I hadn’t flown in five years, so entering the airport, I was at a loss at what to do. Thankfully, I had my boyfriend (well, now ex-boyfriend – but we will get to that soon enough), who was well-versed in travelling to help. We printed our boarding passes at the kiosk and made it through security in enough time to catch our first flight to Dallas.
When I booked our flights back in January, both our first flights and last had layovers in different cities, which meant spending a couple hours in airports before departing to arrive at our intended destination. With all of these flights, a traveler with altitude and airplane anxiety would easily be overwhelmed. Thankfully, my anxiety does not apply to air travel. The turbulence we experienced in the clouds didn’t bother me, and my stomach never dropped during take-offs or landings. Even going through multiple security checkpoints didn’t faze me as much as I thought it would being an unseasoned traveler.
In that regard I was able to rise to the occasion. However, the anxiety that I do possess made itself apparent in meal and social situations throughout the trip. I found myself eating insufficient breakfasts that left me ravenous by lunch, which led me to consume more food than my stomach could handle at one time. I was left feeling uncomfortable in my body and my surroundings, prompting me to take solitary walks, feeling ashamed of my eating and of my inability to handle my anxiety. This happened first in the airport at Dallas, then again in Vegas, and many times in Utah.
This was the last thing that I wanted: anxiety on vacation, especially with our exciting destinations.
“Las Vegas suggests that the thirst for places, for cities and gardens and wilderness, is unslaked, that people will still seek out the experience of wandering about in the open air to examine the architecture, the spectacles, and the stuff for sale, will still hanker after surprises and strangers.” ― Rebecca Solnit
The Vegas Strip is a world of its own; a Disney resort for adults where each casino is themed with restaurants, games, boutiques, and souvenir shops. Driving up and down the strip, we observed little New York, glowing billboards the sizes of football fields, the iconic Caesar’s Palace, The Venetian, Paris, and the Bellagio before parking behind the High line (a mock-London Eye that takes a half hour to make one rotation).
We started with the Bellagio, an Italian-style casino with an Asian infusion. They had a quaint conservatory of scenes and sculptures made out entirely of various flowers. Never had I been surrounded by a more colorful courtyard. And, in front of the casino, a free fountain show would go off every fifteen minutes. Jets of water burst into the air, synchronized to music that resounded around the square. Even in the streets, people stopped to watch the choreographed streams.
The next morning we went back to see the Venetian and got lost in Caesar’s Palace before catching our flight to Salt Lake. But, before we left that night we explored the Paris casino, and (not surprisingly) it was my favorite!
The ceiling is painted a soft blue like the daylight sky with clouds, and the mock-Eiffel Tower that was lit up outside finds its way into the building, roping off the indoor portion of its restaurant. Other restaurants inside the carpeted and vinyl cobblestone hallways were little café’s complete with Louis XIV furniture and quintessential modern Parisian style outdoor decor. I’d fallen in love and have already begun planning a vacation to stay there (after I turn 21of course).
But despite all the excitement that Vegas afforded, I was still more excited about our final destination: Utah. I’d heard so much about the atmosphere and the mountains from my ex-boyfriend that I was flush with unrelenting curiosity to see the town where he’d spent two of his most life-changing years.
“Utah’s mountains are not the Himalayas, but by one standard they are the highest in the country.” ― Michael Weibel
By some sheer miracle I had been assigned window seats on our flights to both Vegas and Utah, so I had a front-row seat when we flew over the Grand Canyon into Vegas and when we passed the most impressive and awe-inspiring mountain ranges and landscapes, the likes of which I had never seen before. Being a hiker, I thought I experienced mountains. But the “mountains” of Pennsylvania are nothing compared to the Rockies.
Landing in Salt Lake, his grandparents showed us around before taking us to SLAB Pizza in Lehi – the pizza shop that he opened and managed. I was thrilled to see how happy he was to be back in Utah. And, the anticipation of being able to eat at SLAB and meeting his friends later was clearly all he could think about as we drove down the highway.
Inside though, and for the rest of the trip, I was trapped by anxiety: being in an unfamiliar place, conscious of my anxiety, ashamed of feeling how I was, and determined not to let it make itself known so as to ruin the trip (which I wanted to be so fun and perfect for my ex-boyfriend). Well, as with trying to just ignore anxiety, I failed. I found myself constantly anxious, especially in food-oriented social situations. It caused tension over the trip, and I felt awful for bringing my problems with me when it was supposed to be a vacation.
However, I did have a lot of fun. I traveled; met some amazing people; experienced incredible landscapes, buildings, and spectacles; got back into reading (which I did a lot of on the plane); and found myself (sort of).
“Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin.” ― C. JoyBell C.
The trip, which originally started out as a gift to my ex-boyfriend for his 21st birthday, became a life-changing trip for me. Examining the social anxiety I experienced, I realized I wasn’t just ashamed of my behavior and my feelings, but I was ashamed of me. That was not the person who I wanted to be, and yet that’s the person I was. I made a promise to myself then-and-there to be more true to myself, to accept myself, and to create myself as someone who I wanted to be, not who I thought others wanted me to be. My need to please everyone, be acceptable to everyone, and make sure everyone is okay was preventing me from truly living. I’d allowed my anxiety to completely take over and used it as an excuse to not exercise the courage to be myself (whoever that was).
Since returning from the trip, my ex-boyfriend and I did break up. Like the trip, it ended, but endings aren’t always bad. It just means that memories were made and life was lived. Now I will be making new ones and embarking on a new chapter.
After the trip, I’d made a commitment to myself: a new beginning of self-acceptance, self-confidence, and self-assurance. This is the reason that I truly believe I’m okay and content with the breakup – I know that whatever happens, I will be okay. I don’t regret the trip or any aspect of our relationship because I’ve grown as a person through all of it. I would do it all over again and wouldn’t change a thing. I needed this chapter in my life to continue to find myself and become who I am, who I want to be. For that I will be forever thankful for him. A lot has changed for me in the past couple weeks (and it’s been a trip), but that’s life. It’s full of change…change from which you can do nothing but accept and grow.