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I went to Ireland alone, where I met my tour group.   There was a time when going to New York or the next town was seemingly impossible. But having worked through my driving and traveling phobias several years ago with my phobia therapist, I have been enjoying new-found freedom of traveling, of living.

Things had gotten so comfortable for me that when I encountered two problems on the trip I was surprised and momentarily set back. But, solving these two problems further reinforced the feeling that not only can I travel alone to Europe or anywhere, but I can deal with problems, solve them and go on.

The first problem occurred after an unusually long day of traveling by bus to Dublin. The bus had gotten quite warm and I had become tired and had not had enough fluids to drink. We stopped at a burial site grounds where visitors can walk into a cave like structure, look around, hear a talk, walk through and leave.

I got into line and the guides asked if anyone had a problem being in close quarters, don’t go in because you cannot turnaround and leave beyond a certain point. I have never had a problem with claustrophobia, but I think the heat, the fatigue, and the thirst got to me and I decided not to go in.

Thoughts started racing in my head. What if I’m getting claustrophobia now? What if there are more small area places to visit during the remainder of the trip? My tired, hot, and thirsty mind had lapsed back into negative, “what if” thinking.

When we arrived in Dublin, I called my Phobia Counselor. She reassured me that it was perfectly all right not to have gone inside, and she pointed out that I should not be so hard on myself.

“It’s okay sometimes not to do something.”

The second experience happened during the last leg of the trip. I had been staying up later than usual because I was having such a wonderful time. One morning we went sightseeing and shopping in a town in County Kerry. I was taking some pictures when suddenly I started to feel “funny”. The thoughts started. What if I faint here in the street before I meet up with the group? ‘That thought and accompanying picture really made me feel queasy. I decided to do some “good” self talking. I’ll take my coat off; it’s too warm. Then I’ll sit for awhile. I’ll go into a cool hotel, put my feet up and drink a lot of water.

That’s exactly what I did. I sat in a hotel coffee shop for about thirty minutes until I felt better. I met up with some of the tour group and forgot about fainting. Although I handled this situation well, it left me a bit shaken.

When I returned from my trip I discussed this problem with my Phobia Counselor. She pointed out that I had handled the problem beautifully and that I had not fainted and that I’m probably not going to faint in similar situations in the future. I realized that I should pay a little more attention to fatigue and heat on a trip and vary the pace.

I love traveling alone so much now that I have forgotten the “what ifs” that used to plague me. I have learned that the difficulties I encounter on a trip provide me with an opportunity to learn new coping skills, enabling me to do even more traveling — and living.

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