It is understood that 1 in 6 adult have anxiety. While travel can be exciting and rewarding – it can also bring on chronic stress and worry, triggers for those who have anxiety disorders.
One of the worst bouts of anxiety I’ve ever had was during the best months of my life. I was in Australia, living the dream, but crippled by the thought of being around people. Hostels are lively places where you can certainly thrive…if you aren’t having an internal war in your mind.
Over time I developed ways of coping. We spent more on accommodation to have private rooms, went to tourist attractions in the first hour of opening, or the last hour of close to avoid crowds, or went to places off the beaten track to enjoy the quiet. My biggest help was opening up to other travellers online, who gave me encouragement to push forward.
Without the support of those in online Facebook groups who were going through similar experiences, I would have been on the first plane back home to crawl into bed. Years later I’ve reached out again to gather more tips from travel bloggers, to help you in beating anxiety.
Remember to take deep breaths with every beachy photo break, because your mind certainly needs a break too.
Preparation is Key
Lauryn from letravels.com advises everyone to think about packing early:
‘My tip is lay EVERYTHING out and start packing at least a few days before you leave. I have an area in my house where I put all of my travel things so whenever I remember an item I immediately go get it and put it in that area. Once I’m ready to start packing,I organize it by clothing, electronics, documents, etc. being able to see everything calms me so I’m not second guessing myself as I’m walking out the door!’
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Giving yourself the gift of reassurance that you have everything in order will do wonders for your wellbeing, and help you sleep better the night before your flight.
It is also worth preparing the logistics of your trip to the airport in advance. Sarah from sarahssojourns.com shared some great advice with me on Twitter:
Mine is to look what time I need to get the bus/train, then plan to get the earlier one. If something happens and I’m delayed, then I can relax knowing that I still have time. It means I’ll end up at airports and trains stations extra early, but it’s worth it to avoid worrying.
Start Your Trip Calm
Once you’re at the airport, it’s a great idea to look into treating yourself to the private lounge. Keeley of phatcupcake.com shared this tip, which is ideal for those who suffer from social anxiety:
‘Book into one of the airport lounges and get there early. Most lounges allow a 3 hour stay and I find it really calms me down to spend some time in an area that is quieter, less busy and with food/drink if I want it. It means you can wander down to the shops if you want to and then escape back to some sense of calm. If not, you can stay there until your flight is boarding meaning much less stress.’
Airports are busy, bustling places. They are usually loud and uncomfortable. Private lounges are a way to escape to a quieter area, where you can shelter yourself from the crowds.
Anther consideration to put your mind at ease is doing a quick sweep of your hotel room when you arrive. Jenni from lostwithjen.com finds that taking extra safety precautions helps ease her anxiety; ‘ Quick sweep when you enter your hotel room, take a hotel door alarm (you can buy online), make sure windows are locked, etc’.
I always check before book anywhere whether or not they have a safe. In a hotel, this is usually not a problem, but in a hostel it can be more of an issue.
I never leave valuables in a hostel – I would worry myself sick over them, but then on the flip-side I feel unsafe carrying around all my cash and gadgets. Things like cash belts and rape alarms can help you feel safer.
Grounding is a technique used in treatment of anxiety disorders – however grounding can be used to ease those who have travel anxiety. Going abroad to a major bustling city, with new sights and sounds, can find themselves feeling the physical symptoms of anxiety coming in easier than at home. There’s new sights, sounds and smells, and the next minute you’re in the middle of a crowd – finding it hard to catch breath.
Francesca, glutenfreehorizons.com, wrote a fantastic paragraph for us on this:
‘My methods for coping with crowds might be a bit of a whacky one, but I’ve found I can cope a lot better since having sound therapy – I had it last year to focus on anxiety and found that my symptoms are somewhat lessened these days. My coping mechanism now is a grounding technique. You start off by listening really carefully to just your own heartbeat, then you work outward so you hear your breathing, then the conversation next to you, then the person at the end of the carriage, then what’s happening outside and then you work your way back in slowly until it’s just your heartbeat again. It kind of grounds you to concentrating only on what is objectively happening in that moment rather than what your mind and anxiety tell you might happen. It means in travel I focus a lot less on the what-ifs that used to plague me before.’
Don’t Feel Guilty
You’re on a once in a lifetime trip. You have 10 days, and you need to do all 50 of the major tourist attractions…right? Absolutely not – I’ve been there, done that, and can say it is NOT worth trying to cram so much into your days. Taking a day off, to do nothing, is not something to feel guilt about. Dani, of worldmeetdani.com, backs up this idea, as her tip was:
‘My tip would be to learn to not feel guilty for taking a break – all too often I feel bad for not being constantly on the go and exploring when I’m abroad, but it’s okay to take a break, have a nap, read a book etc. so you don’t burn yourself out!’
If you can’t get everything done that you had planned – go back again! Nothing is once in a lifetime if that is what you want to do. Do not ruminate over it, and have a lie in, you’re on holiday!
Plan Your Days With Health in Mind
It’s great to fill your trip with visits to all the major sites, however the constant crowds and rushing will heighten your chances of experiencing anxiety during travel.
Plan some slow days. Gab and Jack, from jackandgabexplore.com, made a fun suggestion that will be able to be employed almost anywhere:
Find a way to interact with animals – being around animals always has a way of calming us down. Between cat cafes, animal sanctuaries, and cute dogs out for a walk, there are dozens of ways to spend time around animals in every corner of the world.
Other ideas for finding a mindful experience abroad could be:
- To find a religious building that is not a major tourist attraction
- Visit a famous bookshop or library
- Go to a botanical garden
- Hire a car so you can go to beaches not accessible by public transport, they are usually quieter
- Go to an open air cinema, or go to the theatre
Thank you for all of my contributors for helping put this post on travel anxiety together.
Photos are my own, and you can find out where they are here.
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