Anxiety is the bane of many people’s existence, including my own. Anxiety is also the reason many people say no to once in a lifetime opportunities. So how in the world are you supposed to travel with anxiety?
As uncomfortable and miserable as it can be, I vowed at a young age to never let it get in the way of living a rich, fulfilling life, and that I would never allow anxiety to be the reason I make a decision to not do something, no matter what it is. For me, that rich, fulfilling life means seeing the world and experiencing the daily life of others very different than myself.
Taking the leap to travel far and wide truly challenged this.
Traveling is something many of us have all dreamed of, from fantasizing about what it would really be like to gaze up at the Eiffel Tower in real life, or to how small we’d feel if we were standing on the Great Wall. While all of these things are true and very real, there are a LOT of aspects to traveling that are, in fact, very much out of our control and push us outside of our comfort zone.
Language barriers, unfamiliarity, and the actual act of traveling itself are all scenarios in which you find yourself in quite frequently when traveling. Yes, it is scary, and yes, sometimes your anxiety starts to take hold of you.
BUT – what will you remember in 50 years? It hurt my stomach even thinking about what my 70-year old self would think if I had turned down going to live abroad in Asia for a few months because I was anxious, or if I had said no when Luke asked me to come spend New Years with him in London because of my serious fear of flying. And now, I’m so grateful I took a deep breathe, pinched my nose with my finger and thumb and dove into the deep end with an open heart and an open mind, because now, I am better for it.
I saw things I dreamed of seeing. I grew in ways I did not know possible. That is the beautiful reward of daring to go beyond what you are familiar with.
Successfully battling the anxiety that comes with traveling allowed me to go here:
Something I personally think attributes to feeling anxiety with traveling is because at a certain point in life, there are very few experiences left that are completely foreign. But getting the courage to book a flight to go to a place that is unknown to you is not easy. Facing the unfamiliar is uncomfortable, and if you are feeling nervous to travel, you are normal.
For those of you who can relate to dealing with anxiety, I want you to feel empowered to be able to let go of control and feel able to still travel with anxiety.
Here are some basic ways to fight that voice that tells you, ” You can’t”. Because yes, yes you can. This is how to travel with anxiety:
1. Do Your Research and talk to others who have made the same trip.
When I was terrified to fly across the world by myself – and also find my way home on a subway system I knew nothing about in a city and country I had never been to – it gave me a sense of peace when I would talk to others who had made the same trek in their past.
It seemed like they would really have to stop and try to remember what their travel journey was like because they were too busy smiling with nostalgia about the incredible things they saw and people they met.
Bringing me peace about my own travel, I could see that the anxiety that seems overpowering at the time will be long forgotten about after experiencing the trip of a lifetime.
You can also pick up some tips about your designated airport and different ways to travel upon arrival, too.
2. Book your travel to include wiggle room.
If you’re anxious because you fear the worst case scenario, whether it’s a delayed flight or a long layover on your own in a foreign airport, book your travel to have some extra time to err on the safe side.
Get to the airport for an international flight at least two hours early, and three if you’re flying from a famously busy airport. That way you can get your check-in taken care of and locate your gate before you wander to the nearest bar to kill some time.
3. Map out your game plan for your arrival.
The extra research will pay off. This I promise you! It helps get rid of some of the discomfort of being somewhere foreign when you at least catch yourself recognizing some street names and landmarks.
Figure out which lines of the subway you’ll take and what signature locations you know you need to look out for. You’ll feel yourself slowly relax as you spot names you have at least heard of before.
4. Expect for something to not go as planned.
It would be too easy for everything to fall into place perfectly. Plus, you know what they say – hope for the best, expect the worst. I wouldn’t say you need to expect the worst per se, but it is wise to embrace the possibility that you may have to quickly come up with a plan B, or C or D.
But also know that when this happens, it is always going to work out and the travel industry anticipates these things and are always very accommodating.
Most importantly, this is what makes travel fun! You’ll discover new sides of yourself that you never existed, like how you actually CAN go with the flow and embrace change.
You’re headed for the trip of your life after you push this anxiety away and embrace the unknown and change!
All the worry and nerves will disintegrate when you’re too busy gazing out of your cab’s window at the glorious new place you’ve arrived in, and after you feel accomplished for pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and conquered anxiety in the name of adventure!