When I was a kid, I wanted to travel the world and over the years, I’ve been privileged and able to see so much. But as time went on, I got more and more anxious when traveling and while a lot of that comes from a particularly awful trip trying to get home to Washington from Florida, there’s so much more to it as well. I would love to eventually travel more but knowing how hard it’s been for me to do so, I thought I’d do some research into how to deal with travel-related anxiety and share some of the tips I’ve found.
Do research and plan ahead.
One of the things I love about traveling is having some idea of what to do in the area while also not having every moment accounted for. And for my anxiety, it’s helped to have information about where to go and how to get there beforehand. Whether I’m driving or taking public transit, I’ve always found that knowing where to go before I’m on the road has always helped, especially when I have to rely on buses.
- Travel Anxiety: 5 Tips For Dealing With It from Travel With Kate
And doing some research beforehand could bring up something you might not have thought of or known about! It can be a lot of fun to just wing it on vacations, as there are many fun things that I’ve stumbled upon. But sometimes, there are hole in the wall activities, events, or places that you can find out about through looking online before you go. Having that balance between planning every moment of the day and going with the flow is how I like to do my vacations because I know plenty of things about the area while not feeling like I have to adhere to some schedule.
There’s also more to this as well, especially to find good deals on tickets (like plane tickets, admissions to attractions, etc). Plus, as an anxious fat person, there’s so much to air travel beyond the usual anxieties because I have to deal with the fact that I’m traveling in a fat body.
Find a distraction for the actual travel part.
Getting anywhere is one of my least favorite parts of traveling. Planes are by far my least favorite way to travel but many hours in a car, train, or bus aren’t that fun either. There’s just something about being stuck in a fast traveling tin can that makes me incredibly anxious. But with the current accessibility of smartphones and tablets, keeping entertained is a little easier nowadays. Our phones, tablets, and computers can have games, books, movies, films, podcasts and so much more while also being easy to carry.
There are thousands of podcasts in many different genres, with more than a few that plenty of episodes to keep you entertained for hours and hours. Technology like ebooks and apps allow for you to carry several books (and some even have magazines!) at one time so your bag isn’t burdened by the weight of books and many books will also be in print and audio, meaning there are a couple ways you can consume them. Plus, most tablets, laptops, and phones can all have television shows and movies; being able to download a selection of shows and movies on Netflix has helped me when I know I won’t have internet for a bit! I’ve also found that listening to something (i.e. podcasts, audiobooks, shows) while doodling is a great distraction (if I’m not the one driving that is).
When I was a kid, my family and I would do little road trips around Washington and Oregon. These trips were frequently only a few hours drive each way (except for the couple times we drove down to California) but a few of them were long enough that my sister and I would get bored. During those times, we frequently were given books or we’d listen to audiobooks as a family. But occasionally, my dad started making up stories to share with us or we’d play car games. We’d play the alphabet game, ‘I Spy’, and ‘band name’ (a game where we’d make up band names based on the things we saw out the window) and my dad made up stories about many things, including Drop Plop Monster, a monster responsible for the large rock formations along the beaches and coasts.
Do some self-care.
Drink water, brush your teeth, take a shower, eat something good. For me, it can be easy to get caught up in anxiety, all the things that you need or want to do, and get overwhelmed but doing some self-care can be a great way to center yourself. For a few years, I always got really caught up in the travel and trying to do everything that I would run myself into the ground. I found that taking the time to actually make sure I’m okay (by showering, taking time for food and coffee, meditating) helped immensely with my travel-related anxiety.
I’m also the kind of person that gets grumpy and more anxious if I haven’t eaten or had enough water. I’ve learned over the years to be better about this kind of thing, including bringing reusable water bottles and snacks with me. Travel can be exhausting and some trips can be jammed packed with things but taking a break to sit down, eat something, and drink some water has always helped me to enjoy things.
Be okay saying no
I’m an introvert. Like, I’m practically a hermit because being alone is such a beautiful thing for me. But because of that, I get overwhelmed in crowds or spending long hours around other people. When I’m traveling or hosting friends, this can be really hard but I’ve realized over the years that it’s okay to take a break while on vacation. It’s okay to have some quiet time, especially if it’ll mean you feel recharged and happier in the long run. It’s always better to do a few things while feeling great than trying to do everything but feeling tired and grumpy. I’ve always enjoyed things when I’m not feeling frazzled and like I have to do all the things.
There are so many other things you can do to help combat travel-related anxiety, especially since not everyone gets anxious in the same ways. Here are some other things you can do while getting ready to travel or on the actual trip:
- Having a list of things you need to do before you leave, including a packing list
- If you get anxious about whether you turned off the stove/oven or blew out a candle or locked your front door, it can be helpful to take photos or videos proving that you did! That way, you can both check that all those things are off or locked while also getting proof for your anxious moments later.
- Talk to your doctor about medication (if you want to have something) if you’re not already on medication for anxiety.
Not everything on this list is going to work for everyone because everyone experiences anxiety differently (or not at all!). Plus, these tips aren’t a substitute for therapy and medication for general anxiety and depression. My biggest recommendations for dealing with travel anxiety is being prepared and taking time to breathe/relax. Anxiety has this way of snowballing for me but taking the time to work around the anxious thoughts (like taking photos of an off stove/oven and locked door) and taking the time for self-care (however that looks) has really helped me on some smaller trips.
But I do hope that some of these tips help you if you’re also dealing with travel-related anxiety! Let me know if you have any things that you do to help deal with your own anxiety in the comments!