Hey there! I’m Susanna, Meredith’s real life friend and blogging buddy. Meredith is currently sipping boba somewhere in sunny SoCal. That means that you will have to deal with me for today’s blog post. Brace yourself.
When Meredith and I get together, we often talk about adventure and pursuing our dreams. That’s why I’m so proud of her for jumping on her opportunity to visit California!
Of course, travel always sounds nice in theory. But when push comes to shove comes to it’s time to buy plane tickets… it can start to seem kinda scary. Okay, terrifying. However, if you let fear hold you back, you’ll never take risks. And if you never take risks, you’ll never have adventures. And if you never have adventures, well, is that really living at all?
In the past few months as I have planned my big move to Wales, I’ve dealt with a lot of fear. Some days I am so afraid of all the changes and uncertainties, that I don’t even want to get out of bed. I’ve been trying a lot of things to help me beat travel anxiety. Here are 10 tips I’ve garnered so far.
1. be realistic.
Sometimes we let fear take hold in our mind and exaggerate the dangers. For example, airplane travel causes a lot of people anxiety. However, if you take a moment to look at the statistics, you’ll see that airplane crashes are extremely rare. It is more likely that you’ll be in a car accident on your next commute to work than that you will die in your next airplane flight. When your scaredy-cat brain tries to blow things out of proportion, reign in with cold hard facts.
2. Do Your Research.
The unknown is scary, there is no doubt about that. So don’t let your travel destination be unknown. Thanks to the internet and the public library, it is possible to learn absolutely everything there is to know about a country or city before you arrive. The more you know, the more comfortable you will be when you get there.
One big thing that can cause fear is inaccurate stereotypes. For example, South Africa is sometimes considered a land of beatings and break-ins. The truth is that most of the violence happens between drug cartels and will not affect tourists.
If there is a rumor or stereotype about your destination that is making you nervous, make sure to learn the true facts before you go. Things tend to be safer than the tabloids, the storybooks, and your boastful traveling friends make them out to be.
3. Plan Everything.
Keep all of your travel arrangements, bookings, and other paperwork in a folder. Or better yet, use your smartphone to organize things. I used the TripIt app on my last excursion to the United Kingdom. Having all my flight info, accommodation info, and other plans in one place (where I could easily check and make sure everything was in order as often as I wanted) was a big weight off my shoulders.
4. Turn up the beat.
Quiet lazy moments are the most dangerous. When I am busy I can tune out my fears and focus on the present. But when boredom creeps in, suddenly I am worrying about every single thing that could possibly go wrong from forgetting my underwear to alien invasions. I’ve found that keeping my favorite relaxing music on hand helps to keep quiet moments from turning into worry sessions.
Personally, the number one biggest help for me is staying in contact with my dear Lord Jesus and knowing that my trip was in His caring hands. No matter what I go through, I can have faith that He knows what He was doing with me.
Whatever your spiritual background, don’t let the busyness of preparing for travel distract you from your normal prayer/meditation schedule. Having that spiritual support is more important now than ever before. Don’t let it slip away.
6. Don’t go alone.
If you are new to traveling, try finding a travel-worn friend who is willing to go with you. On my first big trip, I traveled with a friend who was very familiar with public transportation. I cannot tell you how much that helped me to stay relaxed. I watched her navigating for the first few days, and by the end of the time I felt comfortable using the transportation system by myself.
Traveling with a buddy is a great way to make deeper connections with your close friends. Plus, they are a great crutch to lean on when you are feeling anxious or confused.
7. Remember You Are Not the First.
People have been going on crazy journeys for a long long time. Every day there are millions of people traveling from one place to the next. Some of them will be just as confused and overwhelmed and scared as you are.
I always enjoy reading travel essays and novels before I embark on an adventure. Travel writers have a knack for turning disastrous events into hilarious stories. Those stories remind me that no matter how bad things get, others have gone through worse and survived.
8. Remember it is a story.
When things don’t go as you planned, remember that the best memories are usually unplanned. Even the most embarrassing or confusing of disasters can turn into crucial life lessons or shaping memories.
I know this sounds weird, but sometimes when I am in the middle of disastrous situations, I distract myself by thinking of how I could turn it into a good story. What details would I use? How could I convey my exasperation?
I like to go into an unknown adventure with the attitude of a storyteller. I accept the fact that it is impossible for everything to go as planned. That just doesn’t happen in real life. But I also know that every disaster will be another hilarious story I can tell my friends and family members when I get back home.
9. Start small.
You don’t have to go to the deepest jungles of Peru on your first trip abroad. If you want to travel but are too scared, try planning a trip where you stay so close to home that you could easily return in case of an emergency. Afterward, you may feel comfortable taking a domestic flight to stay with close friends in another state. Build your way up to bigger and bigger trips. Those easy trips will help you to familiarize yourself with airports, booking websites, and the travel mindset. The more you travel, the easier it gets.
10. Consider the reward.
My older brother Jeremy recently said, “the risk of not taking risks is being boring”. That got me thinking. Sometimes we think that by sitting back and doing nothing, by letting our fear hold us down, we are taking the safer path. However, we must realize we are falling into the danger of living a boring life.
Yes, traveling is scary. But it isn’t half as scary as going through your whole life without doing anything worthwhile and looking back later with regret at all the opportunities you turned down.
Plus, travel fear is not the same kind of scary as fear of spiders or fear of poisoned food, because there is a huge reward waiting just on the other side. If you push through for an instant and hop into an adventure, you will be rewarded with experiences you never could have imagined and memories to last a lifetime.
Susanna Olson is a clumsy girl attempting to write novels, see the world, and get to the fridge without tripping. She is currently plotting to conquer the country of Wales, or at least study history there for 3 years. You can follow her crazy wanderings at miss-adventure.com.