I enjoy traveling, but at the same time I often get a crushing sense of anxiety in the days and hours before I leave - a sort of anticipatory agoraphobia. Perhaps it's because I live alone and travel alone, so going to an unfamiliar place means being uprooted from my familiar surroundings and friends. The panic grows until the moment I set off, and then gradually starts to lessen during the trip. The minute I arrive at my destination, the anxiety vanishes entirely and is replaced by excitement: the adventure has finally begun!
So it was with my trip to Africa. Packing in the final hours before my early-morning taxi ride, I could barely concentrate on my carefully drawn-up lists of things I might need. But somehow I muddled through, packing most (though not all, as I would discover) of my necessities for the next two weeks, loaded my bags into the taxi, and headed off to PDX and thence to parts unknown.
Africa. I had only the vaguest idea of what I was going to do, or what to expect, in the continent that seems like another planet to most Westerners (myself certainly included). The plane trip seemed to take a week. The kosher food flying out of LAX was terrible, but from Amsterdam it was much better - from a company called Langerhuize, in case you were curious. My neighbor on the final leg of the trip was a young blonde Dutch woman who was relocating to Nairobi to join her Kenyan husband. She asked to swap seats with me so she could have the aisle seat and easier access to the restroom - she was pregnant with her first child.
And arrival. As the wheels hit the runway, I felt a huge weight lifted from my consciousness and a growing sense of elation in its place. The doors opened, releasing me, the Dutch woman, and a hundred-odd other passengers out into the warm African night.