I am a seasoned traveler, yet I am having my own personal travel crisis. I am overthinking everything from packing to the actual flight and everything in between. This is sooo not me!

When I opened my old Covid-hibernating backpack, it was with shock and horror. My trusted companion had grown legs and relegated itself to the far dark depths of my wardrobe.  It was a lurking reminder of a pre-Covid era of travel freedom. My necessities hiding within were not in a pristine condition. As I live in the tropics, I was faced with: rusty luggage locks, moldy leather hiking boots, masking tape melted together (a staple for fixing shoes or bag zips), and a passport with pages that had to be peeled apart. I lost it at the sight of my bright red plastic whistle forlornly sitting at the bottom of my bag in a million pieces.  Imagine crying over a whistle? But that whistle had traveled the world with me for almost ten years.  Being a solo traveler, it was my security blanket.  I believed I was invincible while it hung around my neck.  Any would-be muggers/rapists/murderers/kidnappers would have their eardrums pierced before they could snatch my bag, or me, for that matter.

Since I booked my flight, I have been lying awake at night fretting about pre-travel to-do lists. The mornings are spent attempting to flesh out the thoughts of the night before onto paper—just another list to join the other lists clinging precariously by magnets to the front of my refrigerator. My fridge-list confusion has created the need to use highlighters to distinguish 'more important' lists over 'merely important' lists.  It now resembles a kindergarten's colorful show-and-tell board; renew international driver's license, notify banks that credit/debit cards will be used in a foreign country, fill out guest registration forms to flash at foreign customs officers to prove you won't be sleeping in the streets, put yourself on your government travel site so someone will look for you if a disaster happens—it's endless.

I am squirreling away in the corner of my bedroom the items that I don't want to travel without. By the twentieth must-take thing, it's a messy pile worthy of being a rats' kingdom. I am also busy printing out hotel bookings so that I don't have to rely on my mobile. A consequence of the nagging thought about what would happen if my mobile was stolen? I wouldn't know where I was meant to be on any given day, as my trips can be chaotic.

I was like a kid in a candy store when flight specials began to pop up in my email. But for every destination I considered, there were the nagging thoughts about Covid; despite having four Covid injections plus a flu shot! My mind buzzed ad nauseam about quarantining procedures and where I could obtain a pre-flight PCR test. Should I isolate for a week before getting on a plane to ensure I don't contract Covid pre-departure? How much time do I need to allow to go through immigration and customs? Then my brain neurons clamp onto the fact that I must have Covid travel insurance and proof of vaccination for many destinations. It's Covid this and Covid that—is my accommodation health and safety conscious, have I got enough face masks and hand sanitizer, and how do I use a country's Covid app when it's in a foreign language?

The actual flight is another point of dire concern. Will I be one of those eccentric souls obsessively The Insecure Traveller - A Side Effect of Covid Lockdown - The Wise Traveller - Face Maskdisinfecting everything before sitting down? If the person sitting beside me doesn't automatically put a facemask on after eating, can I rap them over the knuckles?  And, what if I have developed 'anthropophobia'—the fear of people—over the last two years? How will I cope with having my personal space invaded by a possible Covid-carrier right beside me? Let alone a screaming child causing havoc in the same aisle—let's get real here, I wish there were adult-only flights as most of us have had the journeys from hell caused by rogue infants and uninvolved parents. I am sure Covid hasn't changed this charming aspect of being squashed into a flying tin can. I wonder if airline staff would notice if I locked myself into the bathroom for the duration of the flight?

After writing this, my advice to anyone freaking out about taking that first step back into the world of travel is to write your must-do lists and put on your grown-up panties. Does it really matter if you forgot to pack that tenth pair of undies, or you begin to hyperventilate when faced with queuing at the airport? Instead, think of the positives: underwear is cheap to buy, and you might get special attention from the ground crew if you have a melt-down. If not, at least the people around you will move out of your personal space. As for catching the dreaded Covid bug—unfortunately it's like tossing a coin. Heads you win and have a fantastic holiday, or if it's tails, you've got insurance!

Despite the world being a bit crazy at the moment—flood, fire, violent protests, extreme weather, war, and of course that dirty word 'Covid'  putting a dampener on everything—it's still a beautiful world to meander around.

Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.