Last updated August 24, 2023
The world is full of endless adventures and exciting opportunities. Yet for many, an overwhelming sense of dread rears its ugly head at the mere thought of travel. Anxiety about traveling is real, my friends. But I’m here to tell you that with the right tips and strategies, you can tackle travel anxiety head on.
As someone diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at the young age of 12, I was no stranger to worrying. My anxiety would later manifest into panic attacks, health anxieties, panic-induced seizures and complications associated with celiac disease and fibromyalgia.
Anxiety is nothing new for Americans. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, about 40 million adults are diagnosed with anxiety disorder. And a good number of those specifically have anxiety about traveling.
Unlikely as it may seem, I found my calling as a solo world traveler, and in doing so, I learned how to manage my anxiety better with each trip. Today, traveling serves as a soothing balm for my anxious mind, helping me break free from my usual routine, pushing my boundaries and teaching me resilience.
I hope to share some insights on overcoming travel anxiety, for all those who long for the thrill of adventure but find themselves held back by fear.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, traveling can be an effective way to tackle anxiety head-on. If you find yourself grappling with similar apprehensions, you might be wondering: Will I ever find the courage to actually travel? In practice, how does travel reduce anxiety? How can I shake off my anxiety about traveling? Let me share some tips and strategies that have helped me immensely on this journey.
Pre-Travel Anxiety: Four Strategies & Tips
Before you embark on your journey, pre-travel anxiety can set in, causing you to second-guess your decision. In such situations, these four strategies can be helpful:
1. Recall your travel motivation: Anxiety can cloud your thinking, making it easy to forget why you decided to travel in the first place. Take a moment to remember your reasons why. This could be anything from the desire to experience new cultures, or simply a change of pace from your regular life. This will help you gain perspective and push past your anxious thoughts.
2. Overprepare: Overthinking can often result in anxiety, but being well-prepared can have the opposite effect. Take the time to thoroughly research your destination. Understand the local transportation system, check for the availability of ride-sharing services, learn about the facilities near your accommodation, etc. Having these details figured out beforehand can bring significant relief.
3. Pack a comprehensive DIY first-aid kit: Consider this your safety net. Pack everything you might need in case of emergencies. This can include prescriptions, band-aids, antiseptic wipes, Imodium (I’m looking at you, Mexico), etc. Preparing for the worst-case scenario can often help mitigate anxious “what if” thoughts.
4. At the airport: In transit, anxiety can flare up as well. At the airport or during your journey, engage in calming activities such as listening to soothing music, journaling, finding a favorite inspirational quote or reciting a mantra. My personal mantra is, “We can do hard things.” It’s important to remember that you always have the option to return home if things get too overwhelming. The knowledge that you’re not trapped can provide a great sense of comfort.
Handling Anxiety While Traveling
Once you’ve reached your destination, anxiety can still persist, but there are ways to manage it:
1. Establish a routine: Incorporate practices such as yoga and meditation into your travel routine to maintain a sense of balance and peace. This can provide stability amidst the chaos of travel.
2. Push your boundaries, but be spontaneous: While it’s essential to avoid situations that may trigger anxiety, a little spontaneity can be exhilarating. Don’t be afraid to take a spontaneous detour or try something new. You may surprise yourself!
3. Consider the best scenario instead of the worst: This strategy is especially useful for those suffering from health anxiety. Rather than obsessing over everything that could go wrong, try to envision the best possible outcome. This subtle shift in mindset can make a significant difference in controlling your anxious thoughts.
4. Solo travel anxiety: If you’re a solo traveler, anxiety can sometimes hit harder. Here, making new friends and exploring co-working spaces can greatly alleviate the stress of solo travel. It’s also a good idea to keep someone informed about your whereabouts for extra peace of mind.
The Silver Travel Anxiety Lining
As I write this on a flight to Mexico, that familiar knot of apprehension returns. Yet I know that each time I conquer this fear, I am rewarded with an unforgettable experience that I would never trade.
Had I let anxiety rule my life I never would have driven a campervan around Iceland, fallen in love in Croatia, zip lined in Costa Rica or directed a film in Rome.
Travel might seem intimidating, but it’s an extraordinary tool that can help overcome anxiety. It challenges us, terrifies us and comforts us simultaneously—pushing us out of our comfort zones and gifting us the freedom to explore and experience new things.
If someone like me with a debilitating anxiety disorder can journey across the globe, you can, too!
Remember, the key to success and happiness in life is to remove fear from the equation. Ask yourself this: what would you do if fear was not a factor? And then go do it!
Believe that you deserve incredible experiences and don’t let anxiety hinder you from embracing them. Trust in yourself, push through your fears and remember—the world is yours to explore!
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