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  • Writer's pictureBrianna Hicks

How One Decision Changed My Perspective on Travel


 
It was January 2023 and I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. 

Woman sitting in a modern therapy office
August 2022 after moving into my first office space, feeling somewhat like I had my shit together

I had started a business that I had no idea how to run, and was desperate to reduce how many hours I was spending providing services while still earning money. I haphazardly (and desperately, if we’re being totally honest) applied for a business coaching program that was guaranteeing that I’d be able to triple my revenue in one year. 


“Sign me the fuck up” I thought. 


Fast forward to February, and I’ve been admitted into said business coaching program that was the biggest investment I would ever make into myself and my business. It required a trip to Bali, Indonesia (narrator voice: nothing was ~required~ but when you’re a type A, recovering perfectionist, with a penchant for striving for A+’s, everything ~feels~ required). For those keeping track at home, I live in Raleigh, NC and Bali is over 10,000 miles away if we’re taking the straight route (we aren’t, we’re not straight here). 


So when I got this opportunity my first thought was “hell yes” and my second thought was “oh fuck.” Why? Because: 

  • It was a huge financial investment

  • I didn’t know a single person in the program

  • I had to travel halfway around the world on a plane. To stay in an unfamiliar country, with unfamiliar people, while doing something completely outside of my comfort zone.


Oh and let’s also add that on a preliminary perusal of the internet that I learned the flight would be a total of over 36 hours in travel time, and I can’t fall asleep sitting up. 


I was so anxious during this period of time (ask Marley about it the next time you’re on a retreat with us. She talked me off so many proverbial ledges during this time). I priced out flights. I looked at remedies for jetlag. I played with my insomnia medication to see if something could be done to make me fall asleep sitting up. Ultimately, the outcome I kept coming back to was that I’d be jet lagged, exhausted, sleep deprived, and cranky for the first several days of my retreat in Bali. The retreat was only seven days, and I couldn’t see a world where I wouldn’t be completely wrecked the first 3 days.


Sounds like the perfect situation, right?


Ugh


I ended up accepting the offer to be in the program and asked the business coach how to handle the long travel. I shared that I had insomnia, that I couldn’t sleep sitting up, and that being on a plane for that long felt like it would create more anxiety than I could even imagine. I asked “what do you do to handle traveling that far, so that you aren’t completely trashed when you arrive?”


Her answer? Fly business class.


If you had told me five years ago that someone would have suggested I fly business class on a flight from the US to Asia, and that I’d be doing so to benefit my business, I would have laughed in your face. I was a therapist. A person who had martyred myself to giving and ensuring that my clients and my patients and my clients’ and patients' families were cared for before I was. I had believed that my role was to put my needs and my goals to the bottom of the list. To have someone suggest that I invest in MY comfort was beyond anything I could have imagined. 


Also it was hella expensive. 


Like.Unfathomable-holy-shit-should-I-actually-be-spending-this-much-money-on-myself-what-the- fuck-am-I-thinking- expensive.


I booked the tickets.


And then immediately started looking at YouTube and Instagram reviews of my seat for validation. I wanted someone to tell me that I made the right decision, the right financial investment. I wanted to be sure that I was allowed to spend this money on myself to better my business. If I’m being honest? I was excited, but also a little bit embarrassed. I had spent so much on these plane tickets that I didn’t feel like I was worthy of. 


The day finally came to travel to Bali and I packed and unpacked and repacked everything approximately a dozen times. And then the dreaded “flight delay” message came through on my phone. My anxiety ratcheted up as I watched again and again as the delay increased. I had a 6 hour layover, so in reality I had plenty of time. My ideas of what my layover would have been started to slip away, but then it became chaos. The flight finally came in and was scheduled to leave with plenty of time to catch my international flight to Hong Kong, and then it delayed further. I fell to tears in the airport. I was sure I would miss my flight.


We finally boarded the plane, and I sat in my seat anxiously watching the flight tracker as we progressed to Boston. I saw our estimated arrival time and my next flight’s departure, and crossed my fingers and shared countless requests to the universe to make the connection. Upon arrival, we got stuck taxiing and I watched as the minutes ticked down to my next flights departure. 


When we finally made it to the jetbridge, and were able to deplane, I sprinted through the airport to my terminal as I knew the flight to Hong Kong was preparing to board. As I was running to the international terminal of Boston Logan, I heard my name called over the intercom and became increasingly panicked in my efforts to get to the gate. 


Finally, after running through the terminals, I made it to the gate (where the flight attendants asked me if I was okay upon seeing me drenched in sweat, white faced, and about to hurl after I panic sprinted through the terminals – I was not). Being in business class afforded me the opportunity to board first, and when we finally started the process at 1:30am, I was running on an adrenaline rush I couldn’t even try to replicate now. 


When I sat down in my seat, I was completely blown away. I was allowed to be in this entire cabin of space? I had my own dedicated overhead compartment, with space at my feet for another carryon, with even more space for my smaller items I’d need throughout the 14 hour flight. While I was getting settled, a flight attendant came over and offered me a pre-departure drink of water, champagne or their proprietary blend of juices, and I thought to myself “is this real life?” 


I obviously selected champagne because it was an absolute shit show to get to that point (and also, champagne). 


View of a business class seat
The first moments after sitting down and wondering how the hell I made it.

It was beyond anything I’d ever experienced in flying. My seat was more like a cabin, with a protected nook up against the outside of the plane where I was able to see out of two windows. The seat itself reclined at various angles, ultimately laying flat if I wanted it to, with a mattress topper, blanket, and a pillow to ensure comfort. My seat also came with a kit of amenities to ensure my comfort in other ways, with ear plugs, an eye mask, moisturizer, slippers and lotions. 


I texted Marley (who was still up as my emotional support throughout the travel day) and sent her a picture of my seat. The whole thing was so surreal. 


Before long, the flight attendants came back around to grab our pre-departure drinks and to provide warm towels (*swoon*) before we pushed back. As I settled in, and as the adrenaline went down, I realized that this was actually real life, and that I’d be in this cocoon for the next 14 hours. 


And the most surprising thing of all? I didn’t feel an ounce of dread.


Previously, when I had flown, I’d feel so nervous. Would the flight leave on time? Would we make it with enough wiggle room to get our connection? Had I packed enough snacks to sustain me through the flight? Would I be able to sleep? Would the person next to me take up all the arm rest? Would I be able to get out if I needed to go to the bathroom? What if I got hungry on the flight? Would my medication be strong enough to keep me asleep?


None of those thoughts appeared. 


I felt a weird sense of zen. Especially after the chaos to get there, I was just so at ease. I was in my comfortable seat with my feet up, handed a menu to select my dinner (? at 2:00am), had a bottle of water to sip on while we took off, and had a blanket draped over my legs. Over the course of the next few hours, I was provided with a pretty incredible in flight meal, with delicious drinks, all while I watched various movies and TV shows. When the meal service ended, I brushed my teeth using the toothbrush and toothpaste provided, took my medicine, changed into my pajamas, and converted my seat into a bed and laid down to rest.


And almost instantly passed the fuck out. 


I’ve always been so jealous of people who could sleep anywhere at any given time. As a person who has chronic anxiety, which leads to chronic insomnia, my ability to sleep has always been a challenge. Forgot my medicine at home while I was intending to stay at a friends house? Screwed. Taking a red-eye in an economy window seat from California to Boston after running a marathon? No sleep (even with the meds and muscle exhaustion). Overnight flight in economy from Boston to Paris with a full row to yourself? Fucked.


As a person with anxiety, and a person with chronic sleep issues, I’m really sensitive to my ability to sleep and for the first time ever, while on the flight, in that seat, laying down, I didn’t worry at all. 


I had no idea travel could be like that. 

A woman smiling standing at the top of a mountain in front of a sunset
After climbing Mt. Batur in Bali-- a hike that was literally straight uphill

Travel had always been an elusive mistress. I yearned to go, to wander, to explore, but the ability to actually do it seemed impossible knowing my limitations. To see the potential to go beyond what I thought was possible, to see that not only I could go, but that I could go without sacrificing anything, was an unbelievable eye opener. 


I landed in Bali more than 36 hours after I left. Still exhausted (there's only so much you can do with a 12 hour time difference) but far more functional than I would have ever imagined. And the first thing I thought when I arrived at my resort wasn’t “how am going to do this?” but “how do I do MORE of this?”


I have regularly operated from a place of anxiety and scarcity. My mind will always default to the belief that I won’t have enough – enough resources, enough bandwidth, enough courage, enough strength. Traveling around the world, by myself, and beginning from a place of “how will I?” and ending in a place of “how do I do more” was such a mindset shift, and one that I’m working to apply to other areas of my life. Since my return, I’ve been answering my own question. In my exploration of this question, I’ve learned that my identity is my power, and not the thing that holds me back. Being on the other side of that wall, that scarcity, never enough wall, has given me the perspective that so much more is possible – not just for me, but for my anxious, insomniac, tribe and for women, and for queer people.Somehow, all  at once, stepping off that jet bridge, I realized that everyone who made me think these parts of myself were barriers, is wrong. I now acknowledge the many identities I inhabit as the fire underneath me, moving me towards more.

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