Monday, March 23, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Day 1

My first day on my Trip Of A Lifetime is about half over and again, as I did with the announcing of this trip, I have to ask, "What am I doing?" I write this while thirty some thousand feet over the Atlantic and the past two weeks have been a blur. It was just two weeks ago (writers note: this is postdated so you'll be reading this about a week after I actually wrote it) since I broke up with my girlfriend. She was only the second girlfriend I ever had and the breakup of my first one inspired Finding Kansas, and that relationship wasn't really a true relationship, so what is going to come of this?

Two days after breaking up I was devastated. It was my choice, and the reasoning and logic in the grand scheme of things isn't important, but what was important was what I was feeling. I feared a life of isolation and dread. This provoked a lot of thoughts and I found myself in a place I hadn't been in over a year: book writing mode. Writing a book isn't easy and my fifth book was coming along nicely last year. I got 20,000 words into it but then the feeling left and I haven't been able to write since. My writing as a whole has been slowly receding. This isn't to say that it has been bad, but I've perfected so many things that I originally had issues with. When I started blogging I could write about the anxiety of going to Taco Bell, or my many tales of the checkout lanes, but now it's all too easy for me. I've built up my defenses I think this comes from doing all the presentations I’ve done; I'm much more comfortable than I used to be. With that being said, and my emotions in flux, I had an impulse, an urge to travel somewhere, anywhere really; anywhere away from home and the memories.

I spent a half a day researching prices of airfare. I'm on a rather shoestring budget so I began searching destinations Delta flies to and was really looking at Tokyo, but hotels there were so expensive and the degree of social difficulty there was greater than what I think I'm ready for. I started looking at Europe and every city it seemed was $1,800. Truly, it didn't matter, it was a stock price but then I came across Amsterdam and it was $500 cheaper. This was an easy choice and I have had previous experiences with the town from my two layovers at the airport there. Okay, that's not really an experience but the airport I found to be awesome.

From airfare I looked at hotels and I found one and before I knew it I was looking for my passport because I had a weeklong trip to Europe booked. "What did I just do? Nonrefundable? Uh oh!"

When I originally booked the trip, I figured this would be a self-cleansing experience as I returned to writing in book form. As I thought about this I thought back to my radical "relocation theory" and from a twist of fate I would finally be doing a miniature version of it. To put simply, I wondered if I could go someplace I had never been and simply be. Would I starve? Could I navigate? So what started out as a removal of myself from my environment to write has taken on a bigger thing for me. Will I prove anything to the world here? I don't know, but the challenge I'm facing when I land in just four hours has me intrigued.

Already my trip has had some new experiences. Flying out of Saint Louis to Atlanta I got bumped from my seat. To first class! Sorry to brag but I've never been in first class so this was a big deal. And now, as I write this, I have a retired special education teacher sitting next to me, who eventually became a principal and is now retired, and I had a three hour conversation with her about autism, Asperger's, my life, and other education related subjects. Whoa? Wait a sec? Did I just say I had a conversation with a random person that I had never met in a non-presentation setting? Yes I did and on my presentation excel spreadsheet I actually have this conversation marked as a presentation. So it would seem, even though I tried to escape who I was I can't fully escape. Now I say this in terms of my environment and location with reminders of my girlfriend, but I doubt you'll ever be able to take the autism ambassador out of me.

I'm excited about the unknown that lies in front of me. What's the taxi service like? What will it be like to use Euros for the first time? What about checking in at a hotel in another country? If I were given this project a decade ago I might have been able to do it, maybe. I probably could've but I doubt I could've appreciated the true challenge I've accepted. That's what this is for me! This is, perhaps, the greatest single challenge I've taken on in my life. If something goes askew I have no one to call. For the first time in my life I am on my own without anyone to aid, assist, or interpret a situation. Writing this just now has made me realize why so many people travel with friends. I may be on a plane with 200-300 people, but above the Atlantic right now I am alone. I am cutoff, and for the next week, outside of minimal Facebook messages when I'm connected to Wi-Fi, I will continue to be isolated which will reaffirm that when we land the greatest challenge of my life will begin.

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