Travel anxiety. It comes in different forms, for different reasons, and sticks with different people. It’s difficult to talk about because it can be hard to admit that you have anxiety or fear, especially when you know that the fear is unwarranted. I know that’s the case for me, anyway! This post is a bit hard for me to write. Travel anxiety has been a challenge in my travels. It hasn’t gone away and it has manifested itself in surprising ways. The important part is that I’ve gotten better at handling it.
Traveling has been absolutely amazing for me. I’ve especially loved traveling alone and have grown so much from it. My heart would break if I let travel anxiety prevent me from experiencing all the amazing things I have. Because of this, I want to share the ways in which I overcome travel anxiety. Hopefully, others can use these methods and conquer travel anxiety themselves, because the anxiety is always outweighed by the incredible experiences traveling can produce.
One of the biggest ways to alleviate travel anxiety is by finding a network and community abroad. This is actually so much easier than it sounds, and you don’t have to stay in a place for very long to make one. Grab my guide on networking abroad at the bottom of this post.
Types of Travel Anxiety
Travel anxiety comes from numerous fears and discomforts. Some examples are:
- Fear of travel itself (planes, cars, buses)
- Fear of safety (or feeling unsafe)
- Lack of a home base or security
- Loneliness, feeling like you’re a minority or foreigner
- Fear of the unknown
The list goes on and on. For me personally, the only one that really effects me is the last. Fear of the unknown. I don’t get anxiety on planes, I don’t mind feeling like I stand out, and I don’t really get lonely. But, I’ve been surprised at how “afraid” I feel when I get to a new place. I always have a bit of a tough time on my first night in a new location or new accommodation. It can feel like I’m in this entire community, but am not part of the community. It’s unsettling and honestly, very difficult.
Identifying the root of your fear or anxiety is an important first step. This will help you figure out how best to address your travel anxiety. This brings us to how to handle your anxiety.
Acknowledge your travel anxiety
The most important thing is to acknowledge that you’re experiencing travel anxiety. It can be difficult to accept this (I know it is for me!) because then you feel your feelings might be irrational. They’re not! They’re so not! It’s natural to have travel anxiety, it’s part of human nature to be antsy when trying something new or alone. The only parts of your feelings that might not be rational are the things you’re afraid of. Almost always, there is nothing to fear. But, that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel afraid. (I hope I’m making sense here.)
Instead of letting yourself believe that what you fear is scary, accept you’re experiencing travel anxiety. Then, think about what is truly making you afraid. Do you feel unsafe? Do Alone? Homesick? Stuck? Whatever the reason, identify it and face it.
Take a step back
When you’re feeling afraid, it’s easy to begin feeling panic-y. This is where you really want to halt your emotional stream. You can stop this incoming panic by:
- Meditating. Sit and focus on just your breath. Make sure it’s steady. Don’t think about anything else.
- Positive affirmations. I love this exercise. I usually find a youtube video (this one is my favorite) and listen to it, and repeat out loud the affirmations in the video.
- Calming music. Make a playlist of happy, positive music to have ready.
When doing one or all of these, I don’t even think about what is making me nervous. I don’t think about traveling, where I am, or anything like that. I exclusively focus on breath and calmness.
Once I feel calm and collected, I then focus on everything I am grateful for. Still, I’m not yet thinking about travel here. I don’t know if this is necessary or if it would work for everyone. But, I don’t think there is any such thing as practicing too much gratitude!
For me, this part always helps me put things into perspective. It reminds me of how lucky I am to be traveling, and all the good that I’ve experienced in this world. It’s then easy to remember how much good is all around me! Without even directly thinking about it, this usually begins diminishing my fear of the unknown.
If you know you’re prone to travel anxiety, a proactive method is to research the bananas out of the place you’re going. This will help it seem so much less foreign and will always help you feel organized. If you didn’t done so before you left, it’s never too late! Spend time reading about the place you’re visiting, the history of it, the culture, and find articles written by other foreigners who visited that country. The more you do of this, the more knowledgeable and comfortable you’ll become.
If you’re afraid of something in particular, you can even look up the stats and info on that topic. For instance, if you’re afraid for your safety, research the safety stats of that place. This usually will calm your nerves, because honestly, most places are full of good people! The world can seem so big and foreign and scary, and it’s just not. If you do find that crime is relevant where you are, research the necessary precautions and take them.
Find something familiar
If you’re feeling very alone, it can really help to find something or someone you identify with. There’s a right and a wrong way to do this, though.
What you don’t want to do is resort to people back home. It can be tempting to jump online and talk to friends and family back home. That is something you can easily identify with. But, I encourage you not to do this. The truth is, though you’ll be able to identify with them, they can’t identify with you, and that can leave you feeling even more isolated.
Rather, go out and about and find something familiar in your foreign location. You can go to a movie theater and see a movie in English, for instance. Something I commonly do when finding a new place is researching co-working spaces and Expat hangouts. This way, you can go and meet people who can very much identify with you.
Grab your free guide to networking abroad below. It covers tons of way to make meaningful relationships while away.
Face your fear
Now that you’ve calmed yourself down and have more context of your location, throw yourself in. Go out to dinner at a local restaurant or spend time at a crowded market. Keep your wits about you, but go and see for yourself that there is probably nothing to be scared of! There is no better way to conquer your fear than to prove to yourself it’s not real.
The most important thing to consistently remind yourself is to be gentle with yourself. Traveling is a brave thing to do, don’t forget it! Whatever you need to make the most of your travels, you’re allowed to do. Do you find a weekly massage helps you stay calm? Make an ongoing appointment. Do you need to stay in hotels over hostels to feel safer? That’s okay! We’re not all perfect, and we need to listen to ourselves. Those small actions that make you feel more secure are making sure that you get the most of your travels. If you’re not trying to get the most of it, you could miss out on a lot of opportunity and discovery!
If you’re feeling particularly full of anxiety, pamper yourself! Spend 3x your normal accommodation budget on a night or two in a nice hotel. Treat yourself to a really nice meal. These things may be more expensive than you’re used to, but sometimes it’s necessary to keep yourself healthy. You don’t want to risk burning out.
The silver lining of travel anxiety is that you will become so much stronger after you’ve conquered it. If you can handle anxiety issues in a foreign country, think of how much you’ll be able to handle once back home! Personal growth is one of the reasons most people travel in the first place. This is all a part of it.
I’ve found that one of the hardest parts of travel anxiety is that it doesn’t always get easier or go away. I’ve been traveling alone for nearly three months and I still get anxiety when I arrive in a new place. Sometimes, thinking about how it hasn’t gone away makes me even more anxious. But the goal isn’t to make travel anxiety go away, the goal is to learn how to conquer it.
Keeping a reflection journal is one of the ways I’ve grown the most. It’s one thing to go through all of these steps, but another to actually reflect on it. You can grab the reflection journal prompts I use below.
Don’t forget to also grab your guide to networking abroad below! Building relationships is one of the most important things to do when traveling, especially if you’re doing so alone. (Read more tips on traveling alone here.)
Readers, how do you deal with travel anxiety?