I have successfully managed to find a new home for my beloved babies whilst I’m off adventuring the world, my babies being a pair of gerbils by the name of Harry and Ron (so named because when they were pups one had a ginger head and the other a brown). They are particularly difficult to give up because I’m rather attached to the noisy little shit-flingers, as my mother calls them, and it’s unlikely that they’ll even still be alive by the time I get back. Perhaps I should explain the shit-flinger part of their official moniker; you see my babies are a tidy pair, they like to keep their house spotless and to achieve this they only leave their little gerbiley nesquiks in their plastic wheel. Once they’ve deposited them they start running on the wheel and via this spinning method flick their vermicelli out of the cage and into the room. It would be infuriating if the sheer distance they were capable of shit-flinging wasn’t so darned impressive. This of course is not something I used to advertise them for a new home. They’re going to a lady with a little boy who’s desperate for a pet; I’m slightly concerned about this as they’re accustomed to a certain standard of living which does not involve being grabbed, squeezed and generally man-handled. At least a child might build them some mazes and things to play in though; I’ll admit I don’t have the time for much other than feeding them monkey nuts on my shoulder whilst I type.
They’ve come to represent all my anxieties about disappearing abroad. Every morning when I get up they pop out of the sawdust like meerkats, flakes shivering in their whiskers, check for predators then stretch and yawn. A yawning gerbil is pretty cute. But every time I see them I’m reminded that I’m giving them away and to a place that may or may not prove to be for their benefit and the same in a bizarre way is true for myself (except I don’t flick my leavings around quite as dramatically). I think it’s the guilt I feel every time I see their ridiculous little impervious faces and the sadness that I will have to give them away to a potentially sadistic 5 year old that brings to the fore any latent anxieties about my travels.
I remember a few days before I went to Egypt I had a massive freak-out, decided I wasn’t into travelling at all and massively regretted having bought a flight to a country I’d never been to before, didn’t speak the language and where I had booked nothing beyond the first night’s accommodation. My travelling buddy Karen snapped me out of it and brought me back round to the excited side by interrupting my anxious deliberating with “have you packed your passport?”
“Well yeah, but…”
“Have you packed your passport?”
“Then you’re packed, everything else you can get out there or make-do without. As long as you’ve got your passport.” It was a sentiment which really worked and somehow immediately dispelled all my fears. I don’t think it’ll work this time round though, more than a passport will be required for all my various teaching and long-term travel plans and I won’t have my Karen to rescue me when I do stupid shit like lose all my cards and fail miserably to haggle. I’m not particularly concerned about the Thai internship, that bit should be fun and minus too many curveballs; it’s what comes after that when I try and make my way into the world alone like a baby turtle popping out of the sand that gets my internal monologue running away with itself. I can’t help but look round at my safe, warm, predictable home with all my things and no surprises and think about how much I’ll probably long for it at times. I know that it will be fine and I know that I will love it but there are always the awful pre-travel jitters; as predictable as the traveller’s bug once I’m out there.
A while ago I was ill and whilst lying in my own warm, comfy bed, piled up with pillows and my mum waiting on me hand and foot it occurred to me that this would feel a billion times worse alone in a grubby hostel and a foreign land. I oscillate wildly between psychotically excited and sick to my stomach, I think I’d feel much better if I just knew that I had a definite Korea placement down for after the internship, then at least I’d know where I was going and what my budget needs to be.
Beyond that I think I’m as prepared as I physically can be; round two of rabies today and yellow fever tomorrow; it reminds me of the second year of secondary school when dead-arming was en vogue and a perpetually aching upper arm was an expected element of daily life. The trick is not to think beyond Thailand and not to focus too much on the imminent betrayal I’m going to commit against my gerbils. 88 sleeps!