In a week and a half, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be on my way to Laos.

When I tell people about my trip, they usually look puzzled. “Why Laos? Are you going for business, or is it a vacation?” I hesitate a moment. The word vacation just doesn’t seem to fit. Finally, I say, “It’s travel.” As to why…well, it seems important to get outside our cultural bubble every once in a while.

Laos is a deeply Buddhist country with a laid-back manner and friendly people. It also happens to be very hot right now, both in the temperature sense and the trendy sense. Since buying my ticket, I’ve seen Laos on half a dozen must-see lists. It’s not often I find myself on the cutting edge.

Let me say right up front, I’m not an intrepid adventure traveller – but I’d like to be. Perhaps this is my version of a sixty-year-old guy buying a silver BMW convertible to prove he can still be the person he wants to be. As it is, my feelings about this impending trip alternate between pleasurable excitement and insomnia-producing anxiety.

There are endless thoughts about Things to Do (find the pin for my ATM card), Things to Decide (travel insurance…yes or no?), or Things That Might Go Wrong (a snowstorm on the day of departure!), each delivering a little jolt of adrenaline to the solar plexus. It’s what happens to me when I face the unknown.

Lately I’ve been reading One Foot in Laos by Dervla Murphy. She’s a super-intrepid traveller, a weather-beaten Irishwoman who trekked around Laos alone when she was 66. I’d love to have half her guts, but that’s not me. I have to accept being a traveller who’s half intrepid, half chicken.

Anyway, a week from Thursday (God willing and there’s no snow storm) I’m flying to San Francisco, where I’ll meet up with friends Deborah and Jan. And then…