Is the fear of traveling keeping you grounded?
Many people get excited by the idea of traveling – the thought of seeing new things and meeting new people while experiencing different cultures, foods, and festivities is thrilling. However, others feel a sense of dread or even fear about traveling, worrying about the logistics or getting to the destination safely. Since the pandemic, we’ve all been limited in travel and that heightens the anxiety of those who already stress about traveling.
Living with travel anxiety is possible when you develop the skills to manage it. Allowing your fear to hold you back from sharing new experiences and making memories with those you love is a huge sacrifice. Educating yourself and practicing the skills to help you manage it will help you feel comfortable the next trip you plan; you may even find yourself looking forward to the trip.
Where does travel anxiety come from?
More than 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from an anxiety disorder. Having an anxiety disorder means you experience extreme fear and stress that impacts how you interact with others and the world. People who struggle with travel anxiety usually have one of these in their history:
Bad experiences. Having a negative experience while traveling affects many adults. In fact, research suggests that 65% of all people who had a major car accident during a trip developed travel anxiety.
A fear of flying. Fear of flying affects roughly 3 to 10 percent of all people. It can be triggered by feeling claustrophobia during take off and landing.
Leaving what’s familiar and safe at home. Feeling like you’re in control at home can make you feel great discomfort while traveling. Visiting new or unfamiliar places is often fun, but to many, the unknown creates fear.
If you struggle with travel anxiety, you don’t have to let it limit you. These strategies can minimize or prevent your symptoms.
Plan ahead. If you’re a person who asks “what if” frequently, it’s important to plan for what you can control. You can’t control some situations, but you can prepare for the ones you fear the most. Go ahead and pack the flashlight “just in case” and anything else that will help you stay calm. Crossword puzzles, books, and word games can keep your mind busy during the trip.
Know your triggers. If you get anxious at take-off or landing, have a great movie downloaded and ready to go so you can tune out what is going on around you. Know yourself enough to understand what part of travel scares you the most.
Have someone watch your home. If your anxiety stems from leaving your home unattended, ask a trusted friend or family member to check in and keep tabs on your home. Many communities have availability for police to monitor your home in your absence. Take advantage of these services and stop worrying what people will think.
Practice relaxation and meditation when you have the time to do it. When you travel, you have more control of your time. This is a wonderful opportunity to download mediation apps and other programs that will help you become more comfortable.
Travel with a friend or a group. When you travel with someone else, it helps distract you and makes you feel more connected. If you’re single, there are numerous travel groups you can join that enhance your experience and minimize your anxiety of being alone.
Traveling is an incredible education into how others live; it expands your world view and gives you knowledge about different perspectives. You may not always be able to avoid travel anxiety and that’s okay. However, the more you take care of your needs – like scheduling sleep, eating well, and taking time for yourself – the more you’ll be able to manage your anxiety, making you more confident when you return.