Hilary says Patagonia's landscapes inspire good dreams (Flickr: Riomanso_PATAGONIAPURA)
Blog Words : Hilary Bradt | 03 June

Hilary Bradt talks... travel troubles in the head

The Bradt Travel Guides founder travels for real – but sometimes it’s her psyche that takes the weirdest trips

I can’t find the American Airlines office, and I need to sort out my ticket and locate the rest of my luggage. The plane is about to leave. The last person who gave me directions pointed to one end of the airport and said, “You need to take that train. It’ll cost you $8.”

But the ‘train’ seems to be a slowly moving, very posh restaurant, gliding past with diners chatting over crisp white tablecloths and glasses of wine.

I queue up to question two men who look official – except that they are deep in conversation and one is wearing a hairnet. He starts to sob. I give up and, on impulse, grab the rail of a passing old-fashioned double-decker bus. Soon we are out of the airport and heading through semi-desert countryside into a huge expanse of sand dunes and scrub grass... then I wake up.

This was last night. About a week ago I was in familiar unfamiliar territory: I couldn’t find my hotel room. I thought I remembered where it was but opened the door to a dormitory packed with beds and youngsters sprawled out under mosquito nets. In growing unease, then panic, I walked down endless dark corridors, through narrow red-brick alleys, up and down flights of stairs, and finally took a lift up to an utterly alien world. I knew that the coach was waiting to depart, my handbag and all my luggage (still unpacked) was in the room, and I’d lost any hope of finding it.

Do other travellers have these anxiety dreams or is it just me?

They certainly reflect my own real shortcomings. Can’t find my hotel room? It happens all the time in real life. Lost luggage? Yes, all too often. Missing handbag? Not so often, but the trauma makes up in intensity what the experience lacks in frequency. Airport disasters? Oh yes.

I do also have some good dreams. Lovely ones, in fact. There’s a recurring one when I’m in the most beautiful landscape, probably inspired by Patagonia. Spiky snow-covered mountains, deep-blue lakes and fjords. And sunshine. When I’m there I recognise it and a feeling of serenity settles over me. Soon after waking, however, the details start to evaporate and by the time I’m sipping my tea it’s faded from memory except for a lingering unease, since even in this idyllic world there’s usually an element of anxiety. Perhaps I’m leading a tour but have lost my group, or there’s no transport out.

One dream that is surely common to all of us is the one when you’re desperate to find a loo. I remember one of these particularly well because it combined classic airport anxiety with full-bladder urgency. My plane was due but I slipped out of a side door to look for a loo and found myself in a desert landscape of orange sand and no way back inside. In increasing alarm I walked around the closed glass doors looking for an entry. Nothing. All sealed.

But I did see a grubby concrete building that looked promising. And indeed, in the cluttered corner of the room, among old planks of wood and the odd suitcase or two, was a toilet. And inside the pan, and larger than life, was crammed an entire roast chicken.

Do you get anxious about upcoming trips? Do you ever have anxiety dreams, like Hilary? Post your thoughts and experiences below.

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