I’m Not Invincible: Dealing With Travel Anxiety
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I’m Not Invincible: Dealing With Travel Anxiety

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I’m Not Invincible: Dealing With Travel Anxiety

I wish I could say that travel was all sunshine and roses. That nothing bad will ever happen to you. That every day on the road will be the best day of your life and you’ll be transported from country to country on the back of a magical unicorn. But that would be doing both of us a disservice, I think.

Sometimes travel sucks. Sometimes you’re scared. Sometimes you’re injured. Sometimes you’re burned out. And sometimes, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be anxious.

It’s the crummy days on the road that make the good days – and trust me, there will be plenty of them – taste so sweet.

From the very first solo adventure I set off on, I was anxious. That first flight from Australia to Thailand was terrifying. It was the first place I was going where I knew absolutely no one, and perhaps worse still for someone who suffers from anxiety, I had no plan.

I think of anxiety as a spectrum, not an on and off switch. I think we ALL suffer from a little bit of anxiety here and there. Some more strongly, some less so. While I think I suffer from not so much anxiety, I hope that these tips can help minimise some of your anxiety no matter where on the scale you are.

But first, a little story.
I was supposed to come to Guatemala in November. But when I was in Panama I met two guys who had been on a bus that was held at gun point in Guatemala and everything was taken. It reminded me of when I was stabbed in Indonesia and made me REALLY anxious.  I couldn’t shake that anxiety. As the flight got closer and closer, my anxiety rose. It got to the point where, for some reason, I was terrified to take that flight. So I just didn’t. I was lucky I was in the financial position to skip the flight and ended up going to Peru instead. 

Now that I’ve been in Guatemala for almost 2 months, I can easily say that I love this country. There are lots of issues and challenges here, but I think the fear and anxiety that surrounded my original plans to come here in November was unfounded. It was certainly a challenge for me to come here, but I’m so grateful I did, otherwise I might not be dating my fantastic boyfriend, wouldn’t have fallen in love with Antigua and my life would be on a completely different course.

antigua1

Tips for Dealing With travel Anxiety

Visualise Your Worst Case Situation:
Whenever I feel myself freaking out, I ask myself what my likely “worst case situation” is. That way I can deal with what is worrying me, head on. For example, with my apprehension about coming to Guatemala, I was scared I might be robbed somewhere. That I’d lose my phone, all my cash and maybe my passport. After realising this was what I was afraid of, I decided to mentally walk through the steps I would take to move forward.

I have travel insurance so I’d get a new phone (sounds kind of like a win), I made sure to back up my phone just in case it would happen. In terms of the money, I don’t carry more cash than I’d be OK to lose. I’ve minimised my “worst case situation” into basically no problem, and my anxiety around that situation has all but got. Isolate what you’re afraid of and then planning steps to minimise it, is a great way to help reduce your anxiety about travels.

Talk to People:
If you’re worried about somewhere you’re headed, ask around. Get in touch with friends or family who have travelled to where you’re going. Better yet, ask if anyone you know has friends or family living there. If neither of those two options bring any light on the situation, I turn to Couchsurfing and I’ll message locals questions about safety, how to be properly prepared and so forth. I find that the more I know about a place I’m visiting, the less anxious I feel.

Seek Help:
If you suffer from anxiety to the point where it’s stopping you from living the life you want, whether it’s travel or normal day-to-day life you might want to seek help. The type of help you opt for can vary from talking to a friend, getting some medical attention or even going through therapy. A little anxiety is manageable, but if it’s preventing you from living your dreams then maybe it’s time to do something about it.

The truth is, every time I jet off somewhere new alone I have this nervous feeling in my chest. It’s a mix of excitement and freaking out. I think it’s normal to be apprehensive, a little scared and a bit worried. I think it’s also a sign that you’re challenging yourself, which should be acknowledged and appreciated. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is a great way to learn more about yourself and the world around you.

Do you suffer from anxiety when you travel? How do you manage it? Share in the comments below.

11 Comments

  • Hannah says:

    Travelling with anxiety is a whole mission in itself, I suffer with it as well but I find that travel helps me quiet my anxious mind; I like your tip on visualising the worst case scenario, what’s the worst that can happen hey? :)

  • Kat Waker-Burns says:

    When we were in South America we met a guy who had been stabbed, beaten severely and robbed in Central America. I think it was Nicaragua. Him and his girlfriend got into a taxi in the main city and stopping at some traffic lights, the driver let some people in who attacked them. That sort of things is impossible to plan around unfortunately. But I guess you cant let the “possibility” of something like that happening stop you from going there. They guy said he’s back there 3 times since and loves the place. That’s inspiring. Still, it makes me very nervous to go there. We actually avoided Venezuela because of the extreme reports on violence on travellers. In Bogota I read reports about hostels getting held at gun point, female travellers raped, everything stolen. I was so nervous that we ended up staying with some locals we met. Luckily, they were trust worthy!

    • Izy Berry says:

      Sad to hear about your friend. Nicaragua was one of the safest countries I visited. I know someone who was stabbed in the head walking home in Christchurch, New Zealand, so I guess it’s all about finding a balance between the risk of being somewhere new, where you don’t know the customs. I tend to lock my doors when I’m in a taxi in a dodgy area of town. If you have the opportunity, I would visit Nicaragua for sure. The city, Managua, is a bit ugly/dangerous. But it depends on the area, too. I walked around by myself quite a bit there and had no trouble except consistent flattery.

      Locals are a great way to find out more information about where’s safe. For me Guatemala’s been the place that most scared me that I’ve visited, so far. When I’m more comfortable in my Spanish I’ll probably visit more dangerous places ha ha :)

  • Arianwen says:

    I’m glad you got past your anxiety and got to discover how amazing Guatemala is! I think that, while it’s important to learn from the stories of other travellers, sometimes they can give a worse impression of a destination than it deserves.

  • Fabiana says:

    I know the feeling! traveling can be as stressful and scary as it can be awesome. An I love that you shared some of the tips that you have learned a long the way. I think we all need some help every once in a while.

  • Mick says:

    Hi Izy, I perfectly agree on preparation before hand.. Nevertheless, I have a weird way of fighting my anxiety: I set some standards! Luckily i’m a big guy (that really helps, I understand), but unfortunately that didn’t help in couple of situations. In short: one was absolutely avoidable (sleeping on the streets of Barcelona, it is not a good idea), one other was in day light on a busy street. What I mean, there are chances that it can happen at any time, even if you are really careful. And there are more chances to be be run over from a car back home. So, setting and applying some standards (as you are saying on the worse case scenario) can definitely help avoid getting anxious about things that can happen, independently by how prepared you are. Thanks for the food for thought!

    • Izy Berry says:

      Hi Mick, so glad that you push through your anxiety and travel anyway. Sleeping on the streets of Barcelona, um, why?! That sounds terrible. I would have taken a bus to the airport and slept there. A little safer/more security, no?

  • Great advice. I always get nervous before a big trip- especially if I don’t speak the language very well. Like you say, if you plan for an emergency and try and minimise your risks it feels a lot more manageable.