We are leaving for Thailand on Monday. Our nine day trip to Bangkok and the beach resort town of Hua Hin on the Gulf Coast has been booked for a long time. I did all the necessary due diligence checking on visa requirements (not required if staying under 30 days), confirming immunizations with my doctor (all set), and the hard work of bathing suit planning and finding five complete sets of flip-flops.
Last night my husband casually asked about travel adapters. That was a mistake.
I grabbed our Thailand Guide Book and flipped to the section called “Travel Essentials.” There I found the (vague) answer about travel adapters under the heading “Electricity.” Smug with satisfaction on our preparedness for every voltage and pin scenario I casually turned the page where the next heading in “Travel Essentials” was called “Other Bites.” Where are the trigger warnings when you need them?
This is the exact moment I learned that Thailand has not just any old snakes, but lots of poisonous snakes AND snakes in Bangkok?! AND venomous sea snakes meaning neither land nor water is safe and the only truly safe way to make the trip would be to spend nine days in a hot air balloon.
For those of you who know me and my well-known snake phobia, you might be able to imagine what this discovery did to me. Hyperventilation. Blooming hysteria. For anyone else reading, you might wonder – or join my husband in saying – “What is wrong with you? You’re going to SOUTHEAST ASIA. How did snakes NOT cross you mind?”
Why? Because when you think about visiting a city of 8 million people you aren’t expecting urban danger you might step on or when you are really scared about something you try not to think about it or you think about jellyfish instead which is a danger you can handle. It’s called denial and it works well when your husband doesn’t ask you to look stuff up.
Then I Googled “snakes and Hua Hin” and the search results sent my phone flying to the floor. Reading my private How-To-Cancel-The-Trip-Now thoughts knowing they were about to be made public, my husband got all tough love on me. He thought it would be helpful for me to know all hospitals are well supplied with antivenins. Positively Unhelpful. Knowing the ubiquity of medical help was essentially implying a bitten limb was all but inevitable.
When he reasoned, “There are millions of tourists in Thailand and have you ever heard one say, it’s great but watch out for the snakes.” “No,” I said, “but maybe all these years of fears I’ve had about snakes is because one of my children is going to die from ….” And that was the end of our conversation last night. It’s hard to have a conversation when one person has gone apocalyptic and the other person wants to talk probabilities.
I know it sounds overblown and dumb but I’ve spent decades doubling down on this irrational fear. Fear is the overbearing frenemy we let ride shotgun. And if they’ve been riding with you since you learned to drive, they were there long before you got GPS and they always think they know the best way. They can be so bossy.
It started when I was 11 years old living in New Mexico where our grassy backyard bumped up against the desert and every dog on our street had had an encounter with a rattlesnake. The fear started with a real threat but has been unreceptive to new and better information in the years since. Though I’ve been told they are almost always more scared of me than I am of them, I see all snakes as a threat, not just the dangerous ones. It’s caused all kinds of mortifying situations on hikes, at the zoo, in the movie theatre. Regretfully, I’ve passed on this fear, in all its spectacular theatrics, to two of my children.
So here I am today. It’s a new day. It’s also Good Friday. I haven’t spent the morning Google searching myself into a frenzy or firing off emails to the hotel with special requests and impossible questions. I’ve started to pack. I may not be able to fully restrain my fear but I can ask it nicely to move to the back seat – to the third row seat – and ask it to not talk to my children. I’ll have to make the same choice again tomorrow, and on the third day and for the nine days I’m there. I am reminded too that there will be other people on my flight facing different fears – the fear of flying or the fear of walking into a European airport terminal to name just a few – but if we don’t push through the fear we’d miss the surprise of being lifted up and taken to a new, mysterious, marvelous place.
My husband sent me an email this morning from a local blog:
“Long story short, there are snakes. You will probably not see them, and if you do, they are easily avoided. Avoid walking in tall grass or a rice paddy, which most tourists are unlikely to do. If you do see a snake around the hotel, tell somebody who works there. They will get rid of it.”
Now there’s a thought worth holding on to. Someone else - available - to get rid of it … for me.