• Lara Flanagan

A naturally neurotic nutcase on the road

Updated: Feb 28


I am a born worrier.  A naturally neurotic nutcase.  Most of the time I hide it well, or am so busy processing my neuroses in my head that people may well think I am pre-occupied, a bit stand offish or as is often the case, stuck somewhere in limbo in la-la land.


Our last few days in Providence have been days of rest and reflection and a chance to catch up.   When I planned this trip I initially wanted to do 3 months in each country.  There have been a few tweaks along the way which has meant that this has not turned out as neatly as this.  Organising a 3-month visa in Thailand was just a bloody pain in the arse involving a few uncertain days in the Thai embassy in Rome and an unnecessary expense which I could not really substantiate considering the cost of the visas could have been the same as maybe a few week’s accommodation in SE Asia.  So as a result 3 months in Thailand has turned into one month in Thailand with a month long visa run to Cambodia, followed by a final month in Thailand.  I love saying ‘visa run’ – it makes me feel like a fucking outlaw.


When looking at the States and Costa Rica my initial plans meant that we would fly into Costa Rica just before the high season commenced and the duration of our stay would be in peak season which once again made me question how realistic my budget was.   The idea of being alone for Christmas when we were so close to people I hold very dear did not make sense and there was this lingering idea of the kids possibly seeing a white Christmas.  So 3 months in USA & Costa Rica became roughly 7 weeks in the States, three months in Costa Rica and then 5 weeks in the States.   It is still 3 months, 3 months, it is just broken up a little.  This means our USA visit also includes Christmas and the possibility of snow in January.  My new dates for Costa Rica means that I am currently getting accommodation that fits into my budget and we have three heavy duty rain coats packed in readiness for the monsoons!


This last week has been a strange one.  We are farewelling our little Providence home and Strach and Robert – but as I keep telling the kids, it is not goodbye as we will be seeing them again soon and seeing them for such a beautiful part of the year.  (I am a great big sooky lala cry baby when it comes to Christmas).  I want to don a bad sweater, open the door to carollers, drive in a station wagon to find a tree, trudge through snow and beautifully sip egg nog whilst little star beams bounce around my head.  The reality will of course be fucking different, but I don’t care, I will be smiling through tears of joy so often that my vision will be blurred and I will not be able to see the great big afro mop that will be on my head after spending 3 months in the tropics.


So it was not the goodbyes but possibly a combination of everything else.  The three of us were weary but if you consider everything that the last 6 months has entailed that is certainly understandable.   My left leg is not doing as it should and when that happens I start envisaging the worst case scenario which is not pretty.  If I have learnt anything over the last 3 ½ years when it comes to my health, worrying about it is the absolute worst thing I can do.  So it was rest, my regular walk, stretching at night and just looking after myself as much as I could without imagining that great big fucking wheel chair coming at me.  I am feeling like I am not eating as I should so that needs to be addressed.  When I think of Costa Rica I feel waves of emotion that completely overwhelm me but I cannot articulate why.


This trip is so real and so vivid right now and sometimes when I realise how hard I had to work to even get here and how hard I continue to work to make sure we can continue; I just get bone weary.  Costa Rica is the start of the great unknown for us and with talk in my head of crocodiles, drug lords and people smugglers I look at Archie and Rissie sometimes and say to myself, what the fuck is it you are doing?   I can’t quite articulate that either so I won’t even begin to attempt to.  I think I wanted to give them a taste of the fact that anything is possible and I hope one day they look back at this and smile fondly at me rather than whispering behind my back whilst they organise some sort of secured living arrangements for bat shit crazy mothers.  Ungrateful little sods.


On top of that I am increasingly pre-menstrual. Of course if anyone asked me if I was premenstrual I would rather aggressively smash them in the face whilst shrieking – why the fuck would you ask me something like that?  So it is obviously NOT even an issue.  Besides I have a supply of tampons to last me four months and I don’t want to talk about something that is NOT an issue.


It is funny as Robert had mentioned to me a couple of times that when he talks to his friends about what we are doing they invariably rub their fingers together in the universal expression of “loaded” or ask if I am a trust fund baby.  As Robert says to them, not the case at all and tries to explain that I worked my butt off to make this happen and continue to work whatever hours I can to keep an income coming in.   In the 5 months before my departure I researched endlessly as to some of the secrets of long term budget travel.  What I found out astounded me.  Of course you need some decent resources to start which is why I worked any job I could find before I left, in addition to renting out my house, selling many of my possessions and my car and scrimping and saving like the world’s biggest miser.


I discovered the world of house-sitting, the world of private rentals by owners and the key to being patient when looking for a bargain with flights.  I learnt that Flight Centre would rarely come up with the best deal, but you could always find one and then go to them and ask for their lowest price guarantee.   Right now I am sitting in the pool area of the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta.  I paid more than my rather miserly daily budget but I did not pay anywhere near what the likes of lastminute.com or Trip Advisor advertise.  Through the beauty of things like Hotwire which I sat and watched for 2 weeks I waited until an acceptable rate came up for downtown Atlanta, took a risk and booked it.  Then I was a bit chuffed to receive an email telling me I had booked the Hyatt. We felt right posh walking up the driveway with our backpacks.  Rissie even entertained all and sundry with her posh lady walk, strutting around the lobby whilst we waited for our rooms. Naturally it was over my desired budget but I figured the proximity to everything would mean no transport costs, the pool area would keep the kids happy for hours and the free wifi meant no extra charges.  


Also the kids think I am a rock star at present.


Another thing that I lucked out with was my flights to Costa Rica.  The Costa Rican component of my trip was not included in the Round the World Tickets and I stupidly thought it would be like popping on Ryan Air from the UK for a few pounds to get to anywhere.  When I first addressed the fact hat I needed to book my Costa Rican flights the prices were appalling and I thought I had majorly fucked up.  Bit like not allowing for thousands of dollars worth of vaccinations.  However, after constant searching and the refusal to use all of my savings to get to the country where I was meant to spend 3 months I found a new budget airline that places like Flight Centre had not even heard of.   In total it was literally hundreds of dollars cheaper than anything else.


However, yesterday when reading the fine print as I checked in online I realised I might have a problem with my carry on day pack.  It is fairly big and heavy containing everything I need for my life basically.  Passports, laptop, cords, charging thingys, camera, all personal details, usb sticks, wallets, kids medication, pain tablets etc etc.  I looked at the screen over and over again as I thought that I had the choice of risking it and being charged US$100 at the gate for trying to get an oversized piece of hand luggage on or pre-paying US$50.   I paid the $50 and I was pissed off.  If every leg I flew (Boston to Atlanta to Florida to San Jose to Florida to Atlanta to Boston) meant an additional $50 then that would eat into my savings that I had put aside for the latter part of the trip or for emergencies.  Then as my mind works I would run out of money, have nothing to live on, get stranded in the middle of nowhere whilst the kids and I slept in a gutter.  This rather rapid decline of thoughts happened all because of the fact I had overlooked the size of hand luggage.


I obsessed about this all day and night.  I was so pissed off at myself.  Suddenly my bargain no longer seemed to be a bargain and I wandered about all the other hidden costs that would appear.  I stupidly got onto the airline’s facebook page and once I read all the negative comments about luggage policy, lack of service, that Spirit Airlines were crooks etc etc etc I felt doomed. I went to bed obsessing.  If I have said it once, I will say it again, I am a fucking ignoramus.


All day Friday the kids wanted to talk to me.  I did not want to talk to them.  I was going through sensory overload and I just wanted a few hours of peace and quiet to do my work, to ponder my imagined destitute financial state and to question as to why I thought I could ever do this in the first place.  Naturally this had absolutely nothing to do with the fact I was premenstrual either – that notion shits me to tears.  I was as patient as I was capable of being when Archie would ask me for the fifth time how to spell something when all I wanted to do was say, “for fuck’s sake, you have an ipad, please in god’s name can you just google it.”   When Rissie came and hugged me and rubbed her sweaty little body all over mine and kissed me so I felt like my face was covered in her really warm drool I cuddled her back and told her I loved her to bits instead of flinching and saying, “Space, space god damn it.  Give me space.”


I was still awake at 1am this morning when Archie came whimpering to me and asked me what would happen if we got robbed.  I thought he meant in Costa Rica but he was worried about Providence.  He obsesses that kid; I don’t know where he gets it from.   So I crawled into bed with him, told him how the robbers did not stand a chance with Robert the big friendly giant and Strachan the gymnastics warrior and he fell asleep whilst I stared at the ceiling wandering if I had damaged these kids by giving them my personality.

Rissie came to me about 2.30am, literally after I had just crawled back to my bed as she felt like her throat wanted to vomit, and her growing pains wanted her legs to grow.  I again crawled back to their bed again until she fell asleep and then dragged my sorry arse back to my bed which was by then starting to resemble a torture chamber.  When my clock said 4am I got out of bed, even though there was still 15 minutes for the alarm as I literally could not stand it anymore.


When we got to the airport, there was a size indicator for hand luggage which I checked.  My bag fit in just fine.  I asked the lady who tagged our luggage (which was almost 50% under the weight before they started charging you more) if she could refund the money I had paid for carryon luggage which she did with a smile.  After clarifying with her for the third time that I would never be charged for my carryon bag her smile started to fade.  I walked away from the check in desk surrounded by rainbows, unicorns and butterflies.  I was amazing.  I had organised the best and cheapest flights after all.  I could do this.  I got this.


As soon as we got on the plane I fell soundly asleep into the most amazing coma for almost two hours.   Now I am sitting on the pool deck of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta where the kids have been playing for a few hours and I am so bloody relaxed it is not funny.  Next time I tell Archie that worrying doesn’t help anything because it only makes you stressed I will staple gun the same message to my forehead.    I have no idea what we shall do in Atlanta – breathing the same air as the world of Scarlett is enough for me.  I suspect tomorrow I am going in search of some gospel.


#USA #Journey #Motherhood #Worrying #Travel #Travelingwithkids

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