ReisefieberIt’s that weird tingle in the stomach. I get it each time I face a class at the beginning of a new semester, even after 20 years of teaching. And I get it each time about a day before a big trip, even after 40 years of traveling. Quite literally Reisefieber translates into ‘the temperature (as in illness) caused by traveling’.

Going into the unknown is exciting but there is also something deeply disconcerting about it, something that makes me trepidatious even if only for a brief moment. That moment manifested itself in a little meltdown I had on the phone with a nurse yesterday, the day before I started my journey.

There had been nothing but trouble getting my medical travel kit in order. The nurse at the UM travel clinic was one of the most incompetent I had seen in years. A perfectly useless appointment with her cost me $93… Between her and the Dexter Pharmacy my malaria prescription got mixed up and misplaced for several days. And finally, my primary physician refused to fill a prophylactic dose of antibiotics. When I realized that, I just about panicked. On the phone with the nurse, I burst into tears. Geez! Once I had calmed down, deeply embarrassed, I realized that all of this had nothing to do with medication but everything with my mounting anxiety.

A dose of OCD reared its head as another manifestation of anxiety, but it usually comes in handy when packing: Each item is checked and double-checked, put in its own little pouch, and assigned its perfect spot in the suitcase. To establish this routine early on will help minimize loss and maximize speed packing along the way. So I am only mildly embarrassed about that.

And between meltdown and packing ritual, the Reisefieber was finally out of my system.

Now I can face this new country, isolated, poor, hot, underdeveloped, in the middle of the monsoon season, a time when every sensible traveler stays away from Myanmar. Now I am excited to experience all it has to offer from marshes to marionettes, from rivers to riots, from peoples to pagodas. I can do it and it will be good.

Let’s go Myanmar!