Two years ago. My husband and I drove up the California coast after the Lifespan Learning conference. We did it again after this year’s conference, with a remarkable difference, my skinny-nervous husband was rarely in hypermobilized vagal states on this trip. I blogged about the last trip, here:

In 2007, every time we came into a town, he’d get anxious, incapable of social connection, and constantly scanning for danger. He couldn’t problem-solve very well or negotiate with me about restaurants, hotels, etc. (When relaxed, Doug is a well-connected, loving, sweetheart.) This time he could chat, problem-solve, laugh, play, and negotiate. What’s the difference? We have a GPS device.

Doug has been navigating foreign terrain with his GPS for over a year. (He travels a lot for his photography work.) "Emily" tells him where to go and how to get there. She locates food and shelter. She usually keeps him on the path. Her calm British voice directed us through our five-day trip. Yesterday, she got us around San Francisco, where the traffic can be mobilizing for anyone. Today, she will again.

Because of Emily, I don’t need to back way up to allow Doug time to reset to a meyelenated ventral vagal state, capable of socializing, thinking, and shooting pictures. He spent less time in shut down, dorsal vagal immobilized states, too. His body didn’t need to shut down to recuperate from the mobilization.

As you can imagine, this trip was more fun. We stayed engaged much more of the time. There were less occasions or need for repair. Doug fell into his birding swoons or photograpy swoons much more easily, both highly engaged states. (104 species before we hit San Francisco. But who’s counting?)

We both talk to Emily. And we allowed her to lead us astray, a few times on purpose. (That’s how we saw the White-Tailed Kite, a beautiful hawk that "treads water", Kestral-like, in mid-air while searching for little rodents and reptiles.) If you are or travel with a "born to be anxious" person, I recommend a GPS system for your car. It took the unfun kind of mobilization out of our trip.