Going to a foreign country and embarking on a new adventure sounds great…at least until the travel anxiety sets in.
From small ventures to global trots, travel anxiety is inevitable, especially if you already experience a form of chronic anxiety. The fear of the unknown and juggling whatever situation may come your way isn’t an easy feat. Going to a new environment means you can’t prepare for everything. If that isn’t a little scary, then you must have super powers.
As I’m currently living in American Samoa for the next year, learning to manage travel anxiety is a priority. Without that, I know I’d become debilitated with fear. I value adventure and making the most of my time and resources, so I choose to travel to uncomfortable new places. I choose to challenge myself to grow and gain awareness of myself and other cultures.
If you too make these choices, then I have some tips to manage travel anxiety. Of course, these will be broad so they can adapt to any instance of travel. They’re also based on my limited knowledge of travel anxiety and my own preferences, so I would love to hear your own words of wisdom in the comments below.
1. take home with you.
This isn’t necessarily related to homesickness, but it’s about having physical tokens that make you comfortable and more at ease.
What do you enjoy doing at home that you can easily take with you? What self-care practices already help relieve your anxiety? It likely feels new and extreme, but if you can manage normal anxiety, you can manage travel anxiety.
For example, when coming to American Samoa, I brought a face mask with me for when I need a pick-me-up, especially since increased heat and humidity requires some adjustment. I also like always having my favorite music on my phone and pictures that remind me of home. I usually wear the same pajamas and clothing pieces wherever I go that make me feel super loose and comfortable. It’s all about the little things that make a huge difference.
You’ll likely be switching up your normal routine when you’re traveling, but if you keep even one practice or activity constant, it can help ground you and manage travel anxiety. Even as you adopt new ideas and discover new things, making time every day for familiar self-care is key.
2. keep up your wellness.
Traveling leaves you feeling run-down and tired. You’re changing time zones, weather conditions, environments, people, room and board, food…there’s a ton of new things you’ll encounter. You won’t be able to manage travel anxiety if you aren’t feeling your best.
Wellness should include all aspects of health: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. On top of traveling, that can be a tad overwhelming. Honestly, it’s probably not your top priority to sleep and drink water when there’s so many new places to explore.
Before hopping on a plane to American Samoa, I went to a therapist once a week for a few months to discuss my thoughts about traveling. I worked through any hesitations and other issues that would hinder my adventure. I also worked with a functional doctor to improve my digestive woes. All of this was very necessary if I wanted to manage travel anxiety.
Pack everything you might need for your overall wellness to be best prepared before leaving for your travels. Do some research beforehand of potential illnesses and hardship you could face in your destination. Admittedly, this could lend itself to even more anxiety, but in this case, ignorance isn’t bliss.
Once traveling, before you do anything each day, do a quick survey of yourself and how you’re feeling. Do I feel ill and need to rest today? Am I feeling especially anxious or depressed? Do I feel isolated and alone? Ask those key questions, and treat them accordingly. To manage travel anxiety, realize that wellness is important, regardless of where you are in the world.
3. find balance between “challenging” and “overwhelming”
What do I mean by this point? It takes practice and persistence to differentiate triggers of travel anxiety. You can only learn if you try.
As I’ve mentioned, I value adventure. I’m willing to step outside my comfort zone because I know how much I enjoy traveling. I’m not completely resilient to travel anxiety, but I’m willing to manage it because the benefits outweigh the harm.
Any anxiety starts with overthinking. You get stuck in your head, you jump to every worst case scenario, and you panic over what you can’t control. Something that doesn’t go exactly as you planned becomes a failure on your end. Inadequacy. Inability to travel at all.
We all make mistakes. We all face obstacles that might make us question traveling at all. Regardless of what’s thrown your way, you can handle it. Be strong in that truth and remind yourself of it. You are braver than you believe.
When you do come across those moments, choose how to approach by surveying your personal values. Proceeding despite discomfort or avoiding a situation completely comes after deciding if its worth to you. If I want to respond according to what a value most in life and in travel, what will I do?
For example, I’m 100 percent introverted. It’s hard for me to always be around people and not become immediately drained. During my WorldTeach orientation, I live with nine other people and am around them basically without any breaks. It’s been a challenge for sure, but because I value building relationships and immersing myself in this experience, I’m choosing to power through. I don’t want to be stuck in my own head and travel anxiety, preventing me from fully enjoying this amazing opportunity.
Before you leave, know what you want. Define what is “challenging” and what is completely “overwhelming.” As you embark on your travels, you can then have greater confidence and self-awareness, going into everything knowing where you draw the line and keeping you from overthinking everything.
There are plenty of more tips to manage travel anxiety, but these are the big three that have helped me the most. I live a lot in my head, which is a strange combination with my desire to constantly travel. Just because I have chronic anxiety doesn’t mean I have to remain idle.
You have that same choice. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do with this single precious life? It’s all in your hands. The only thing holding you back is your own mind.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie