I force myself to take a deep breath. It doesn’t help. The adrenaline is still pumping through my body at high speed. My heart is racing–I can feel it beating in my ears. I’m nauseous, flushed, and shaking. Am I dying? No. Sick? Nope. I’m just about to leave my apartment for a trip.
I’m a travel blogger with anxiety. Worse, that anxiety rears its head especially when I travel.
So, what gets me to the door when my irrational brain and body are doing everything to keep me from my trip? What makes me cross the threshold into the uncertainty of travel when I could easily stay safely curled up on my couch at home?
Anxiety can be a major hindrance for people who want to travel. It’s been a major hindrance in my life and I don’t want it to stop you from seeing the world. Here’s how I don’t let anxiety stop me from traveling.
1) Get to the root of the problem (as best you can)
Next time you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming trip, take a moment and reflect on your underlying feelings.
While not always possible, try to figure out why you’re anxious or having feelings of anxiety. Are you traveling somewhere solo? Are you worried about missing your train or plane? Are you freaking out about getting lost or worried that you won’t figure out public transport? Perhaps it’s a combination of some or all of these things.
Once I know why I’m anxious, I acknowledge it and tell myself that it’s OK. While it doesn’t always stop the anxiety, it helps to know that I’m not going crazy.
2) What’s the worst that could happen?
If I’m really anxious about getting lost, what’s the worst that could happen? I use my phone or ask for directions. If I’m freaking out about missing my train, I’ll factor in even more time to get to the station and arrive at the platform early. If I’m freaking out about flying in general, I’ll use my coping mechanisms for flight anxiety. In the end, most of my worst-case scenarios involve me either asking for help or arriving somewhere early.
Figure out your worst-case scenarios and plan for them if possible. Factor in extra time if you’re worried about delays. Pin things on your Google Maps app so you can find them without getting lost when you visit your new city. Do what you can ahead of time to prepare for those stressful moments you know you’ll have before and during your trip.
3) What will happen if you don’t go?
If I don’t go on a trip, I can stay home and watch movies, eat my favorite foods, and wear what I want when I want. I know where I’m going and what I’m doing at any given time. Sounds great, right?
But what about all those things I’d miss out on by not going? I won’t get to see that new city, eat that delicious pastry, or take those beautiful photos. I’ll lose out on money, experiences, and stories.
For me, that potential loss is always greater than the perks of not going on the trip.
4) Set up a support system — both at home and abroad
When I’m traveling, I like to stay in an Airbnb or locally-owned place; having the support of someone there (even if it’s only briefly or in passing) helps with my anxiety.
Checking in with my family when I’m traveling also helps with my anxiety.
Figure out what works for you and what makes you feel less anxious and do that.
5) Push your anxiety’s limits — within reason
Just going on a trip when you have travel anxiety is amazing. Truly. Congratulations! But once you’re on your trip, be sure to push your limits just a bit. You’ll prove to yourself (and your mind) that you’re far more capable than you think you are.
Walk around a little bit without consulting a map. Take a new route. Throw out the carefully planned itinerary for a day.
These small, easy victories will make you feel stronger than you thought you were and give you the confidence you need the next time your travel anxiety is making you doubt yourself.
6) If it sucks, you can always go home
Whenever I leave for a trip, I always tell myself that I can go home if it really is horrible. I’ve never gone home, but having that peace of mind that I can go home if things are awful eases my anxiety quite a bit.
7) One step/day at a time
Stepping out the door for any trip can be daunting — thinking about all the things that would go wrong always makes my heart beat faster, yikes! Breaking everything down into small, manageable chunks helps. If I can catch my train, I win. If I find a seat I like, victory. If I make it to my accommodation, I make sure to celebrate (preferably with a pastry).
Soon enough, these step-by-step victories become larger time blocks, and if I can make it through an entire day, I feel really proud of myself.
8) Take time to recover
Whether during a trip that has caused you a lot of anxiety or after a trip that was particularly draining, be sure to take time to yourself to recover. Whether that’s spending a day or two on your couch watching Netflix all day, going to a spa, reading a book, or writing in a journal, your mind will thank you for giving it a break, and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on your next trip (with hopefully a little less anxiety).
Do you have travel anxiety?