Is fear holding you back from your dream of traveling the globe? You’re not alone.
Seeing the world sounds glamorous, but fear and anxiety can put a major damper on your travel plans. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 31 percent of adults in the U.S. experience anxiety disorders at some point in their lifetime. Traveling forces you to leave the comforts of home and your daily routines and exposes you to many new situations, which can trigger anxiety.
But traveling can also be good for your mind, body, and soul, and though it won’t cure your anxiety, there are many ways to prevent your anxiety from ruining your travel goals. (See also: 7 Common Travel Myths That People Need to Stop Believing)
1. Do your homework
Research is key to lessening your travel fears. The more you can learn about a place before you go, the more comfortable you’ll feel once you arrive.
Before you depart, check out the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs for information regarding your destination. They outline exactly what you need in order to enter each country and any travel advisories that are currently in effect. Further, they provide detailed instructions in the event of an emergency while abroad. While no one likes to plan for emergencies, they can happen. Ease some of your concerns by preparing yourself in advance.
Continue your research by checking out travel guides from your local library. These books, such as travel guides by Rick Steves (American author and travel expert), provide up-to-date travel information. In fact, many books will tell you which sites to see and what to avoid. And make sure you check out some travel blogs, as travel bloggers outline their trips in great detail, which can be helpful while you plan your own vacation. (See also: 5 of the Safest Countries to Visit in 2018)
2. Arm yourself with helpful apps
Nothing is worse than feeling unprepared in an unfamiliar place. For instance, maybe a local asks you a question in a different language, and you aren’t sure how to respond. You can prepare yourself by bringing a pocket-size dictionary, or download a free language translator app that you can refer to in a pinch. You can also download a currency exchange app to help you when you need to make a purchase. (See also: 7 Apps for the Tech-Challenged Traveler)
3. Create a detailed plan
Traveling without a plan is anxiety inducing for many. Without a detailed plan, you have to figure out what to do with your time while you’re there, and that can become stressful. To ease concerns, create a detailed outline of your trip. Include your itinerary for each day, where you will be staying, phone numbers and addresses of locations, and what time you plan to arrive back home.
By outlining the details, you can anticipate exactly what you will be doing on any given day. You essentially remove most of the big unknowns and hopefully lessen your fears.
4. Be aware of crime
Try not to focus on preventing every bad thing from happening, because ultimately, that’s impossible. Instead, take time to prepare yourself in the event that something unfavorable does take place.
Minor crimes against tourists include stolen money or lost luggage. Both of these events can leave you penniless if you aren’t prepared. Don’t keep cash in easily packable pockets. Never put all of your travel cash in one place. Avoid going to the ATM late at night. And have a list of emergency numbers you can call in case you need help. (See also: How to Avoid Theft While Traveling)
5. Establish a routine
Routines can create a sense of control, which, for people who struggle with anxiety, can also provide comfort. While it’s harder to maintain your regular routine while on the road, it is possible. Set your alarm for the same time each morning. Take time to read the newspaper, drink coffee, and whatever other morning activities you regularly do. By keeping the small things constant, you can continue to feel like you are in control, even if you are somewhere completely new.
6. Prepare for the flight
Transportation, whether driving or flying, can be stressful on its own. Many times, people dislike this part of travel because they feel like they are not in control. Talk to your travel companions about your fear. While they won’t be able to necessarily lessen your fear, their support can help you feel more at ease.
Make yourself as comfortable as possible by packing plenty of books, work, or entertainment to keep you occupied while traveling. (See also: 21 Unexpected Items You Should Always Pack in Your Carry-On)
You may also want to discuss your anxiety with your doctor. They can work with you to establish a plan to counter your anxiety and put you on medication if needed.
7. Remind yourself why you are traveling
What experiences are you hoping to gain? What sites are you dying to see? What is prompting you to leave your comfort zone? Take time to really consider why you are traveling and why it’s important to you. Documenting your thoughts in a travel journal or blog cannot only help you process your emotions, but it serves as a reminder of why you chose to step out of your bubble and see the world. (See also: 5 Ways Science Says Travel Is Good for Your Health)