Whether it’s a twinge of fear and excitement before a big trip or an unanticipated panic-attack on foreign soil, travel anxiety can come in various shapes and forms. But despite how different one’s experience might be, anyone who has ever dealt with anxiety while traveling knows just how exhausting it is, mentally and physically.
Yet as someone with an endless sense of wanderlust, I refuse to let my anxiety stop me from doing what I love most: exploring the world. Seeing new places, meeting new faces, tasting new foods — these are the things that keep my heart pumping. These are the things that have shaped me into the person I am today. And because of that, I refuse to allow anxiety to take these treasured experiences away from me.
Thankfully, I have uncovered the most effective method for combating my anxiety: continuing to travel. As counterintuitive as this might sound, I’ve found that the more I travel, the less overwhelmed I feel, and the less my mind tries to take over. Instead of fearing the unknown, I’ve gradually learned to embrace it, one trip at a time.
So if you, too, love to travel but suffer from anxiety, please know you are not alone. While it will take some time (and patience), know that you can confront those overwhelming thoughts and continue doing what you love. And to help with the process, below are the nine tips I’ve found most useful for tackling travel anxiety.
1. Meticulously research your destination before your departure.
Because anxiety can creep in when you start feeling like you’re not in control, I recommend carving out a big chunk of time to research your destination before you embark on your trip. For instance, I spend several hours browsing online and reading articles — even ones that don’t depict a perfect picture — so that I have a better understanding of what to expect.
Learning more about the local customs, memorizing a few words and phrases, familiarizing yourself with the airport you’ll be flying into and the public transportation you’ll take once you land — having this kind of knowledge in your back pocket will certainly ease your mind.
2. Be prepared — both mentally and physically.
When you acknowledge the fact that there is a chance you will deal with some sort of anxiety during your trip — because as we all know, traveling always comes with a few bumps in the road! — you will capture control over your thoughts, and will most likely feel much calmer instantly.
Along with being prepared mentally, always try to make things as easy as possible for yourself physically, too. For instance, keep all of your travel documents together. Whether it’s your tickets, maps, receipts, or emergency contact information, having everything handy and in one place will help fill in the gaps of any uncertainty. In addition, make sure to pack all your necessities in one carry-on so you don’t have to worry about anything getting lost. Try your best not to have anything to get done the day of your trip. This way, you’ll be much less stressed and can steer your attention on the adventure ahead!
3. Focus on your breath.
I know this seems simple, but trust me, it’s not as easy in the moment, especially when you’re trying to turn down the volume of your noisy, nagging mind. Whenever I start to experience anxiety while traveling, I immediately think back to what my yoga teacher always encourages: “Exhale everything out of your lungs. Then, take a deep inhale and hold it. Breathe in one more sip of air and release it all with a loud H-A.”
Sounds a touch dramatic, but I’m telling you this breathing technique works wonders! Take as many moments like this as you need so you can harness the power of your breath and reset your mind.
4. Have a few mantras up your sleeve to repeat to yourself.
Whether it’s a word or a short phrase, having a couple of mantras to repeat to yourself when anxious vibes start bubbling up is another powerful way to shift your focus and distract your mind. And the best part about these positive affirmations? The more often you say them to yourself, the faster (and more automatic) your brain will take over and withstand anxiety.
“This is just a feeling” and “I’ve done this before, so I know I can do it again” are two of my favorite coping statements!
5. Bring pen and paper along for the ride.
Because anxiety can strike at any given time, identifying specific triggers isn’t always the easiest task. Therefore, it can be extremely helpful (not to mention therapeutic) to put pen to paper and write out your thoughts.
Although I’m not much of a journaler at home, I love writing about my experiences — both the good and bad — while on the road, as it keeps me more present and in the moment. Plus, it serves as a way for me to document my travels, and I can look back to decipher when exactly any anxious thoughts started to arise.
6. Distract your mind with an upbeat playlist.
When it comes to coping with anxiety, music can become one of your greatest tools. For me, once I plug in my headphones and press play on one of my favorite songs, it doesn’t take long before the musical distraction washes away any irrational thoughts. From calming and chill to upbeat and groovy, I highly recommend creating a couple different playlists to get you through those tough moments.
7. Avoid your trigger points.
Before departing for your next adventure, take time to compile a list of all the trigger points that usually ignites anxiety in your mind. For some people, it can be clusters of crowds. For others, it can be alcohol. While you might not know everything that triggers anxiety, keeping a running list and minimizing your exposure to those specific things will be quite handy while traveling — not to mention your mind will feel more at ease and in control.
8. Be kind to yourself and engage in self-care.
Just as you would check in on a friend, remember to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What is causing your feelings? Whatever emotions you might be feeling — positive or negative — embrace them. Let yourself truly feel these feelings. Above all, be gentle with yourself, as you are doing just fine.
Remember that by traveling and exploring new destinations, you are continuously stretching your comfort zone, so if thoughts of anxiety do crawl into your mind, that’s OK. You are making strides and you should be proud of yourself.
And don’t forget the power of endorphins and a healthy diet! By exercising regularly and chowing down on nutritious foods throughout your trip, your mind and blood sugar levels will stay balanced, allowing for you to maintain an overall positive outlook.
9. Remind yourself that you are not alone.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember you are not alone in this journey. In fact, there are numerous online communities created for anxiety sufferers just like you and me. For instance, No More Panic is one of my favorites.
Not only can you utilize these resources for support when you’re mentally struggling during your trip, but you can also integrate yourself in the community before you take off, and meet other people who genuinely understand what you’re going through. And who knows, one of these individuals could become your new travel partner!?