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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

The Insular Autistic Who Likes to Travel

Yesterday I was looking for a shoe store near me and searched for one through the maps function on my phone. I saw an option pop up that was 2.2 miles away. My first thought was, “Two miles… no, that’s too far.”


I DEEMED TWO MILES AS TOO FAR.


There was a time in my life when I lived all over the world. There were times I would drive 8+ hours every weekend to see my parents. There were times I would hop on a different bus, train, or plane every weekend to go explore somewhere new.


And here I am, feeling like two miles is too far.


There is a folktale in my family that my great aunt never left the Ohio county she was born in. It’s actually closer to truth than folktale. Apart from a few family functions, she didn’t like to leave the town she lived in.


I never understood that… until now.


I now live in a place where everything is right within my reach. I live in a portion of Tucson that is packed with stores. I have all of my favorites nearby. I know where I like to go for my coffee, my art supplies, my groceries, and more. I also have a favorite shoe store... but it was closed that fateful day that I looked for another one.


For daily life tasks and errands, I like to know exactly where I’m going and what to expect. Errands are not fun for me. The sensory component of going into stores, coupled with the difficult process of discerning items I want makes shopping no fun. I want it over with as soon as possible. Hence, I like going to places I already know. I know where to park, I know what to expect when I go inside, I know where to find what I’m looking for, and I know how to get out of there fast.


Illustration of a sheep driving a green car by artist Jackie Schuld.
Illustration by Jackie Schuld

As I settle into my routines more and more, I find my world shrinking more and more. There’s a small radius that I travel in, and I like it that way.


How did I go from traveling the world to living so insular?


That’s the question my mind likes to ask, but it’s not actually that black and white.


First of all, it’s not one or the other. I still travel frequently. A few weeks ago I came back from Alaska and next weekend I’m headed to New Jersey. Last year, I took two international trips and multiple trips within the States.


So maybe the question is, how can I live so insular and still feel comfortable traveling?


It lies in what my mind is seeking. As I mentioned, I don’t like daily tasks and errands. I want those over with as soon as possible. I want those tasks to be simple and predictable.


When I travel, I am traveling for a reason. For example, I went to Scotland to see one of my oldest friends. All of the unpredictability was worth it to see her. Furthermore, my brain reframed it as an adventure. I wasn’t looking for predictability. I was ready to absorb some newness. Granted, I didn’t want anything unexpected thrown in there like a canceled flight, but I was still able to remain flexible.


Traveling is also different because I am not on a schedule. In my daily life here, I have scheduled clients and other meetings. I only have certain blocks of time to accomplish things. This is why I like the predictability of how long it will take me to do errands.


When I travel, I have no such requirements, and thus I can accommodate unpredictability and change far better.


The only thing that really matters on my trips is that I get downtime. I like to know I can take a nap or take some time to quietly sit and recharge. This allows me the stamina to keep taking in new information and change.


I wouldn’t want my whole life to be filled with travel and change, just as I wouldn’t want my whole life to be my insular little world in Tucson.

 

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter or check out my book Grief is a Mess.

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