Let me make one thing VERY clear straight out the gate, today, we are talking about MANAGING travel anxiety, not overcoming it, not getting rid of it or ignoring it, MANAGING it. Too many people talk about overcoming these feelings, but if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, or you are prone to regular anxiety attacks, overcoming that anxiety may not be an option.
That doesn’t mean it’s game over for your super awesome, amazing travel plans though! It is perfectly possible for you to have anxiety or even depression and still be able to get on that plane and see the world!
I know this, because I was that person (I don’t want to sound like one of those weird life coach, preacher people, but it’s true!).
Understanding that anxiety is a part of you and it goes where you go
It’s a bit like having two people living in your head, you have the one person that has an adventurous, travel loving side and the other wants to stay at home curled up into a ball and sleep.
The thing is, the one that wants to stay in the safe place will be going with you on your travels whether you like it or not and usually, it’s the most overpowering of the two. But, once you get that side out from under the covers and start to show them the amazing things that our out in the big scary world, they’ll calm down and take a back seat.
Sometimes you have to take the anxious you by the hand and coax them through every step, taking things slowly. For example, the very first time I took a solo travel trip, I very nearly didn’t go. My anxious self had completely taken control, with the idea that it was saving me from the dangers that lay out there in foreign lands.
Taking things one step at a time
I knew that taking a solo trip, now that I was finally in a fairly stable place with my mental health, would be a complete game changer, so I pushed through. I took anxious me by the hand and told myself:
“I’ll just pack a bag and then if I still want to go, I can just go!”
Then came the next baby step, getting my dad to drop me off at the airport. I told myself:
“I’ll just get dad to drop me off and then if I really get scared, I can just get him to take me home!”
I got to the airport and I felt fine, it wasn’t as scary as I had imagined, so I continued the baby steps, little by little I got on the plane, I got to Barcelona, I met amazing people and had the best time ever!
But it wasn’t easy the whole time. There were times that I just sat in my bunk in the hostel and didn’t want to move and I just let myself. I didn’t push myself to breaking point, I paid attention to how I was feeling and understood how much I could take.
It’s so important to remember, that even though we are talking about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, it is ok to just surrender to it when you simply can’t face it. As long as you keep trying and don’t surrender completely.
The world is safer than you think… but you won’t know that until you get out there
Your brain is hardwired in a ‘seeing is believing‘ kind of way. It learns how to protect you based on past events. That’s why if someone has a really bad flight, maybe with a lot of turbulence, then the next time they step on the plane, they may have an anxiety attack because their brain is trying to warn them of the dangers they have once experienced.
Even people who have never flown may be anxious, because their brain doesn’t know how to react and so goes into default mode, which is to keep you away from the potential danger.
This is why, to truly manage your travel anxiety, you have to travel. You have to prove to your brain that you are capable of surviving anywhere, that the world isn’t as dangerous as you once believed. Even if it is starting with a trip an hour away from home and building it up, every baby step counts.
You are more than capable of being adventurous with travel anxiety
Travel anxiety is normal, especially when you are travelling solo, you just have to acknowledge it, understand why it is happening and treat yourself with kindness, but remember to be stern and know that you are more capable than you give yourself credit for.
As human beings, we are born to adapt and change, that’s why are brains are so sponge like. So don’t let travel anxiety ruin what travel dreams you may have and just know that you are strong enough to go forth and see the world!