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Help! I’ve got PTA

Suggested soundtrack to this post: 

PTA, i.e. pre-trip anxiety, is like that chick you meet once, and then – somehow – you just start seeing her everywhere, time and time again: at parties, downtown, even at your place. And while you’re asking yourself how it’s possible and who the heck invited her over, she acts like you’ve been friends forever. She keeps calling you, she’s unrelenting. You, on the other hand, hate her – you can’t stand her, her annoying voice, and what she talks about, but you don’t know how to get rid of her.

PTA is very similar. At first, it’s just a shy little fellow, nagging you about stuff you actually have to do. It’s almost comforting. It would be weird not to have it, we’re not superheroes. It can also be the driving force helping you cut ties with two of your oldest friends, Laziness and Procrastinations. But a few day later, you wake up and anxiety is everywhere. It has taken over your lungs and you can’t breathe, your mouth is dry, you’re experiencing pure terror and you have an overwhelming desire to crawl back into your mom’s womb. It’s not just about little things anymore: like a poisonous plant, it has grown over everything else. The attacks are becoming longer and more frequent, and you know they might come back anytime. PTA is that voice inside your head that, every time you relax, reminds you: ‘Just a few days until you leave! What are you doing?! You’re wasting time, YOU’RE WASTING TIME!!!’

Other ways in which PTA is known to manifest itself:
– HELP. Our international driving licences is never going to get here on time. Yes, the blonde lady said everything’s fine, but something will go awry. If they get here after we’ve left and they mail them to us, they’ll definitely get lost.

– HELP. The guy from the bank didn’t call back about the credit card. There must be something wrong. And because I’m writing a post about it instead of calling him, the credit card will never get here, we won’t be able to withdraw cash abroad and we’ll have to go back after a week. (Relevant to all bureaucratic matters.)

– HELP. We are so going to forget something. And it will be something important. But we’ll only find out when it’s too late.

– HELP. I will not be able to get everything done in time. Everything what? Dunno. But I won’t make it.

– HELP. They’ll forget about us.

– HELP. They won’t forget about us, but we will let them down.

– HELP. The car, the car insurance, the RV, driving in the megalopolis, driving in the countryside, getting lost, wading fords, we’ll never put together an adequate playlist, we’ll run out of gas in the middle on nowhere, the car will get stolen, we won’t be able to resell it.

– HELP. Living with my sibling. Marco doesn’t shower. Irene might have a nervous breakdown when she realizes she can’t use her hair straightener among the natives in the mountains. Irene might go all Nazi on Marco. Marco might hate Irene. Irene might end up surrounded by outlaws. Marco might befriend some drug traffickers, thinking they look like nice people.

– HELP. We’ll be kidnapped. We’ll be robbed. We’ll be arrested. And they’ll stuff our dead bodies with cocaine to cross the border.

– HELP. Southern American police.

– HELP. No hablo español. Sí un poco, per no de verdad.

– HELP. Não falo português. Even though it’s the most beautiful language in the world.

– HELP. (Irene’s existential anxiety) What if this the biggest mistake of my life? What if I can’t make it? What if I can’t keep the commitments we made? What if I’m not credible? What if I let myself down, and I let down everybody who believed in us? What if I can’t write? What if I can’t draw up questionnaires? What if I can’t do research? What if I can’t, period?

– HELP. A whole year without having my friends within reach.

– HELP. Wi-fi. Updating the blog. Twitter. Facebook. Translating.

I think our new friend PTA will be more and more present, that she’ll transform over time, but one day we’ll find a way to contain it, or at least coexist peacefully.

Today is not that day.

***Translated by Beatrice Gechele***

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