Pre-Travel Anxiety Sucks
I leave in three weeks for a seven-month long trip to Asia. I should be eagerly counting down the days and be ecstatic about my upcoming adventure.
Instead I am sitting here on my bed with sweaty palms, heart palpitations, shaky stomach and I feel like I’m about to be sick.
Once again, I have pre-travel anxiety. All my travel anxiety symptoms will only get worse as departure draws closer.
My mind is spinning with everything that must be done, safety precautions, money, bookings, travel insurance, itinerary’s, tickets, medication, departure times, packing and the list goes on. I am questioning everything in my mind.
The “what ifs?” have started. What if we're kidnapped? What if I get stuck in an elevator? What if I get sick? What if something gets stolen? What will I forget? What if the plane goes down? What if there is an accident?
If someone could read my mind right now they would think “This guy is NUTS!”
I have suffered from anxiety my whole life. Panic attacks and a crippling fear of pretty much everything. It got so out of control that I turned to alcohol to cope. Alcohol turned to addiction and then addiction turned to homelessness. I was the classic example of how NOT to cope with anxiety. I have been sober almost a decade and rebuilt an amazing life, but that doesn’t mean my anxiety is gone. I just know how to cope with it better.
I first started traveling 4 years ago, but it didn’t come easy. Traveling was a dream I always had but it meant going outside of my comfort zone. It meant going out of my routine and fear of the unknown. I had met a beautiful girl and she loved to travel.
She was headed to Puerto Vallarta for a month and invited me to come along. A beautiful girl had just invited me to join her for a dream trip to an ocean front villa, beaches, hot weather and sun in Mexico. It was the dead of winter with a foot of snow on the ground. Seems like a no brainer, right? Wrong. I knew I had bad travel anxiety and I was absolutely terrified of flying. My answer to this gorgeous girl and dream trip? I said “no”.
A few days after she left, I knew I had made a massive mistake. My travel anxiety had stopped me from living my life, from seeing the world and from the girl of my dreams. It was time to make a change and I knew this was a pivotal moment in my life.
I went online, booked a flight and flew to Kashlee in Mexico. Two years later we were married. If I didn’t get over my fear of travel anxiety and get on that plane, I would have missed out on the girl of my dreams. I would have missed out on the last 4 years of traveling the world.
I am sharing this because I know it’s possible to get over travel anxiety. I have done it and don’t want anyone to miss out on their travel dreams.
What is Pre-Travel Anxiety?
Pre-Travel anxiety is any fear or uneasiness that comes before a vacation or trip away from home. It usually stems from a loss of control over one’s surroundings. Some of the most common fears include flying, driving, safety, well-being and money.
Travel anxiety covers a broad range of emotions and symptoms that are brought on by an upcoming trip.
What are the symptoms of Pre-Travel Anxiety?
People react to anxiety and stress in different ways. Symptoms of travel anxiety are similar to general anxiety and can vary from person to person.
Pre-travel anxiety symptoms may include:
· Heart Palpitations
· Tight Chest
· Sore Muscles
· Panic attacks
· Loss of appetite
· Stomach Aches
Most Common Types of Pre-Travel Anxiety
Loss of Control
At home we have everything exactly how we like it. We always know what to expect and when. We have a schedule and routine in place. While traveling all these things are disrupted.
Fear of Flying
I was absolutely terrified of flying and I’m not alone. It is estimated that up to 7% of the population have a strong fear of flying.
Fear of Getting Sick
This one is huge for me. I am constantly worried that I'll get sick before a flight or on the trip, causing me to miss out. Many people are concerned about their health prior to leaving and staying healthy while traveling. There is nothing worse than getting a bad cold/flu or a case of food poisoning in a foreign country. (Been there, done that with E. Coli in Mexico)
Fear of Missing a Flight
I think everyone has thought about this one at one time or another. People who get pre-travel anxiety will set extra alarms and obsess about the fear of missing their flight. This can cause a sleepless night prior to departure.
Fear of General Safety
Between all of the travel warnings, natural disasters and dangerous situations around the world many people will fear for their safety while traveling.
Fear of the Unknown
There are no ‘guarantees’ while traveling. All the planning in the world can’t always prevent a bad hotel or trip experience. Many people suffering from pre-travel anxiety will fear having a bad trip.
Being Out of Your Comfort Zone
It goes without saying that traveling will take everyone out of their comfort zone. The types of food or activities we usually have may not be available. Customs, traditions and languages can be different and hard to grasp. Routines, schedules and the comforts of home are all changed which can cause pre-travel anxiety.
How to Overcome Pre-Travel Anxiety
Here are my top tips on how to overcome travel anxiety.
1. The elastic band or hair tie trick
It may seem simple, but this has truly been a life saver of mine. Our minds are powerful and when they start to obsess, worry and fear can overtake all our thoughts. Take a rubber band or hair tie and place it around your wrist. When your mind starts to obsess over a travel worry, snap your wrist with the band. Make sure it’s hard enough to hurt. This will momentarily take your mind off the obsessive thoughts. Do this each time you find yourself obsessively worrying. You can train your mind to not worry. There was one day I snapped my wrist over 20 times and by the next day I was already seeing improvement in my thought patterns.
There is nothing better for pre-travel anxiety than a workout. Staying active and fit keeps your endorphin levels higher and makes you feel better. It's a great distraction from your travel worries and will also help to prevent you from getting sick by firing up your immune system.
3. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol can increase anxiety. The relief and pleasure of a few drinks may help in the moment but will leave you feeling uneasy the next day. Alcohol also lowers your immune system leaving you more prone to infections and getting sick.
Get a good night’s sleep. This may be difficult when you have pre-travel anxiety. Go to bed earlier if you know it’s going to take you longer to fall asleep. If you are suffering from Insomnia try and fit in a day time nap if possible. Proper sleeping habits can help prevent anxiety.
5. Eat healthy
Knowing your feeding your body healthy foods and nutrients will keep you energized can help reduce travel anxiety. Try anxiety reducing foods like dark chocolate, yogurt and green tea.
Pre-Travel Anxiety Guide and Checklist
Pre-Travel Anxiety can be caused by an overwhelming number of things to plan and complete before leaving on a trip. Getting them out of your head and down on paper can help ease travel jitters. This guide is to help you feel more at ease before traveling.
1. Make an Itinerary
This simple practice lays out your entire trip, so you can refer to it when needed. It’s a great idea to give this itinerary to a family member or close friend that is NOT going on the trip. This way they know where you are in case of emergency.
The itinerary should include the following:
· A complete day to day plan of all travel
· Times, dates and flight numbers of departures
· Transportation reservations
· Hotel reservations
· Tour reservations
· Outline of activities for each day
· Emergency phone numbers of where you will be staying
2. Make a Packing List
Being organized the night before a trip is important. This way you’re not panicking last minute on what to bring. It also clears your mind of the worries associated with forgetting things.
Your packing list should include:
· Credit Cards
· Reservation Confirmations
· Cell phone
· Cell phone charger
· Laptop charger
Top Travel Anxiety Tip: If you have your credit cards and passport everything else can be replaced easily. Those are always your top two items to protect while traveling. I recommend getting an RFID wallet or purse to protect against fraud.
3. Make a Closing Up the House List
Leaving your house behind can cause high pre-travel anxiety. Having a plan and check list in place will help reduce worry and calm your nerves.
Your closing up check list should include:
· Water turned off
· Alarm Set
· Stove turned off
· Doors and windows locked
· Air conditioning or heat set for absence
· Someone to pick up the mail
· Someone to cut the grass/shovel snow if needed
· All perishable removed from fridge and cupboards
· Garbage taken out
· House cleaned (Helps reduce anxiety of coming home!)
· Bills paid
· Someone to check on house
Top Travel Anxiety Tip: Tell someone you turned off the stove and locked the door. Once you depart it will be easier to remember that you did it.
4. Go to the doctor
Visiting the doctor to do a quick check up can give you reassurance you are healthy for your trip. It will also help to reduce anxiety before travel. Here is a quick checklist of things to discuss with your doctor.
· Any shots you may need for the country you are traveling to
· Ask if travel anxiety medication is right for you
· A quick exam to take blood pressure and vitals
Top Travel Anxiety Tip: If you decide to get a prescription for travel anxiety medication, it doesn't mean you have to take it. Sometimes knowing you have it is enough to reduce travel anxiety.
5. Research Your Destination
Learning about the culture and customs of a destination is not only fun but also teaches you on how to stay safe. There are travel guides for every destination that will hep you enjoy trip and reduce pre-travel anxiety. Here is a quick checklist of things you should know:
· Local laws and travel warnings
· Customs and etiquette
· Food and culture
· Known diseases (Zika)
→ P.S.– Part of your research should be setting up Travel Insurance. Knowing you are covered is one of the best ways to stop travel anxiety in its tracks!
Top Travel Anxiety Tip: If the country you are visiting has a travel warning be sure to check which regions are affected. The media can often sensationalize something that is happening. For example, we went to Bali two days after the volcano and there was absolute no danger anywhere on the island except within a few km’s of the volcano. The rest of the island was sunny and beautiful!
6. Be kind to Yourself
Pre-travel anxiety is something that many people experience. Make sure to take time for yourself when needed. Here are a few ways to help reduce stress and anxiety before a trip:
· Take long deep breaths in and out
· Do something you enjoy like watching your favorite movie
· Take a warm bath
· Go for a walk
· Do some light stretching or yoga
· Any activity you really enjoy that is calming
Top Travel Anxiety Tip: Excitement is a huge emotion when it comes to an upcoming trip. Remember that the butterflies in our stomach can be excitement rather than anxiet
Pre-Travel Anxiety Is Normal
I have been traveling the world with my wife Kashlee for the last 4 years and get far less anxiety then I used to. It didn’t happen overnight but if you practice the tips above, I promise it will get easier. Traveling always comes with challenges but it also creates some of the best and most exciting times of our lives. Those who suffer from travel anxiety deserve to enjoy the moments. Happy Travels.
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