When I was a kid, I hated traveling. Any change in routine was enough to trigger an anxiety attack for me, and family vacations often felt like torture. I still struggled even after I learned how to manage travel anxiety. I’m not a homebody, but travel sometimes fills me with dread — even trips I’m looking forward to.
I just returned from a work trip to Europe, and it was my first time traveling internationally alone. I had a countdown to this trip and was so excited about it, but I had the all-too-familiar feeling of a pit in my stomach the night before my flight. Saying goodbye to Vagner and Nora left me emotional. I wondered whether I was doing the right thing by seizing the opportunity.
The Europe trip was a blast, mainly because I have coping mechanisms to deal with my travel anxiety. I’m no pro, but I wanted to share a few things that helped me figure out how to manage travel anxiety.
Pinpoint Possible Triggers
The first thing that’s helped me is determining why I’m anxious. General homesickness is my main culprit. I also don’t like being in unfamiliar situations, and I’m the friend who can’t ever go with the flow — not exactly a fan of surprises. Because I know the things that trigger my anxiety, I try to prepare for them. For example, I give myself ample time to go through security and find my gate when I’m alone. I do my best to get a good night’s sleep right before a big trip. Basically, avoid things that could stress you out more.
Examine Your Fears
“What’s the realistic worst-case scenario here?” I had a therapist ask me this question years ago, which was life-changing. I felt anxious about the trip mentioned above because I didn’t want to leave Nora for a week. What’s the realistic worst-case scenario? When I thought about it, I feared I’d feel guilty for being away. Once I had an idea of what was really making me afraid, I could mentally process that I was leaving her in capable hands and couldn’t let mom guilt get in my way.
As a teenager, I ordered chicken fingers at almost every restaurant I visited. I was hesitant to try new foods, making it difficult to fully enjoy travel. I mostly grew out of it, but I still have to challenge myself to be adventurous and do unfamiliar things. I ask the same question above: “What’s the realistic worst-case scenario here?” I tried oysters while in France — something I swore I’d never do! — but part of the beauty of travel is being flexible.
Have Firm Boundaries
Leaving your comfort zone is important, but so is enjoying yourself. I’m not an outdoorsy person or one for thrills like rollercoasters and water sports, so I just skip those things. The beach isn’t my favorite place in the world, and my family knows I’d rather be lounging with a book in my hotel room. I used to worry that I’d disappoint someone if I said I wasn’t willing to try something, but now my relaxation comes first.
As always, feel free to sound off in the comments! Do you deal with travel anxiety? What helps you?