31 Jan How to Travel with Anxiety: Life-Changing Tips
Anxiety itself can be overwhelming, but the idea of traveling with anxiety can seem like willingly jumping off of a cliff. I know because I struggle with anxiety myself. I have a huge wanderlust and a passion to experience the world, but I also have diagnosed anxiety and suffer from panic attacks. For me, I’ve found that travel actually reduces my anxiety as it allows me to take a breather from the stress of life and just enjoy and feel free. However, That is not the case for everyone.
If you struggle with anxiety, this post is for you.
I’ve met an amazing group of travelers who all have anxiety and have learned to manage it enough during travel to enjoy themselves. We all decided to collaborate and make one big post full of tips. Each of these women are amazing human beings. You can find the links to their sites and information by clicking on their names.
No story is alike. No person struggles in the same way. I hope that these tips can help you build your own story the way you want to: Not feeling trapped by your anxiety.
Welcome to the wonderful world of travel, and the way we have learned to do it.
1.Tell us a little bit about yourself
Hi there! I’m Shannon and this is my blog that you’re adventuring on. You can read more about me here. I hope that you find this post informational, inspiring, and applicable. <3 Happy Adventuring. You can read more about me here.
My name is Jesenia! I am a Reiki master, creator, and all around light-worker. I love to explore new places and adventure – always learning new ways of life. My passions include music, photography, art, and capturing beauty throughout the world. So far I’ve explored Italy, Ireland, Peru, and next is Thailand! I am always working on self-love and traveling has vastly broadened my horizons.
I’m a 25 year old teacher and I went travelling for 4 months on my own before moving to Amsterdam, all completely solo. I grew up in the UK with my parents on a farm which was amazing but I didn’t exactly grow up a streetwise person.
Read more from Ty’s blog here.
My name is Ursa and I am a 27 years old part-time traveler from a small country called Slovenia. I also run a blog http://thecheerfulwanderer.com/. Anxiety has been a part of my life ever since I can remember, but it got worse after high school.
I am 26 years old, and I currently am a graduate student. Before going back to school, I was a property accountant for three years.
2. How do you manage your anxiety while traveling?
Shannon: I do what I normally do. Journaling is HUGE. I keep taking my meds. I focus on the things that calm me, and I remember why I chose to do what I do.
Jesenia: I manage my anxiety while traveling by doing plenty of research ahead of time. In this day and age, it is incredibly easy to find sites and groups that offer amazing advice. Of course, you cannot plan for every little thing! This is okay and it is okay to recognize how scary the unknown can be. Offer yourself compassion in new places, around new people. As an Empath with extreme social anxiety, there are always lingering negative thoughts in the back of my mind. I do my best to surround myself with things that ground me and make me feel comfortable. I find out what I can about a new place and I stay open to whatever the experience might bring!
Ty: Travelling with anxiety is tough and I didn’t know what to expect before I went really so I developed my strategies along the way. If I was really panicking, finding 5 things to see, touch, smell and hear helps to ground me, it’s little but it helps stop things from escalating. Also accepting that some days anxiety would get the better of me and not trying to drag myself around a new city was a huge step. I would either just go and hang out by the water or even have a netflix day because I knew my anxiety would make the day exploring completely exhausting. Accepting that this was ok to do was a huge deal for me as I may not have explored as much of a city as I could, but I took care of myself.
Ursa: While traveling, I use many tricks to keep my mind calm. I always do my research before visiting a new place. I write down and save on google maps all the small bars where I can hide in case I need some comfort, learn how to get around, where I could stay and also what to do. I like to think of as many scenarios as possible, to look at them when still at home, but at the same time I make sure to never overplan. I know I may wake up having a bad day. I like taking headphones and a music player with me so if really needed, I can always turn off my thoughts.
Madeline: I manage anxiety by planning, breathing techniques, and always reassuring myself that it will work out. The primary key for me is planning. The most anxious I get is still how I will get from the train/airport to my first hostel or hotel so now I always prebook transport. It is expensive but well worth my piece of mind.
3. What is the best advice you could give to someone with anxiety or travel anxiety
Shannon: Find what works for you. No one is the same when it comes to mental health. We are all fighting our own battle. In the end, you are going to have to trial and error until you figure out how you can best succeed in your fight. I find that when there is something worth fighting for, like seeing the world, it is much, much easier to deal with anxiety.
Jesenia: The best advice I can offer to someone with anxiety is be patient with yourself. There is nothing wrong with taking a moment to reflect under high stress. Breathing exercises and an open heart will go a long way. If you have medications that you take, make sure you have them on hand for any sudden need. Above all else, never stop working on yourself. There is always room for improvement and with determination, you can move past your anxiety to enjoy new experiences. When I first started breaking out of my shell, I was embarrassed by how I allowed my anxiety to control my life. I realized I was under no obligation to be the same person I was even five minutes ago. Growth, self-love, and exciting adventures are possible.
Ty: The best advice I think is to go armed with a few coping strategies and just to accept that you’ll learn how you cope with situations. There’s no right or wrong, if you feel too overwhelmed to do something, just don’t! It’s your trip.
Ursa: Try not to focus on your fear and just try something new. It may be hard, but in the end, you’ll feel so much more accomplished if works out.
Madeline: Don’t let it stop you. It took me a while to long to build up the courage to travel alone. I wish I had the confidence when I was studying abroad in Dublin. Find what makes your anxiety trigger when visiting, it might be the language barrier, transportations, talking to people and plan ways to compensate for the anxiety to make it less of an issue. Finally, realize you are going to have anxiety. No matter how well prepared the trip is you will have anxiety, and that’s ok.
4. Why is traveling worth the stress to you?
Shannon: Traveling means the world to me. Literally. I want to experience everything that the world has to offer, which means that I refuse to let anything, especially some disconnects in my own mind, stop me from experiencing that. I have actually found that travel is my number one de-stresser. It takes me away from my 9-5 and reorients my mind to focus what is important in life. Also, I love mountains. They are such a gift to us to be able to see and experience their true majesty.
Jesenia: Traveling is worth the stress for me because the urge to follow my heart is the strongest emotion I have ever felt. I have learned to be stronger, even with my anxiety. There were times I was bedridden with anxiety and I would dream for the strength to explore. I was tired of missing out on life because I was telling myself it would never work out. You never know how something will play out until you try! As silly as it might sound, be fiercely stubborn about what you want.
Ty: It’s worth the stress because the days of only mild anxiety where I experience incredible places and people far outweigh the days of crippling ones. I feel like the more people you meet and stories you hear, you realise that everyone has their issues.
Ursa: Traveling pushes you out of your comfort zone over and over again. But that’s how we learn how to deal with those situations we were dreading.
Madeline: I never feel as free or happy as well I travel. I like being able to be anonymous, be somewhere no one else I know has been yet. While I am anxious planning, and at some points on the trip, it is the freest I ever have gotten from my anxiety. The more I travel, the less anxious I become.
5. How do you avoid anxiety triggers
Shannon: I always have a backup plan. My anxiety spikes whenever I feel like I am wasting time. For me, I am very high-functioning when it comes to anxiety. Which means that if I am not doing things, I get anxious. I’ve found that always having a backup plan while traveling has made my life so much easier. If it rains, I have an indoor thing on my list of “Maybe we can do this if we have time.” If I am too tired to hike, I have already found a backup plan that is far easier, but still a joy to do. Having these little extra things in the back of my mind means that I know that I am always making the most of my time while traveling.
Jesenia: I avoid anxiety triggers while traveling by locating good WiFi spots. This allows me contact with a loved one if needed, as well as access to photos and videos that make me happy. I’ve found distraction is a beautiful thing and having quick access to elements that ground me helps to ease anxiety. Taking photos of my belongings and the room I am staying in, as well as having copies of important documents, offers me immense peace of mind. Saving a little extra in case of emergencies and travel insurance are an absolute must. There are usually information centers but it is helpful to print out your own maps and local resources to have on hand. Picking up a few phrases and words in the local language will also help you with ease of travel, especially if you have any questions and need a local’s help. It will offer a surprise and a deeper connection you will cherish.
Ty: Feeling unsafe, not knowing my general plan for a day and being sick/missing home are pretty big triggers for me and so I like to research where I’m staying fairly well although I have messed this up once and ended up leaving a hostel suddenly as I felt unsafe. I like to know a general idea of what I could do during the day, sometimes I’ll plan it out more than others depending on my anxiety levels. So I don’t avoid triggers so much as try to lessen my reaction to them.
Ursa: I feel like it’s really hard to avoid anxiety triggers, but I feel the same about being in my hometown so…Why not just go somewhere and deal with them there while admiring the views? Also, I do my best to keep myself busy at all times (unless I need a nap or some rest), which helps me not to overthink the situations and I walk a lot. Being in nature helps tremendously.
Madeline: Planning, Planning, Planning. I have excel sheet and folders of information, downloaded maps, and I get a local SIM card to make sure I have data while abroad. I make sure always to have a plan B. I try to eliminate as much of the uncertainty as possible.
6. Do you have any tips for someone struggling with anxiety?
Shannon: Always get a larger prescription for your medication than you need for the trip! My doctor now prescribes it to me in 90 day doses so that I don’t have to worry about refilling it while traveling. This has made a HUGE difference for me. I also find that, when I am getting really anxious, having a good playlist is a game-changer for me. I have travel playlists that are specifically designed to get me excited to travel and introspective about my life and the joy that this life brings me.
Read more: The Perfect Travel Playlist
Jesenia: My main tip for people struggling with anxiety is to plan plenty of time to rest. Sometimes travel can cause a ton of time stress and it can be overwhelming to make sure you are visiting every big tourist spot. Take as many photos as you want when you get there! It is important to remember your time is what you make it so be selective about the places you want to visit and immerse yourself in local spots. I have learned local people are generally open to chatting and are the best way to truly experience a place. Push yourself to explore and dare to be curious, but do not neglect how much more important your mental health is.
Ty: My biggest tip is to just take ‘you sized steps’ so follow your gut while being open to new things. Once I was hiding in my hostel bed as I wasn’t sure about the place I was staying but some friendly travellers invited me out for tapas and I had one of the best nights of my trip. I was anxious about leaving the safety of my bed but felt brave enough to try. Then once I had reached my limit of bravery, I went home having enjoyed a great night! I’m a 25 year old teacher and I went travelling for 4 months on my own before moving to Amsterdam, all completely solo. I grew up in the UK with my parents on a farm which was amazing but I didn’t exactly grow up a streetwise person.
Ursa: Bring with you something, that would always make you feel better. Maybe that’s a journal where you can keep a track of your thoughts, a small bottle of your favourite parfume or some tea. Whatever works for you, have it somewhere in your bag, so no matter how bad the day gets, you can always change it.
Madeline: Find what your triggers are. They might not be the same for every trip or even every day and come up with a plan to take on as many as you can. You will never be able to get them all, and that’s ok. If you want to start solo traveling, start easy. It could be somewhere you have been before or on a group tour as a solo traveler. These might give you comfort and security and the ability to gain confidence then next time you can head off on your own.