Even the most intrepid of us has succumbed to travel anxiety. I have and I love the unknown. That doesn’t mean arriving at an Indonesian airport without a visa and no local currency doesn’t tie my shoulders in knots. You don’t have to have hundreds of trips under your belt to learn how to relax and enjoy travel. Follow these tips to learn how not to be a nervous traveler.[slogan h1=”Worry is money paid in advance on a debt that may never come.”][/slogan]
Do Research, But Not Too Much
Being well-prepared can certainly eliminate last-minute anxiety. Packing in advance, booking rides, gathering information, however, planning a trip too far in advance may actually lead to more worry. After all, it gives you more time to obsess about all that could go wrong. If you’re prone to OCD, set limits for yourself on how much research you do and for how long. Don’t spend every waking hour reading, booking, and mapping your trip. Leave room for discovery along the way. So you take a wrong turn on the way to the hotel? What if you discover an arresting vista or your favorite new bistro? Travel is about getting out of your comfort zone and discovering something new. Leave room for that!
Travel with a Pro
I don’t mean a tour guide, but that could certainly ease the tension about getting lost, wandering into the wrong part of town, or getting mugged. If you’re a nervous type, travel with someone who isn’t. In fact, meeting up in another country with an old friend, or friend of a friend can be fun! The anxiety lessens when you’re with a local, so use your six degrees of separation to find one. A good way to do this is through travel blogs. Google the name of your destination and “travel blogger.” Some bloggers love meeting up fellow travelers since they often wander solo.
Get a Massage
I have back problems that flare up pretty often. Plus, I carry camera equipment, so getting a massage is essential for me on most trips. I’m a budget traveler, so I don’t book the poshest hotel spas. In fact, in the Philippines I got an in-room massage for $8/hour! I looked up a massage school in Chicago and had a very capable therapist for a fraction of the price of the hotel. Book your massage for late in the day of your arrival so you can get a good night’s sleep afterwards. A stiff drinks also helps.
Face Your Fears
I’m no Wonder Woman. I too have fears, but the older I get, the more I force myself to confront them. I start by asking myself, What is the worst thing that could happen? Pinpointing your fear can actually help you minimize it. When I first moved to Guam, I was terrified of lizards and this island is swimming with them. I would lay awake at night hoping they wouldn’t crawl in my mouth. Then I realized they are way more afraid of me! (Seems obvious, right? This stuff goes back to childhood.) I now regard them as cute. I even put one on my logo for The Guam Guide!
If you’re having trouble reasoning yourself out of fearfulness, try talking to a friend or writing them down. When you identify your fears, you take them out of the big black abyss of scary and into manageable reality. Identify ways to take control of situations that make you nervous. If you can’t control them, develop a mantra that reminds you to change the channel on negative thoughts. Take deep breaths, listen to your favorite song, and repeat your mantra until you calm down. Distraction also helps, especially if you fear flying. Take a sleeping pill, watch a movie, or have a cocktail!
Live in the Moment
Honestly, I find this hard to do at times. I’m a planner and a dreamer. I’m constantly thinking about the future. I have to remind myself to savor the moment I’m in, whether it’s a delicious bite of food, great conversation, or a killer sunset. Sometimes, I have to put down my camera and just enjoy the moment with all my senses. If you have trouble doing that, activate each sense one by one — eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and body. This is also a relaxation technique!
Make Time for Relaxation
You’ve seen those travelers, and perhaps you’ve been one, rushing from tourist site to tourist site, not enjoying any of it. Don’t make taking a selfie at every major monument your goal. Don’t schedule ten things to do in one day. Don’t underestimate travel time. In fact, double it. Nothing takes the joy out of travel like rushing. Schedule at least a day to do nothing but lay on the beach, wander a museum, or people watch at a café. I like to schedule the lazy days for last so that I can return home refreshed.
In conclusion, a quote from one of my favorite travel novels/films, A Room with a View:
“If you will not think me rude, we residents sometimes pity you poor tourists not a little—handed about like a parcel of goods from Venice to Florence, from Florence to Rome, living herded together in pensions or hotels, quite unconscious of anything that is outside Baedeker, their one anxiety to get ‘done’ or ‘through’ and go on somewhere else. The result is, they mix up towns, rivers, palaces in one inextricable whirl. You know the American girl in Punch who says: ‘Say, poppa, what did we see at Rome?’ And the father replies: ‘Why, guess Rome was the place where we saw the yaller dog.’ There’s travelling for you.” — A Room with a View, E.M. Forster