Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Stress

I've been thinking about stress. In my life before travel there was work stress, school stress, time stress. Most of it was mental. This year I don't have much mental stress; the stress I feel is really physical.

Traveling is demanding. My feet get tired from walking long distances and standing in museums. My stomach/intestines are strained by exotic foods and occasional bugs. I stress my back carrying my 40 lb bag around and sleeping in different beds (current count: 68 beds). I change time zones often. I daily measure my hydration by the color of my pee. I have had way more headaches (probably in part from the bag, beds & time zone things). I am straining my eyes constantly surveying situations...making sure that I have the appropriate level of dress, head covering, etc., noticing if I am the only person of my race...and if that's a problem, checking how populated a place is and if I'm walking back after dark if I'd be comfortable here or not.

It's gotten me realizing specifically how much my body is a machine. I eat too much and I feel sluggish. I don't eat enough and I feel light-headed or hungry fast. Food feels more like fuel. I decide how much to eat based on how active I was/am planning to be today and when I'll get hungry next and if food will be available there. I still enjoy my food, but it's primary purpose is sustaining me, not entertaining me.

It's also had me thinking how connected things are in my body. When I don't drink enough water I get a headache. If I wake up 5 hours earlier than yesterday, I am grumpy. When I sleep on a plywood bed, it is hard to carry my bag around long distances.

Maybe this all seems really obvious. But, I used to be stressed about a lot of not physical things and I imagine all this was still true. I probably still got a headache when I didn't drink enough water, but I felt like it was from the impending deadline.

I don't have near the total stress that I did last year or the year before. But, I noticed that traveling seems to involve a whole different category of stressors than I'd ever really thought about before.

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