If your agoraphobia began early in life – for me it was age 19 – you may have yet to purchase your very own luggage. Who needs a suitcase when you can’t travel more than a few miles away from home – if that far? I probably used family suitcases for trips in my youth before a rather savage recurrence of panic attacks early in my sophomore year of college made me too frightened to travel more than the few blocks I lived from campus. And I wouldn’t travel freely again for another 30 years.
I clearly remember my first suitcase. I didn’t want to buy something shiny new and have people think this is the first time I took actual trips far off into the world. I hunted through second hand stores until I found the perfect statement. It was a tan, heavy canvas thing with leather trim that folded out sort of like a wardrobe and had lots of cool side pockets. It made me look like a man who’d been abroad, or at least around.
With that suitcase I made a trip back to my parent’s house, my home, that I hadn’t been able to visit for 3 decades. The mountainous trip from Helena to Billings is stunningly beautiful. The first part trails the Missouri River to its origin – where the Madison, Jefferson, and Gallatin Rivers (all named by Lewis and Clark) combine near Bozeman (Three Forks). Soon after that on the winding, climbing, descending freeway, the legendary Yellowstone River emerges from its namesake national park through Paradise Valley and announces itself to the world as it winds its way beside the highway through geology ranging from mountainous to hilly to sandstone rimrocks and buttes. Towering cottonwood trees suckle at its flanks the entire journey through Montana to where it joins the Missouri clear the heck over on the east end of the state. The soaring, glistening Absaroka Mountain Range and then the Beartooth Range, highest in Montana, are your constant companion on your right on that particular stretch of I-90. I was driving on an interstate highway for the first time in my life. The previous, pre-agoraphobia times I traveled across the state, the massive national highway construction program was just underway.
I had already made months earlier my initial Very Big Trip from Helena to Butte 60 miles away to officially end my agoraphobia. And then I made the 2 hour trip from Helena to Missoula many times as I moved back to my favorite place in the whole world. But the trip from Helena to Billings was another matter – longer at 3 hours, and at times the openness – one of my panic triggers – goes on and on. Luckily I was in a state of awe the whole journey and pretty much didn’t have any anxious times. For this trip, where I was actually going to stay a few days I needed a suitcase. And after that I took on many sorts of traveling bags as I came across them in thrift shops for my many trips to follow.
The final symbol of freedom from agoraphobia is a large suitcase with wheels, which I now possess. It’s red, second hand, and large with many zippered nooks and crannies. The wheels say it all: I am a person who travels freely so much that I need wheels on my suitcase.
I’m certain you’re excited to take your first trip away from agoraphobia with a suitcase. Perhaps you should go ahead and buy a suitcase now so it’ll be there on that glorious day when you’re ready to take a long trip with luggage. I know! You can put it at the foot of your bed and call it your “hope chest.” Get it? Sometimes I am so brilliant in an ad agency way I scare myself.
You’ll get there, I promise. Work hard every day on your Recovery Program in Un-Agoraphobic and you will put it all together and solve your mystery with my vast knowledge and experience guiding you along.
If wheels on a suitcase make you look or feel old, try a couple of shoulder bags for a hip-ness in your new traveling look.