Having travel anxiety is the absolute worst when you have the longing desire to explore the world. Dreams of vacations to far away lands are equally exciting as they are absolutely terrifying. (But mostly terrifying). Even though having this “subtype” of anxiety isn’t exactly a joy ride, it actually isn’t all terrible. You’re probably known as the person who comes to any event prepared with everything from snacks to Neosporin. You’re ready for anything, even if you’re just going on a trip somewhere local. As someone who fits into this category of being a safety-neurotic, I wanted to document my own pre-trip-planning routine. I hope this list makes planning trips a little easier in the upcoming new year for myself and others.
1. Don’t plan things too far ahead of time, but don’t wait until the last minute either.
Before any trip comes together, you first have to plan it, and this is essentially the first hurdle. How much time do you need between buying your tickets and actually embarking on this journey? One month? Two? Three? It’s more complicated than it needs to be because anticipation-anxiety is something that unfortunately exists. If you plan a trip the far away future, then there is a chance your brain will run around like a hamster on a runaway wheel for the next few months until the trip finally happens. And on the opposite end, if it’s too short of notice, then it’s a whirlwind of panic trying to remember everything you need to bring. So what choices do you have if you find yourself in either situation? Option 1: You can approach your anxiety with a nonchalant attitude, “Yeah, so I’m going on this trip to Thailand, no big deal”. Option 2: Plan the trip, write your list of things to pack, and then just pretend the trip isn’t happening until the morning of. Out of sight, out of mind.
2. Have minimal conversations about said trip.
Generally speaking, people seem to enjoy having conversations about upcoming trips they have planned. Me? Not so much. I’d actually rather avoid any and all conversations about future events. Future-planning can be a special kind of hell, even if it’s about something enjoyable. And sometimes, often mysteriously, this joy for an upcoming vacation can even make it feel like it’s already happened. (Just kidding, there’s science behind this one). So if you find yourself in the same position, limit your conversations about said trip to only people who absolutely need to know you’ll be leaving your place of residence. This includes family members, employers, and the person who is going to water your plants.
3. Make a thorough list of things to pack.
This is a pretty standard thing for everyone, whether you have anxiety or not. Honestly, I don’t even understand how, if anyone, manages to pack for a trip without making a list. HOW DO YOU DO IT? HOW DO YOU REMEMBER EVERYTHING? Oh, that’s right you don’t, because you managed to leave your phone charger at home, Brenda. Real talk, though, lists are magical. But the magic doesn’t happen in just making a single list, no, you have to divide them into categories. Get out a piece of printer paper and split things up into their own lists: Toiletries, clothes, snacks, carry-on items, and so on.
4. Re-write the list.
It isn’t enough to just write a single list and be done with it. Don’t be silly, that was just the rough draft. And somewhere along the line of writing that list, you probably missed something and then had to draw an arrow pointing to the missed item in the margin. And before you know it, a few things will be crossed out and there will be a few more arrows re-categorizing things. Just re-write it, it’ll make your life a lot easier.
5. Make a second list (or category) for coping mechanisms/tools.
There is no surviving a vacation without having your coping mechanisms packed, checked, and secured in their designated spots. These things are ore than essential and will provide you with an overwhelming sense of relief that you won’t spin out of control. Highlight this section of your list, put stickers on it, anything to highlight its importance. And be sure to triple check that you have everything on the day you’re supposed to leave. Did you pack your journal? Check. Essential oils? Check. Stuffed animal? Check. Medication? Check.
6. Make sure your physical health is in check.
Your health prior to your trip will have at least some determining factor in how you feel during your adventure, especially if you’re anxious. Try your best to go into this new thing with a quiet mind. Pick a favorite exercise that distracts you and then put 10x more focus into doing it the night/day before you leave. But the most important part is you HAVE to make sure your mind is just as tired as your body post-workout. Do what you can to concentrate all of your focus on your body while you work out. Nothing is worse than having an exhausted body and a completely wired mind.
7. Pack A LOT of snacks.
This is a pretty self-explanatory tip. When you’re traveling somewhere unfamiliar, or even somewhere familiar, pack food. But don’t fill your bag with things like Doritos and candy. Your body needs proper nutrition to function and even more so if you’re fending off the anxiety feels. Pack apples, peanut butter, granola bars, carrots, etc. Your body will thank you and you will graciously avoid having a sugar crash on top of feeling anxious. And here’s a fun fact: You can’t get mad at yourself for anxious-eating an entire bag of baby carrots!
8. Make sure you and whatever voices in your head are on the same page.
Depending on the strength of your anxiety, you can have anywhere from one to any number of voices rattling around your head. It’s normal, it’s a thing, and it most certainly it comes with the territory. I highly recommend having a family meeting in the back of your mind a few days (or a week) prior to leaving for your trip. Discuss the plans to a comfortable extent. Let them know what’s happening and what they can expect. It’s normal to feel a little worried and paranoid. It’s normal for them to be a little more freaked out than usual. The voices are likely there to protect you and they should be fine if you just give them a heads up. Let them know they’re doing a good job and that you just want them in on what’s happening. And don’t forget to reassure them that they’re allowed to have fun as well.
9. Panic at least once and contemplate backing out.
If you find yourself panicking a little bit at any point in your process, allow yourself to panic. Try not to make any decisions such as canceling the trip, but just allow yourself to flail around a worry for a little bit. Again, it’s a completely normal thing. It happens. Try not to stare at the clock counting how many hours you have left to sleep before you leave. Let yourself panic for like 10 minutes top and then go take a nap or sit outside.
10. Take a deep breath and firmly decide that you can do the thing.
Take a deep breath, worry for a millisecond, and then decide you’re doing this. You got this. Try to be present. Don’t forget to inflate your stomach when you inhale so that your body will fully relax. You’ll be okay and you’ll have fun and forget why you ever panicked in the first place.
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