NOTE: Not everyone experiences anxiety like I do. A lot of people with anxiety might not even relate to this post. This is based on my experiences and how I’ve overcome them.
If you’ve been following this blog throughout the years (yes, even the ones when I took a “leave of absence”) then you would be familiar with my struggles with anxiety. If you’re new, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Check out my previous post on how I dealt with my anxiety when in college.
I’ve been really fortunate to travel to multiple countries in my short 24 years and there have been times while traveling when I’ve wanted to go home, I couldn’t catch my breath, and every inch of my body felt weak and frozen due to my anxiety. I love to travel, but I’m also quite the homebody, which in turn creates a lot of internal struggle and really ignites the anxiety flames within.
If you also deal with anxiety, the idea of traveling could be crippling to you. You may think you’ll never be able to take the leap and go beyond your own borders. I’m here to tell you, if you want to go, do it. No matter what your anxiety tells you.
I broke down in tears when my plane took off for England. It was my first time traveling abroad and I was leaving home for five weeks.
I broke down in tears when we first arrived at the manor we would call home for the next month.
I broke down in tears on a busy street right outside of the Moulin Rouge in Paris after the most difficult travel day and still not being able to see the street sign that would take us to our hostel for the night.
I broke down in tears after landing in Italy and not being able to find any of my travel companions and struggling to connect to the internet.
All of these moments, while new and scary, escalated quickly due to my anxiety. I don’t know what life would be like if I were able to keep calm in situations like these. Or even keep the tears from falling. This is how my anxiety works. Typically, I’m ashamed of my anxiety. I’m embarrassed that in everyday stressors, I can’t seem to find the “strength” to level my breathing and not cry.
Yet, even though I had these break downs, my desire to travel only grows. If you have anxiety, here’s my advice for you when you’re traveling.
1. Be open about your anxiety
When I traveled this summer, I told my roommates/travel buddies right away about my anxiety. I’ve become a lot more comfortable talking about my anxiety and explaining to people right off the bat on how they can help me when I experience an attack. I found when I would try to hide my anxiety attacks, it made them that much worse, where when I would open up, they would end significantly faster. If you’re doing a solo trip, please know what to do when you’re experiencing an attack, otherwise I would recommend having a travel buddy until you know your anxiety better.
2. Plan things out
Know your flight schedules, know where you’re meeting someone, find a map of every city you’re in, figure out a cellphone plan. When I travel, I like to have all of these details. I also like to know when I’ll be able to be in touch with my family, so I will spend extra money to have an international phone plan. However, don’t plan things out so thoroughly you can’t have spontaneity happen. Some of the best experiences come from unplanned events.
3. Say yes to things, but recognize when you need to say no
There are random nights when you’ll want to go out and have a good time with everyone you’re with, but there may be nights when you want to go back to the hostel to read or journal. Both are great options. I took nights when I just wanted to catch up on journaling or take some time to organize and pack, but I also took nights where I experienced night life in the cities I was in. Either option is a good option. Just know when you need to recharge and when you can keep going.
I’ve found myself through my travels and I’ve found more understanding about my anxiety while experiencing new types stress. You can too. I know traveling can be scary, for everyone, but I know what it’s like to not only conquer the fear, but also the anxiety.
What other advice could you offer a traveler with anxiety? Do you have anxiety and found other methods to help you when traveling? Let me know in the comments below!
P.S. I need to give one more shout out to some of the people who really kept my head on straight while traveling. Thank you Amy, Shannon, and Brittany. Y’all are the best.