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The Power of Travel
All good trips have to come to an end. And as I boarded my dawn bus back to Naples airport, passing through sleeping villages, playgrounds seemingly guarded by a friendly statue of a clown at the gates, and coffeeshops with a scattering of bleary-eyed Italians standing at the bar, I reflected that my trip to this area had been life-changing. I’d discovered so many tips: for visiting the area, and really making the most of it on a budget, which massively boosted my confidence as a traveller – no more was I the unsavvy tourist! I hadn’t even gotten too lost! (well, apart from the Steps of Death in Positano) But much more importantly, I’d discovered how to beat the travel anxiety which prevented me from travelling for so long, and how to improve my life in general.
That might sound like a bit of an exaggeration – ‘what, with one single trip?’, the cynic in you is possibly thinking – but it’s absolutely true. Sometimes, that’s all it takes, especially if you have a little bit of help along the way. All of the tips that I’m about to tell you completely improved my trip, added to my experience as a traveller, and boosted my confidence. And the the best bit is that they’re completely transferable to travelling in general, so you can use them for your next trip, whether it be Naples or Nepal.
So let’s get this travel-lovin’, tip-sharin’ smorgasbord started!
Tip 1: Take Lauren Juliff’s Outstanding “How To Overcome Travel Anxiety” Course
When I wrote above that my trip was life-changing, taking Lauren’s course was the single factor. It has changed my life, and it will continue to do so every time I travel, as well as helping me in day-to-day life. Yes, it really is that powerful.
The night before I left for Italy, I was deep in the grip of a severe anxiety attack. The cause of that attack: the thought of travelling. I remember sliding my feet between my duvet and my sheets, thinking this could be the last time I do this. I was convinced that I was going to die, that my plane would go down in flames, and that my parents were going to be sobbing on national television. I was certain that if I somehow made it to Italy in one piece, that I would be mugged or killed whilst I was there. If I hadn’t taken Lauren’s course, I am 100% certain that I wouldn’t have made it to the airport. I would’ve cancelled the flight, shut down this blog, and never spoken of it again, just like I did with my failed trip to Arizona.
Fortunately, I’d purchased the “How to Overcome Travel Anxiety” course a couple of weeks previously, and it squished that anxiety attack into lasting probably no longer than about ten minutes – I actually accessed it on my phone that night, and read it in bed to reinforce it in my mind before I went to sleep. For a full description of the course, click here – if you’ve ever suffered from any form of travel anxiety; if you’re an absolute beginner to travelling, or you’re an experienced hand who suffers from anxiety, or who still worries about flying or what to do if it all goes wrong whilst you’re away, I wholeheartedly recommend this course. It will help you so much, and you owe it to yourself to ease that energy-sapping fear.
It also helps me when I’m at home, with tips and strategies for coping with anxiety day-to day, and they work! It’s not a magic cure – sadly, such a thing doesn’t exist, but I’ve noticed that my anxiety levels have been significantly lower since I’ve been following the course’s tactics. It’s now unusual for me to have a bad day with it, and I’m on the way to being able to ignore anxiety completely.
Sounds good, but still not sure? Not a problem: Lauren offers a 30-day money back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied with the course.
Tip 2: Apps Are Awesome
No, not Neko Atsume (okay, that’s awesome too, gimme all the cats!!), but the kaleidoscope of travel apps that are readily available to you through your own mobile phone. And if you have anxiety, knowing that the phone in your pocket has the power to get yourself out of trouble is absolutely brilliant.
The best apps for travel are the ones that help you to get around, keep you navigated, let you make the most of your trip, and don’t drain the battery until it’s emptier than the cold, dark depths of a politician’s heart. My personal hero during my trip to Italy was Maps.me, an app available for Android and iPhone. It works offline – a godsend for keeping that precious battery life topped up – but still shows your precise location, as well as everything of interest that’s in your area. A particularly good feature is that it’ll even show you where all the good views are; perfect for snapping that perfect shot! When I was on Capri, I noticed a viewpoint of the Faraglioni marked on the app which was a bit further out from the popular ones, and ended up having it all to myself.
Apps make getting around a lot easier too, and can really help with specifics such as knowing which number bus you need to catch, which is something that normally sparks my anxiety sky-high. Apps like Citymapper and Rome2Rio are invaluable for this, and can be set so that they’ll only access your location when you’re using the app. Another bit of battery life saved! Citymapper has some particularly useful features: it’ll alert you when you’re nearing your stop, which is brilliant when you’re in an unfamiliar location.
Want to make the most of your time in your chosen location? Most tourist boards have their own apps, which are worth checking out when you’re planning which attractions you want to see. Add to that apps such as Cool Cousin, Culture Trip, Musement, and Lonely Planet Trips, you literally have a city guide in your pocket. And the best thing is that the guides are made by the public, written about their home cities, areas they know and love. You’ve just acquired a friend who can tell you all the best places to eat, or dance, or see street art.
Tip 3: Pick a Good Base
This was particularly relevant on my trip to the Naples area, and is probably my best tip for anyone staying in that area. You’ve probably seen photos of the Amalfi Coast, or Capri, and fallen in love with them. I don’t blame you; they’re beautiful! But that beauty comes with a cost: namely, all the hotels in the area know that you really want to stay there, and they’ll raise the price accordingly. So, as a canny traveller, you think to yourself “okay, I’ll just stay in Naples, because that’s much more affordable.” And you’d be right, plus Naples is a wonderful place, and Capri is in easy reach. But what about the Amalfi Coast? You’re now quite a long trip on public transport away from Positano and all the other treasures on the coast, and may find that you have to shell out for a tour or a hire car in order to see them. Well, that’s just annoying, right?
So here’s the tip: if you’re in an area with lots of things that you want to see, but they’re not necessarily the easiest to get to, choose your base wisely. Do your research: can you stay in a town that’s roughly in the middle of it all? Is there a town or village that has better transport links than the other locations? Are you willing to pay extra for that balcony view? You can save yourself a lot of money, or find a hidden gem of a village, just by staying somewhere a little bit different.
For anyone who’s wrestling with the above scenario for the Amalfi Coast, my tip is to stay on the other side of the peninsula in the town of Sorrento, which has amazing transport links. Regular buses and trains to Naples, Positano, Amalfi, Pompeii, and Herculaneum, regular (and fast) boats to Capri and Ischia, and it’s a wonderful town in its own right. It has fantastic places to stay, good shops and restaurants, some stunning views, and it’s considerably more affordable than Positano or Capri. Have a look at my Sorrento guide here.
And if you do end up in Sorrento, check out Franco’s Pizzeria on the Corso Italia. Best pizza on the peninsula.
Looking for that perfect place to stay? Have a look over at Booking.com!
Tip 4: Public Transportation Is King
I admit, the first time I visited the Amalfi region, I went on organised tours. I paid through the nose for coach trips along the Amalfi Coast (because catching the bus was too scary, and I didn’t trust bus drivers to have the expertise not to plunge off a cliffside), and to Pompeii (because I’d been told that the areas around the archaeological sites were a bit rough, and I wanted to be safe). I dread to think how much I paid.
Please please please, don’t go on a tour purely because of anxiety and fear, because you can save yourself a lot of money and have a far more authentic travel experience by taking public transport!
In my example above, I paid roughly about €60 for a tour of the Amalfi Coast on my first trip there. Whilst I had an absolutely lovely and informative guide, I could’ve caught a bus which did exactly the same journey for €6, and which didn’t try to persuade me to buy from a particular shop or eat in a particular restaurant. And let me assure you, no-one is more of a talented driver, and in-journey entertainment provider, than an Amalfi Coast bus driver. Watching them herding visitors and yelling at fellow bus drivers out of their window is part of the joy (check out my day in Amalfi here). Similarly, whilst the areas around Pompeii and Herculaneum might not be the most scenic, they’re not nearly as crime-ridden as the tour operators would have you believe.
But this is a tip which works the whole world over. Ditch the tours, get on the bus or train, and mix with the locals. Which brings me to my next tip…
Tip 5: Travel Like A Local
And that doesn’t just apply to public transport.
For me, a large part of the joy of travelling is meeting and interacting with the people who live there, experiencing everyday life and local culture. So my golden rule for travelling is “do as the locals do”. If it’s a choice between a busy tourist trap restaurant, and that intriguing-looking place busy with locals, go for the latter. They live there; they know what’s good and what’s not. And don’t feel afraid to strike up a conversation, even if you don’t speak much of the language – it’s amazing how much you can convey with some basic words, and mad mime artist skillz. I struck up a conversation with some Neopolitan barmen in basic Italian, just by showing them the Leicester City Football Club keyring on my bag. And I’m as socially awkward as they come, so if I can do it, so can you.
Plus it’s great for deflecting some unwanted attention – reduce the neon sign over your head that’s flashing “I AM A TOURIST” as much as you can. Be assured, try to learn a few words of the local language, and do your research as to what’s acceptable in a location and what isn’t. Try to dress vaguely similarly to the inhabitants: when I went to Naples, everyone wearing shorts and t-shirts immediately drowned in a sea of selfie-stick sellers, whilst the Italians in their autumn knitwear (and cunning visitors who followed suit, *cough*me*cough*) slipped by with the greatest of ease. Plus, it significantly reduced my worries about being pickpocketed or mugged.
And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of this, lovely enlightened reader, but above all – be respectful. I’m tired of seeing visitors barking orders at local residents, and I don’t want us nice travellers to be associated with them.
Tip 6: Travel Lots, Because It’s Good For You
I really can’t describe how much the trip to Italy changed my life, and I’m so thankful for it.
Lauren’s Overcoming Travel Anxiety Course was the kickstarter I richly needed for this trip, and once I was in the air, I just blossomed. I could feel myself relax, and become more interested in my surroundings. I immediately started to feel what I call the “travel effect” – you suddenly start to notice colours more, and scents, and weird little things like the way sunlight dapples through the trees, and you get hypnotized by the shadow of a branch waving in a warm breeze.
I’ve written about mindfulness on this blog before, and I absolutely believe that travel is the best form of mindfulness out there. Time goes more slowly, and you’re not wrapped up in the worries and stresses of your everyday life. You’re focused on the here and now, rather than on whether you’re going to get that promotion at work, and how your colleague keeps stealing your chair because she’s just that annoying. Your biggest problem is finding the absolute best restaurant for dinner that night. You have an eye on tomorrow, but you’re not worried about it – it’s going to be another beautiful day of exploration and possibility.
And most importantly, anxiety just evaporates, and becomes so much easier to deal with. Unless something goes wrong, and if it does, you can equip yourself with the tools to defeat it.
Travel opens your mind, makes you more experienced and worldly, and boosts your confidence immeasurably. I know it’s certainly had that effect on me. I’ve been far better at dealing with all aspects of my life since I’ve returned, and I’ve gotten hooked on the feeling – I have four trips being planned for this year, and I’m not stopping there. I have the confidence to do it now.
Travel, as much as you can. Be international. Make new friends from around the world. And meet the best version of yourself.