I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember, and it was only until I was in my twenties that I realized a word to describe my nagging and mostly unfounded worrying existed.
There were a few times when I thought traveling would no longer be possible. Before a trip, I would worry about worrying. Sometimes it was enough to make me unpack and stay home instead. But every time I push myself past an unwanted worry and continue on with a trip, I feel stronger. But it takes time; a lot of it.
Over the years I have come up with a few tricks that have made traveling with anxiety easier for me, and if you too are an anxious traveler, I hope that some of these tricks will help you as well.
Got a Comfort Zone? Bring it with you!
If you’re like me, when you start to feel anxious you crave your comfort zone. For me, that place is my home. So every time I leave for a trip, I make sure I bring something from home with me. It could be a book I enjoy reading (which also works as a great distraction) a picture, or even a certain a scent (I recently brought a bottle of my favourite lavender hand cream with me on my last trip overseas).
Got a phone, a tablet, a laptop, a pack of stamps? Have someone you can contact back home, or wherever!
Many of us have those one or two people in our lives we know will be there for us whether it’s 3:00 pm or 3:00 am. Sometimes all your need is a friendly voice to feel centred again. You are especially lucky if you are traveling with someone you feel comfortable discussing your anxiety with. Thankfully, Luis is great at keeping me centred when I feel my anxiety bubble up, and knowing that I can be myself around him allows me to feel more relaxed.
Do a little research.
Traveling can make even those without anxiety anxious, so when I travel, I try to do a little research beforehand. By research, I don’t mean tourist attractions or great restaurants, I mean stuff like learning a few phrases that will get you by on your trip and knowing where your hotel located (or at least memorizing the address). This is especially important when traveling through Europe. Those charming avenues you’re walking down at dusk can go from Parisian perfect to Parisian panic fast if you have no idea how to get back! Taming anxiety is about learning to control the controllable and doing a little research before you arrive is always a safe bet.
Sleep is important, even when you’re traveling
Anticipation. Excitement. Jet lag. Traveling affects your sleep no matter which way you look at it. I was once up for almost 30 hours straight on a trip to Las Vegas. I pushed myself to stay awake and soak up every moment of my vacation until it backfired. I hit a wall (figuratively, not literally, but without any sleep for that period of time, it was entirely possible!) and I felt terrible. It’s better to work with your body than against it and taking a day to re-calibrate will pay off later on.
Avoid overindulging in caffeine or alcohol when you start to feel anxious.
I’ve always found that my anxiety increases when I overindulge in either, so when I’m feeling particularly anxious one day I will avoid both, at least until I feel more relaxed.
Finally, keep in mind why you decided to travel in the first place.
It’s disheartening to feel like you have to stop doing something you are passion about.
When I traveled to the Philippines, it was my first time in Asia. The flight was over 20 hours long and it would be farthest I’d ever been from home. As excited as I was to go, as the departure date crept closer, I could feel my anxiety lurk alongside it.
Remembering why I love to travel in the first place, and by using the tricks I mentioned above, I was able to fight off most of my anxiety throughout the trip and my two weeks in the Philippines remains one of the most amazing trips I’ve been on.
If you have any tips to cope with anxiety while traveling I’d love to hear about them!