Believe me, I know exactly how it feels to have travel anxiety. Luckily for me, I also know how it feels to overcome travel anxiety.
I know that sometimes, you can be super-excited about a trip, or dream about visiting a place throughout your entire life. You can feel a slight tremor of trepidation when you search for flights, and even some uncertainty when you click that “Book” button online. But you tell yourself that it’ll be fine, and that you’ll be excited about it when the time comes. Only it can then lead to sleepless nights, increasing worry as your departure date approaches, or even cancellation of the trip entirely.
Travel anxiety can even strike when you’re on the road. You’re not certain of the safety of a certain activity, or a certain place, and it can make you completely alter your travel plans, or even what you think of yourself. Am I really cut out for travel? What if I’m always going to feel like this from now on? Should I just stay at home?
Travel anxiety – the facts
It’s important to remember that it’s very common to suffer from travel anxiety. In fact, 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders – and that’s not counting people who don’t otherwise suffer from anxiety, but are thrown completely out of their comfort zone by travel. As you can see, you’re really not alone!
The important thing is how you overcome travel anxiety, because you can absolutely do it. I’ve done it myself, and trust me, I have no special skills other than being able to whip up a really awesome lasagne, and pet many cats. You can do it too.
Learning from others
What’s the first step on the path to overcome travel anxiety? Well, that would be listening to other people, and learning from them. If you see a really big puddle, and think that you can’t possibly jump it without getting soaked, that worry goes away when you see someone else hurdle it. Sure, you might still get a little splashed, but you build up that confidence that you can do it. Jumping that puddle becomes easier every time!
I’ve asked some of my lovely travel blogger friends to share their experiences of travel anxiety, times when they were worried or stressed on the road or before they left. But they’re also going to share how they overcame that travel anxiety, squashed those nerves, hurdled that puddle. I love their stories, and definitely got a lot from them – and I know that you will too!
I’ve also linked to their blogs so you can check them out, and see how much travel these wonderful ladies are doing! It’s proof that nothing can stop you!
Grab your favourite beverage (mine’s an orange juice, but I’m sure you can twist my arm into a prosecco-sipping position…), and read some awesome travel tales!
Sam at Backseat Flyer
I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life is a phrase that is beginning to become so common that it almost sounds like a cliché. But when I tried to think of another way to explain what happened to me on my plane ride to Korea, no other words seemed appropriate.
I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life, and when I found myself boarding a plane to move from California to Seoul, Korea, my anxiety had not decided to stay behind with my other childhood objects. I spent the majority of the 12 hour plane ride crying and asking myself: What if I hate it? What if I never make friends like the ones I have back home? What if this is the worst decision I ever make? It felt like my anxiety was sitting in the seat next to me, laughing and saying, “You’ll never be happy!”
It would have been so easy to turn around the second I landed in Korea and bought the first ticket back home, to a place I knew and felt comfortable with. But instead, I paused, took a deep breath, acknowledged my feelings as valid, but also acknowledged that they would pass. I took one step forward, then another, and then another. I’d be lying if I said I never had those anxious thoughts again, but taking those steps forward in spite of my anxiety has led me on the most amazing two years of travel and adventure that I could never have imagined sitting on that plane. So now, whenever I feel anxious again, I always remind myself: pause, breathe, and one step forward.
Naomi at Probe Around The Globe
Iran can be considered a destination off the beaten path. Especially as a solo female traveler, I was anxious before going. Everyone I spoke to before I left responded with the same question: is that even safe? Followed by a quick: I could never do that!
I wasn’t even sure if I could do that! I’ve traveled solo before, even to “hard” destinations but Iran was in a whole league of its own. As soon as the plane touched down, I had a lump in my trout and a stone in my stomach. I arrived at 5 am and I couldn’t sleep at all. When the morning came, I was lying in my bed, thinking: I should enjoy this. You did this voluntarily. Go out. Explore. But I just couldn’t. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the size of Tehran and the idea of getting lost, people staring at me or doing something wrong. As I got ready to get out, I heard familiar voices in the hallway. It was a couple I met on the plane and I decided to tag along to their travel plans for that day. I often feel like I’m too much, but now I knew: this was my chance to go out, explore and not feel so alone.
We had a great day in Tehran. Exploring the Golestan Palace and even going to the mountains! I would have never done that on my own! When I woke up the next morning, I felt much more confident that I could make this solo Iran trip work for me. As soon as I landed in Shiraz, I was calm and the two weeks in Iran flew by. It was one of the best trips I ever had as Iran was a breeze to travel in and I had such amazing experiences meeting people, learning about the history and seeing the beauty of the country. I’m so happy I ran into those other travelers, because they kick-started my trip and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world!
Martha at Quirky Globetrotter
I was a confident traveler. I never worried about missing my flights or being able to find an ATM. I felt that the universe was constantly on my side or that I would find the right person to show me the way. That’s until I was sexually assaulted in Austria.
Not only was I left coping with my anger of how I lost control of my body and my voice, how I traveled spiraled out of control. I was hesitant to trust. I didn’t want to rely on others to help me through my journey. My anxiety manifested itself front and center. I could no longer travel as carefreely as I used to.
I no longer winged my travels because I felt unsafe around strangers, but I didn’t want my abuser to win. To compensate for my distrustful demeanor, I researched my upcoming travels more rigorously. I made checklists of things that I would need in a certain destination and noted contact information for my country’s embassy in a notebook that I would carry at all times. I researched hotels to see if they had accommodating staff who could help in case of an emergency. I also began connecting with local women before I arrived at a destination to form a local safety net for myself for those times I didn’t want to be alone.
It was these little baby steps and my worldwide sisterhood that helped me regain control over my travel decisions and not fear unknown destinations. I have a long way to go, but I’m grateful that I haven’t lost my love for travel.
Sheree at Winging The World
“What the heck is canyoning?” I urgently whispered to my boyfriend.
“It involves traversing waterfalls by jumping, rappelling, abseiling and zip-lining.” He laughed.
My stomach dropped. I am not a confident swimmer and I absolutely hate heights. Of course, it would be too embarrassing to back out now. At least if I died, no-one could call me a wimp. That was something.
The trip was going well until we got to the second waterfall. It was seven metres high and we were going to jump. I began to hyperventilate.
“Try to avoid the rocks!” I heard, shouted from below. How comforting.
I tentatively announced, “I’m afraid I can’t do this, I’ll take the other way down.”
Someone called back, “There is no other way!”
Felt sick, but I had no choice. I attempted the jump three times but at the last second my body pulled me back. I was sure I was going to pass out.
Complete panic had now set in and I was on the verge of a full meltdown. One of the other guys tried to calm me down. “On three,” he said. “Don’t think, just jump.”
I took a shaky breath and closed my eyes. I hit the water hard but the relief washed over me: it was over.
In hindsight, agreeing to go canyoning when I had no idea what canyoning was wasn’t my wisest idea. Am I glad I did it? Yes. Would I do it again? I’d rather eat my own toenails.
Lissa at Roots, Wings, And Travel Things
I have severe anxiety before every trip we take. Every. Single. Trip.
Seems a little crazy that I became a travel blogger! I have severe emetophobia- a phobia of vomit. We travel as a family with our two boys and I am always terrified that someone is going to throw up on the trip or that we will all come down with a stomach bug on a plane, in the car, or trapped in a hotel room with only one bathroom. Just before every trip, this fear takes over and I have a complete meltdown where I beg my husband to let me cancel our plans. He’s wonderful at helping calm me down. He’s helped me realize that I can prepare for the worst and that’s the best I can do to control the situation. So I always make sure I’m prepared with plenty of emesis bags (way too many to be honest) tucked in all of our backpacks and suitcases, plus an extra change of clothes for everyone and lots of sanitizing wipes. For road trips, I always pack old towels too. It helps me to know that I’m prepared for the worst- even though the worst rarely happens!
Once we get going, I tell myself that everything is fine and we can handle anything that happens because I’m totally prepared. I always end up relaxing and loving our trips- which is why I keep planning more and more trips! The experiences we have traveling with our boys far outweighs the anxiety (although it doesn’t feel like that during my pre-travel anxiety meltdowns!) and I have to keep reminding myself of that to get through it and keep on exploring!
Esther at The Adventurous Feet
When I traveled to Dahab in Egypt, I knew I would go snorkelling, since it’s a snorkelling destination for snorkelers who want to tick the Blue Hole off the bucket list.
Having heard some great stories about how fun and amazing snorkelling is, I knew I didn’t want to miss this chance presented to me – to finally, go snorkelling for the first time and in one of the highly talked about snorkelling places.
So I booked a day trip to the Blue Hole. Moments after the orientation, I was given the life jacket and the fins! But since I like to be absolutely sure about the challenge that’s in front of me, I decided to Google the Blue Hole one last time before heading for the challenge!.
The only information I could focus on at that moment was how the Blue Hole had claimed lives of almost 200 people before and how it is the deepest and mostly deadly dive center in the world, and here I was heading straight to that place.
I chickened out for some minutes, but the tour guide convinced me that it is safe, and its only divers who ignored instructions died there. I calmed myself down and headed for the water.
Moments later, trying to look deep down in the sea to admire the underwater species that everyone was talking about, all I could see was the endless sinkhole which is 100m deep, and the thought of people who had died in it came back to me. I started imagining myself sinking deep down, and I immediately started panicking and shaking, and a panic attack kicked in.
I started yelling to everyone who could hear me how I wanted to leave the Blue Hole, started breathing so fast and told the people I were with how I was afraid that I was going to die.
The unfortunate part about the Blue Hole is that it is “a one way” path – you can never go back, or you risk hitting rocks and eventually get in an accident!
Everyone was telling me was to calm down, as I waited to reach the shores. Seconds felt like hours and minutes felt like days! I could feel my heart come out of my chest, but all I could do is wait.
Fortunately, a family that was snorkelling from nearby sympathized with me, and lent me their float to hold onto as we swam our way to the shore.
Finally, I came out of the Blue Hole; I did quite a number of deep breaths, and gained my cool later alone.
Having had a terrible experience at the Blue Hole didn’t stop my dream of snorkelling, as a few days later, I was able to successfully go snorkelling at the blue lagoon and it was amazing to finally see all those beautiful underwater species.
Tip* If it’s your first time snorkelling, do not start with the Blue hole in Dahab.
Darja at DeeGees Travel
Life is full of juxtapositions, which is probably what keeps everything in balance. We traveled to the Khao Sok National Park in the middle of a rainy season, in the quest of escaping the boring and the predictable. Two days later, as we surpassed the boundaries of our comfort zones, the need for a more boring course of events suddenly became very present.
Cheow Lan Lake is a picturesque man-made lake in the Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand. Its emerald green waters, limestone karsts surrounded by jungle with a rich variety of plants and animals, make it one of the most unique yet less touristy places to visit in the country. Nature is simply stunning, and we enjoyed every single second until the moment we had to leave.
If the first two days were sunny and warm, the day of departure was the absolute opposite. A powerful tropical storm kept delaying our return. While waiting for the lightning to stop we noticed the boat assigned to us started sinking. Although rescued rather quickly, the boat didn’t inspire much confidence, especially because we were to leave in the middle of strong rain and go over an hour across the lake. But ok. Adventure. About five minutes after departure the engine first stopped and then caught fire. Yes, in the rain. The engine next to the fuel reserve. Are we in a movie?
The range of emotions we went through in those hours was very wide. There was horror, shock, anger, fear and eventually – utter happiness and gratefulness for being alive. As our boat made it through the storm we screamed silly songs from the bottoms of our hearts and that’s what helped us stay sane.
Gina at One Day In A City
One of the most anxious times I’ve had on a trip was the night before I hiked the Inca Trail in Peru. You might think it’s because it’s a long, strenuous hike, but no…I was stressed if I would be allowed on the trail.
Earlier that evening my husband and I had met our tour guide in Cusco. During our orientation he checked everything was good to go with our trail tickets, passports, etc. when he stopped, puzzled, and asked why my passport number on the physical passport in his hand didn’t match the number we submitted for the Inca Trail. We realized when my husband booked the trip, he accidentally used my old passport, under my maiden name. Our guide looked concerned and said admittance could be strict, but then assured us it would probably be fine. Probably? This was a dream trip for us, one that we’d waited years to do and had flown many miles to get to, and we now were super worried we may have messed it up due to a passport mix-up.
I was very nervous the following morning when we arrived to the trailhead, but luckily it wasn’t a problem as our tour guide predicted – meaning my husband and I had worried for nothing and didn’t need to lose all that sleep stressing! We were lucky it all worked out ok and had an incredible time on the trail. And I quickly stowed away the old passport somewhere that wasn’t so close to the new one upon arriving back home!
You can overcome travel anxiety!
As you can see, it’s possible to overcome travel anxiety, no matter whether its before you leave or whether it strikes you halfway through a trip. It may seem impossible: you might’ve read these stories and thought “but I could never do that! I could never travel in the first place!”. But everyone who has ever travelled has had to start somewhere – and I’ll bet you that every single one of them has had to overcome travel anxiety somewhere along the way.
Think of today as your starting point. You’ve read these stories, you’ve been inspired by how major anxieties and stresses can be beaten. You can do it too!
If you want to take it further, have a look at these guides to beating airport anxiety, how to overcome travel anxiety relating to food, and what to do if you have a panic attack when traveling!
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