A few weekends ago, I had the opportunity to be in Carbondale for a fishing trip with a friend, Angie Callen. It was the first time Angie and I had met in person, having spent many hours over Zoom. Angie owns CareerBenders, a boutique coaching firm that assists individuals in bridging the employment gap during life’s transitions. I hired her within months of moving to Colorado for the purposes of revamping my CV since I had wanted to once again enter the classroom at the local level. During our first meeting to see if we would be a good fit, our conversation turned to fly fishing, and she said, “Even if you don’t hire me, I want to fly fish with you.”

And so, we made it happen. That adventure is for another blog, but the result  that there is a very good likelihood of the two of us blending our work in fly fishing/coaching excursions. That day on both the Roaring Fork and the Frying Pan Rivers we tested some of the theories we’ll be addressing with clients, such as frustration, being all tied in knots, and going with the flow––to name a few––and all which I’m writing about in It’s All in the Cast: A Fly Fisher’s Guide to Leadership, Sales & Optimal Performance.

However, the point of this blog is to confess a major case of travel anxiety that gripped me in the middle of the night after a day on the water. I made the mistake of checking the weather forecast before going to bed, and while I quickly fell asleep thanks to an hour-long yoga class at Kula Yoga on Main, four hours of fishing, a hardy Mexican meal, and a hot bath, I awoke around midnight and began fretting about my trek back over the mountains. I was four-hours from Manitou Springs, and the weather there was going to turn wintery by late afternoon. I had no idea what I’d face during my travels.

After slipping in a few more hours of sleep, I rose early, finished a little grading for Southern New Hampshire University, and then packed up my car. The sky was dotted with some high clouds, but the sun was shining. I decided to walk through town for a coffee and some breakfast rather than jump in my car for a fast escape. Bonfire was my destination, and once I walked in, I wished I had opted to do the work that I completed at the AirBnB while sipping coffee in this warm, inviting atmosphere. Carbondale reminded me of Bend, Oregon, a little smaller, sans the university, but the walking village close to fly fishing lent itself to a level of comfort that I haven’t experienced in awhile, given in Manitou, as in San Diego, I most often have to drive to get my activities of choice. 

The soft chatter of the clientele, the brick walls sprinkled with artwork, and warm coffee quieted my anxiety for a time.  There were a few single women, like me, sipping their coffee, an older couple looking like they were making travel plans, and several men ranging from 30-60 something reading either a book or a newspaper.  A couple of them were on their computers. I  was trying not to feel utterly alone––not only in my travels, but in my life. I had moved away from my family, all residing in San Diego, over a year ago, and for a time, I was flying back every couple of months  to visit. It had now been four months since I had seen my son and his family, and more like five since I had seen my daughter and hers. My work with Angie had paid off, and I was teaching five classes at Pikes Peak Community College every day of the week, making weekend plane trips more daunting than climbing in my car for a 200+ mile drive. By Friday, my bandwidth was reduced by working with over 100 students, many with life challenges of their own, so we were not only dealing with writing good introductory paragraphs and comma splices, but also illnesses, work responsibilities, and suicidal friends. 

Back to my anxiety: I knew that naming my demon should lessen its grip on me. So I texted my son, who not only has his own family to shoulder, but occasionally needs to prop Mom up. This was one of those times. His response: “You can always stop if the roads get bad.” True, but he didn’t know the roads I was traveling.

I chose to take a route that would likely skirt the storm already closing in on Denver, but climb over Independence Pass. I was stepping into the unknown.

With coffee in hand and half of my breakfast bagel in a bag, I climbed into the car and started my trek. As I entered Aspen, Angie texted, and confirmed I made a good choice, and so onto CO Route 82 I ventured. A little while later though, a large sign flashing, “Winter Driving Likely. Road Closures Without Notice,” created a heart-stopping moment where I pulled over and had to tap into my guidance. Was I making the right decision? Should I turn back? With my heart pounding wildly in my chest, I decided to stick with Plan A and began my ascent up the mountain. 

The one thing I’ve learned in my life is: Don’t turn back. After all, what would happen if we tried to return to the womb while in the birth canal? I had reentered relationships after calling them done and over, only to regret spending more time trying to make it work. Those memories didn’t allay my anxiety. 

My mind whirled with all sort of scenarios of doom––becoming stuck in snow or careening off of the cliffs topped the list. I had to force myself to enjoy the beauty that surrounded me. The skies were blue, the sun shining brightly on the snow covered peaks, and there was very little traffic. When any car approached me from the opposite direction, I would check for evidence of snow––and saw none. I had forty-seven miles of winding roads ahead of me, and with each passing mile, I began to relax, just a little. I made a mental note of my supplies and knew even if I did get stuck, I’d be warm with my clothes, including my fly fishing waders, tucked in the back of the car. I had food and even a bottle of wine. I also had to remind myself that even if the car sputtered out (I have an older Suburu, purchased specifically for my mountainous treks), there were people who would help. I had to trust in humanity––and also my own preparations.  

The last time I had been on that road was in June of 2018, when my friend Ginger, who accompanied me on my move from San Diego to Colorado, was driving the small rental truck. Lily, my elderly black labrador, lay between the seats, and I was peering over the edge of the cliffs, hoping in one moment we wouldn’t be greeted by a gust of wind, and in another, hoping to catch the glimpse of some wildlife. On my wintery ride, I saw tracks in the snow and one tiny bird flitted by so quickly, I couldn’t identify it. I reminisced over my conversations with Ginger where she helped me remember the rightness of the decision to move away from my family. San Diego had chewed me up and spit me out financially. The tides had definitely turned in Colorado.

As the road widened and I recognized the curves, I knew I was approaching Independence Pass. I planned to stop and enjoy the scenery. There, I wasn’t alone. Many cars were parked, and couples and families were strolling along the path to the mountain’s edge.  I joined them on the path, deciding not to go too far as there was a bone-chilling wind serenading me. I took a selfie with the intention of texting Ginger once I had service. That’s when I noticed my anxiety had lifted. 

 While I love adventure, and have sworn never to let irrational fear to get in my way, at times it’s undeniably present in my life. Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown weary of doing life on my own since my divorce nine years ago. Yet, choosing to stay wasn’t an option then either. I’d opt to be solitarily alone than alone in relationship any day. My daughter recently stated that I’m self-dating. For the most part, I don’t mind being alone. In fact, with a housemate, I’m often annoyed that I “have” to make conversation when I’d rather be silently ruminating over the next chapter in my book or contemplating my next adventure. 

Driving back down the mountain, knowing I’d soon be in familiar territory as I neared Hartsel, I reflected on this latest bout of anxiety. Had I turned around after seeing the sign, I would have missed out on some beautiful scenery and a very long conversation with God. I would have also allowed the anxiety monster to win and that would have blocked many more adventures in the coming months and years. That’s not any way to live, not in my book. 

So my lessons? There are three:

  • I am never really alone.
  • I’m braver than I sometimes feel. 
  • Name it and you’ll tame it. 

#travelanxiety #carbondale #angiecallen #careerbenders #flyfishingatmyedge #trust #kulayogaonmain #fear #overcomingfear #awritablelife #independencepass