I love to travel. I also have anxiety. The two often don’t mix very well, which is annoying for people like me who experience constant wanderlust. One thing that I’ve never let myself believe is that I shouldn’t go on a trip because of my anxiety. It saddens me when people think that they shouldn’t travel because they have anxiety. I am here to tell you that it’s not true: I’m living proof. Yes, it can be hard sometimes, and on some days you’re going to wish you were at home instead of on a crammed bus for 12 hours. But it is so worth it, because the memories and experiences gained on your travels will overshadow you anxious moments.
I’ve compiled some tips for anxiety suffers that love to travel. These are things that I have learned along the way, and I think that they’ll make your globetrotting adventures much more enjoyable. Unfortunately your anxiety will jump in your suitcase regardless of whether you want to pack it or not, so we might as well deal with it while enjoying the world.
I’ve always been envious of people that can pack a bag, book a one-way ticket to somewhere, and plan their journey as they go along. These people usually have a “we’ll see what happens tomorrow” attitude, and while this can be contagious, it’s not achievable for me and my fellow anxiety sufferers.
As soon as I decide on my travel destination, I buy the relevant Lonely Planet so that I scope the place out before I get there. I always book hostels and transportation in advance. For me, this puts a lot of my anxieties at ease. Knowing that I’ve got a bed for each night on my travels and tickets for planes, buses, and trains to get me from A to B makes me feel in control. You can book basically anything on the Internet, so use it to your advantage.
I’m also that tourist that has a folder on them with print outs of pretty much everything. I print out tickets, hostel confirmations, maps, local bus and train times. Basically, I like to be prepared. For some this might seem extreme, but for me it means that I can enjoy the places I visit. I know myself and my anxiety. If I were to not book hostels in advance, my brain would be preoccupied with the question of “where am I sleeping tomorrow?” instead of enjoying the beauty around me.
I don’t go as far as to make a itinerary of what I want to see each day, as I like to walk around and experience a city at my own pace. But if you think that planning your daily activities will ease your anxiety, then please do it. Don’t be embarrassed by what that free-spirited backpacker might think of your travel methods, because you travel for you!
2) Stock up on remedies.
I can’t stress this enough. Everyone has different anxiety remedies (check out mine here), but whatever yours are, make sure you take them with you on your travels. I always make sure I have plenty of Valerian on me, especially when I’m getting on a flight. I also always make sure my iPod is fully charged and on me at all times so that I can resort to my calming music when I’m particularly anxious. In the past I’ve also bought camomile tea bags during my travels. Hostels and hotels will almost always offer free boiling water, so take advantage of this.
Whatever your remedy, make sure you pack it. If it means you have to take a top or two less with you in order to make your medication fit into your bag then so be it. Rather wear the same outfit twice than have your anxiety impact your time abroad!
3) Inform you fellow globetrotter.
I’ve never travelled alone (it’s definitely on my bucket list though) and always travel with either friends or family. Something that you have to keep in mind is that your anxiety while traveling will most likely not only impact you, but also your fellow globetrotter. It’s only fair to let them know that you might be having a panic attack or two along the way, and that you want to travel a certain way. The people you travel with can make or break your holiday, so make sure you travel with supportive people.
With that being said, make sure it’s a two-way street. While your friend has to be aware of your anxiety, you need to be aware that they are most likely not experiencing the same anxious feelings as you in certain situations. So compromise. For example, if you friend doesn’t feel like they have the time to book hostels and transport in advance, offer to do it for both of you. And if your friend wants to visit an attraction that you know will induce your anxiety, offer to meet them afterwards instead of going with them.
It’s a general travel tip really: make sure all people in your travel party feel heard and are enjoying themselves!
4) Avoid high-anxiety situations.
In the past I have highlighted the importance of knowing you anxiety and it’s triggers. This is of particular importance when you are traveling. If you know that standing in a cue for three hours will trigger you anxiety, then don’t do it. Participating in high-anxiety activities on your travels will only make you feel down.
Weigh up whether certain activities or attractions are worth the potential panic attack. For example, if you’re visiting Rome, you might think of visiting the Colosseum. This attraction usually has a 2 – 3 hours waiting time. If you’re someone that finds cuing in big crowds a highly anxious situation, then weigh up whether it’s worth it. Most likely, you will feel highly anxious the whole time cuing and by the time you’re inside, you’ll feel exhausted and extremely anxious and not enjoy it. So why go through all of that?
I know some people will disagree and say that if you don’t visit certain attractions, that then you “have not really experienced” the place. I disagree. Everyone experiences a place in his or her own way. Listen to your anxiety in order to have the least stress-free vacation.
5) Take a rest day.
I learnt this lesson the hard way at the start of this year. I travelled from Cardiff to Singapore, Singapore to New Zealand, New Zealand back to Singapore, Singapore back to Cardiff, Cardiff to Leipzig, and Leipzig back to Cardiff all in the span of 35 days. Needless to say, it was too much for me, and I didn’t enjoy my last leg of the journey as much as I’d hoped, because I felt very anxious the whole time.
I highly recommend you grand your mind and body rest, either on your travels or in between trips. There’s nothing wrong with taking a beach day (if you’re lucky enough to be traveling somewhere with a beach) or lounging in the local park for a day on your travels. It will give you a chance to get your thought together, give your mind a break from possible anxious times you have just experiences, and let yourself have a breather. Sometimes rest is the best remedy for your anxiety!
And that’s all the tips I have for you for now! I hope they were helpful, and that next time you travel, anxiety can be your friend instead of your enemy.