Whether it is booking your first flight or packing up your belongings for a year-long trip, some anxiety is bound to happen. We were on an emotional roller coaster as we said our final goodbyes to friends, left our jobs, sold our stuff, and started booking all of the first leg of our trip. The transition isn’t easy; we were used to living a certain way, and we uprooted it all to do something completely different.
Do you get anxious around travel? Here are five ways we have found to overcome travel anxiety.
What is Travel Anxiety?
Travel anxiety is a form of the fear of the unknown. You are not always in control of your situation, and you find it scary. Your mind can fill up with “what if _______ happens” scenarios. The good news is that this is life. Good and bad things will happen. When you can accept that, you will understand that when the bad does happen, you can still work your way out of it. This is a lesson I am still working on as I tend to get easily frustrated when things don’t go as planned. (But Brianna is helping.)
Overcoming Travel Anxiety
Know you can’t control everything
Trying to control all aspects of your travels will make you more anxious. By leaving a few things to chance, you might be surprised to discover some of your best moments. This was especially true for us when we stopped by the Tarcoles River to see the crocodiles in Costa Rica. We originally planned to just go to the bridge and look down. But when we parked nearby, someone approached us offering a boat tour. It ended up being one of the most memorable parts of our trip.
In some situations, bad things happen, like our breakdown in Idaho on the way to a family Christmas. Our car wasn’t going to get fixed in time so we got a rental to go to Colorado. It really sucked at the time, but it is now one of our best stories.
You never know what the future holds, but it isn’t worth worrying about it. You are never completely in control of your situation. For me, this has been hard to realize, and I am terribly guilty of wanting to control everything. The lesson I’ve learned is to adapt and adjust plans accordingly.
You don’t have to do everything yourself
The world is a big place, and there are plenty of people around who are willing to help you before and during your trip. We are part of a local travel community and Meetup group, which has been invaluable in helping us plan our trips. There are so many resources, there’s no reason you have to do everything from scratch by yourself. There are countless travel blogs (like this one!), Facebook groups, and subreddits to help you along the way. The internet can be your best friend. The more prepared you feel, the less anxious you will be.
Generally I am pretty bad at asking for help. It is easy for an introvert like me to read other blog posts on South Africa, but it was much more valuable to ask questions of the people who actually live there. They are just as happy to help me as I would be to help them with questions on Portland. People aren’t that scary, and I just love building those connections.
Some folks pack the night before their trip. When we pack, we usually start doing it a few days before so it is all ready to go and we don’t have to think about it. For our year-long trip, we took months to pack our bags, because it was simply too big a task. The longer the trip, generally the more planning there is to what goes in your bag. Worst case, if you forget something, you can always buy it when you arrive. But if you pack early, you are less likely to need to.
I’m very good about packing early, but I keep nudging Brianna a bit get it done earlier. She is much more organized than I am, so it is easier for her to throw things in a bag at a moment’s notice and go. That just isn’t how I operate, and she stresses me out sometimes with her procrastination.
Plan your trip well, but do not over-plan
Every minute of your trip doesn’t need to be assigned an activity. You will get tired and stressed very quickly if you are on a fully packed schedule. Whether it is vacation or a round-the-world trip, you should be enjoying your time there and have a balance with some rest. We failed miserably at this in Japan when we spent entire days on our feet and never stopped.
For our world trip, we stuck to more of a rough outline rather than every single day’s activities. If we tried to plan every day or week, I think we would have gone completely mad. There are places I knew we wanted to see, so we didn’t need to plan filler for the sake of filling up each day. I like having free days, too. Those are often some of the best days as you can relax or stumble upon something you weren’t expecting.
This might be one of the most important ways to combat anxiety. Know that the most likely scenario is you have a great time, and nothing will stop that. Think of the next awesome thing on your itinerary if something does go wrong, and look forward to that. It isn’t worth wallowing in your own misery. Find a distraction and get back in the game.
Good things have happened when I’ve been the most positive. The energy you put out into the world seems to impact your environment around you; you get what you put out. So I will work harder to stay positive and not let my frustrations dominate my day every time plans are ruined. There is always something good to look forward to.
Learn from your mistakes
There are plenty of ways to overcome anxiety during a trip or by taking precautions beforehand. This can be different for everyone. As you travel more you will build confidence and better travel smarts. Not everything will go perfectly, but you will learn from your mistakes and do it better next time. So stop worrying and start traveling. 🙂
What are some ways you have overcome anxiety while traveling?
Psst… need more help feeling prepared for your next trip? You might also enjoy these:
- How Does it Feel to Travel the World?
- How to Plan a World Trip – Step 0: Decide to Do It
- The Best Apps for Full-Time Travel Life
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