Our jeep on a quiet beach at Fort de Soto
So I promised more news on my trip to Orlando in my last post and here it is! As the internet already has heaps of things on what there is to see and do there (hint it’s way more than a 3 week vacation could possibly fit in ~ I don’t think we did more than pass brief greetings with Orlando), I thought I would write that post I promised on my experience as an anxious introvert in a very extroverted place.
Orlando is awesome and has so many levels to it beyond the theme parks and bright lights that I think most people could find things they like about it. Being completely honest I was quite doubtful before we went whether I would like it, believing that it wasn’t my ‘type’ of place. Yet I did like it and I enjoyed being there. I found an openness about the people and the surroundings that I loved, interesting art spots, fantastic food and wild spaces that called out for exploration if we’d only had the time.
Stunning open space of Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee
Yet Orlando is not without its negatives and as an introvert who finds attention, planning, crowds, noise and lack of space anxiety inducing, it is quite a challenging place too. Before we went, we kept hearing how you needed to plan what you were doing in minute detail for everything from rides to meals. Now my name is Joanna and I am a planner. Planning has been my downfall in the past, I have over-planned time and time again, struggling to get the perfect plan and not coping when things did not follow that plan. It has been a core aspect of my anxiety for many years and spoilt many a thing for me so nowadays I try to be a little less planned. This insistence on the need to plan to have a good holiday…well it made me quite anxious. Beyond reading guide books once, booking 1 Disney restaurant (I was not missing out on the Winnie the Pooh character buffet!) and a little research on vegan eating or motion sickness on rides, we didn’t really plan too much. And guess what, we had a damn fine holiday! Okay maybe we didn’t see everything that we wanted to, however my life feels no less complete for this and I stressed less than if I had a list of planned things to tick off. If theme parks are your thing and you only have 2 weeks in which to fit in as much as you possibly can, I suppose you would want to plan but for me this wasn’t an issue and I felt better for doing my Orlando holiday my way.
Though not as busy as it can get, we were in Orlando during spring break and there was a big sporting event on so it was way busier than my comfort level usually sits at. At times I did find the crowds of people overwhelming and felt in need of escape. I struggle with the raised noise of lots of people talking and still am not really sure how to deal with this other than simply letting the panic feeling pass. Combine this with a lack of solitary quiet time that a busy holiday often results in and my capacity for coping with others suffered. Time on my own is when I calm my thoughts, process all that is whirling around my head and recharge my ‘spending time with other people’ levels. Less quiet time = tense and crotchety me. This ‘may’ have happened in Orlando…sorry Phillip and mum….
One thing that really did have me worried before we went was how I would cope with all the attention I was positive would thrown my way by enthusiastic people dressed as characters or staff in general. I’m not quite sure why I expected such an avalanche of attention and was seriously relieved that it wasn’t generally the case. Universal didn’t seem to really bother you unless you went out of your way to involve yourself in a character greet or street performance. Disney do give you a certain level of extra attention though staff seemed to be fairly good at realising if you are not someone who wants the whole full on fuss. Our character encounters were few and far between as they weren’t really wandering around accosting unwary people and I wasn’t queuing up for photos with someone dressed up in a costume (I seriously am crap at role play, my brain simply won’t let me get over the fact that the character is not real!). We did two character meals in the end ~ one by accident! ~ and that was an odd experience especially as we had no children in our group to use as an excuse. My way of coping? I decided that being awkward about hugging a stranger in a furry costume would only make the whole situation even more awkward. So I hugged as good as I could!
I said in my post whilst in Orlando that being there was like a roller coaster and it truly was. There were the lows of the challenges doing anything with anxiety usually brings and there were the whopping highs of fireworks, air boats, jeep driving, animals, amazing vegan foods and seeing my mum have an amazing time. And at the end was that happy feeling of ‘I want to do that all again’.