, before and after landing in our “International Home”, Warsaw Poland.
The highs are rich. The spirit of adventure, not knowing what is to happen next, changes your brain. Honestly, it puts you in a different state of being. You become alert, and on your toes. Curiosity drives your feet and your perception. You feel the vibes of a foreign soil, a different people, and an exciting chance to be your best and find the best in yourself. Like language. I am going back to Poland for year 4 and yet I only know two words, for yes (tok) and thank you (chin-quee-yuh). I have tried and tried, but there are so many consonants in even the simplest of words in Polish, that despite years of trying to just pick it up by ear, I have failed to learn their tongue. (Incidentally, I just did my Ancestry DNA test only to discover I am part Polish. Go figure!) Instead, we hang out with locals who guide us and negotiate the sale of warm socks on a cold day of leading workshops, or buying a fresh baked baguette for a light supper in between speaking engagements, or ordering a pizza in Polish with no salad dressing on the side of the pie. You get the picture? You meet people not like you and your daily crowd. It’s so refreshing to be in a place where the air smells different from at home, the food is unusual cuisine, and where the sights, sounds and energy are just not like home. Travel lets you feel alive again, permitting a new fresh look at the world, and, especially at yourself as you interact and plod into new environments and ambiances to explore on the outside while stretching on the inside. Everyone should be required to leave their safe and comfortable environs at least once in their life to experience somewhere new and different from theirs.