One of the main reasons I love traveling is because it pushes you to challenge yourself. Beyond the beauty of new cultures and new experiences, you’re testing your personal boundaries by navigating, meeting new people, communicating via different languages, and/or dealing with the unknown. With the excitement of traveling however sometimes comes a very human emotion: anxiety and fear. Traveling requires a lot of energy because your brain is working in overdrive to compute and categorize all of the new information. As much as I love traveling, I’ve experienced travel anxiety more times than I can count!
For me, some of my initial travel anxiety is often caused by the waiting. Of course on social media and blog posts you see the highlights and curated photos of the beautiful locations however anyone that travels knows that there was a lot of effort to get to that moment! I’ve learned over that years that no matter how experienced you are, traveling requires a lot of patience. You have to sit in the airport waiting for your plane, waiting for the bathroom sign to click on during your flight, waiting to grab your luggage – the list is endless (and that’s just at the airport!) The anticipation of waiting builds up and then leaves me with a ball of energy sitting in my stomach.
I am also the type that loves and needs to be prepared. On any given day I’m carrying any possible medication I could need, my organized planner, chap stick, an extra hair tie, hand sanitizer, tissues, and more. Add in traveling and my brain goes into overdrive trying to plan for every possible scenario. Will I be too cold? Will I be too warm? What if I’m tired during our scheduled tour? Will these shoes hurt my feet? These are a fraction of the questions that go through my brain and I’m exhausted just typing them out!
On top of my waiting angst, and then preparation angst, the final travel anxiety that often plagues me is the fear of the unknown. I’m always worried that a flight could get cancelled, the weather could be bad, a reservation cancelled, getting a bad stomach ache, or my safety once I’m there. If I really put energy into thinking through the unknown and things I can’t control, I could spend hours spinning a web of unanswerable questions.
This year I’ve done things though that I never thought I’d do because they were things that terrified me! I never wanted to go on a cruise because I was afraid of being on a boat in the middle of the ocean. I never thought I’d skydive because, well, that one explains itself. Right before we went horseback riding Phil and I were like, wow these horses are huge and weigh how much, are we sure this is safe?
Before our flight across the ocean to Ireland both my husband and I were jittery messes. The anticipation of the trip had been building for weeks and we were exhausted from a long day of prep. I remember thinking “it would have been easier if we just didn’t do this.” All I wanted in that moment was to crawl into bed with my comfy pajamas and put on New Girl. But oh my goodness, how wrong I was in that moment of weakness! Our Europe trip to Ireland, Amsterdam, and London was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, as I knew deep down it would be. If anything though, it’s a testament to how powerful and loud the voices of anxiety can be.
So now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of my inner neuroses, I wanted to share the positives of all of this! The first positive is simply that it’s okay that I feel all of these anxieties sometimes. The most important thing to me is that I’m able to overcome my anxiety and that I never let my fears dictate or hold me back from what I want to do and what I know I’m capable of doing.
By acknowledging my anxiety and giving myself the grace to understand that it’s okay to feel how I feel, I instantly feel more calm. I’m very much a fixer and analyst which means, I always want to know why and then jump to immediately finding a solution. This can be exhausting and ineffective though so I’m working on accepting how I feel which has been a really powerful practice that I recommend.
I also love the Calm app more than most things in this world. There are wonderful meditations on there for all ranges of meditators so don’t be intimidated if you’re new to meditation. I am actually pretty bad at meditating and am often fidgety but it’s not about being perfect! It’s about shifting your focus to the current moment, clearing space in your brain, and building a connection between your mind and body. In a meditation last night a theme really stuck out to me and it’s this: there is no where else I need to be, there’s nothing else I need to do and I am okay to be as I am in this moment. I love that and hope to carry that with me as I’m feeling anxiety creep up in the future!
Another trick to help slow my mind down whenever my travel anxieties creep up is to focus on my favorite travel memory. I also sometimes do this when I can’t fall asleep at night! I focus on every single detail I can remember and walk myself through my memory as if I am actually there. One of my favorite memories to jump to is from our honeymoon. It was from when we first arrived and pulling up to the resort we were greeted with champagne and cool lemon scented washcloths. I love thinking through these tiny details slowly, trying to remember the scent and how it felt pressing the cold washcloth to my forehead. Once I’m transported to that moment, I can feel my shoulders relax and my heartbeat slow down.
At the end of the day, we’re all human and we all have our own internal struggles and challenges. The biggest sentiment I hope you take away from this post though is to never let your fear control you and to continue pushing yourself! For me, the most amazing things in my life have been things that required some courage but let me tell you, it’s been worth it. Every single time.