The Anxious Traveller – The Good, The Bad & The Unwinding

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I have always been a home bird, I love my home comforts and familiar surroundings.  I haven’t however, always been an anxious traveller. Family holidays we’re always so exciting, I’d never get any sleep before the big day. Packing my favourite outfits and jewellery, collecting my money from the Post Office and getting in the car and heading to the airport, those things always got me ready for what was to come.

But now… it’s the complete opposite. I feel agitated with the planning, the prep, even being away from home. It all turns into one big anxious travelling ball and it stays with me even when I’m at my final destination. I feel like it takes over at times, being in a new place, with new surroundings and new people, it’s pretty overwhelming. Relaxing can be hard and enjoying myself can be somewhat forced. I have no idea why I feel like this, but I’ve come to terms with it, and I’m okay with it (most of the time). There are some things I have tried to do to overcome the tidal wave of anxiety hitting me at each stage of travelling and learning to unwind.

Pre Travelling

Don’t get me wrong, I love the planning of a trip away. Sussing out where to go, where to stay and what to do in the area. If I book early enough, I tend to forget about the trip itself until close to the time. For me, it’s when the ‘We need to pack’ conversations start happening… that’s when I start to feel a tad more anxious. I count down the days and hours until I have to travel, and I know this really doesn’t help me or my mind as the travel day itself is the hardest day for me. People telling me to ‘have a safe journey’ really plays on my mind. I know they are only being nice, but I instantly think of the worst. I’ve tried to not think of this, but bad days come and go at this this point.

What works for me at this stage:

  • Plan, plan plan – Understanding the expectations of the trip sooner rather than later help me absorb and understand what it is I’ll be doing whilst away.
  • Dedicating time – For me, this is for sorting out the ‘bits and bobs’ for the trip. I tend to plan an hour or so after work to do these things, so it doesn’t become too overwhelming and rushed.
  • Getting a goods night sleep – This is especially vital a week before a trip. I’ve created a Chill music playlist on Spotify which I tend to listen to before I get into bed which helps me ease in to a relaxed state.
  • Fresh bedding – As sad as it sounds, the thought of fresh sheets when coming back from a trip away is a game changer! Knowing I’ve done that before I go away does actually put my mind at rest. It’s what works for you, right?

The ‘Big Day’

This is the hardest part of the travelling cycle for me. The one I feel most worked up about. The one where I am the most broken and struggle to control my feelings. From the car journey to the airport, going through security, sitting in the departures lounge to finally getting on the plane and taking off. My stomach gets knotted up and my heart starts beating faster than ever before, but this is it. I start looking outside to check the weather conditions and think about the worst. Googling ‘what is turbulence’ and ‘how to overcome a fear of flying’ minutes before the cabin crew tells all passengers to put their phones on aeroplane mode is not ideal, but something I still do, knowing I shouldn’t. It’s not just flying, it can be when on a train, bus or boat (I had the same feeling when on a train recently). Dealing with my thoughts at this stage is difficult, but I’m starting to take hold of slowly, one step at a time.

What works for me at this stage:

  • Meditating – I’ve used various apps in the past but the one I’ve come to love most is buddhify which has specific guides around sleeping, walking, travelling and even flying. This is ideal for me, as they are specific to the tough challenge ahead of me. I can zone out and get my mind to a relaxed state.
  • Having things to do whilst travelling – I tend to download some podcasts, tv shows and Spotify playlists for any journey and try to make sure I have enough things to do for the whole time I am travelling.
  • Reading – I try to not over rely on my phone when travelling, so having a book or two is something else I do. If a really good book, I can get myself so immersed into it and my bad thoughts disappear (note: it has to be an epic book for me to feel like this, this is like a shooting star moment for me, but it can happen!)

Whilst Away

Being away doesn’t always mean I get anxious, but this is the stage where it may flare up unexpectedly. In a new city or country comes new places, people, and surprises. I’m not good at surprises altogether, so being in a new place with the feeling of ‘anything can happen’ can be daunting for me. Obviously the ‘anything can happen’ feeling can come from any situation, but for some reason it tends to creep in more when in a unfamiliar place. As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I’m a bit of a home bird, so that maybe why I get that feeling in new places.

What works for me at this stage:

  • Letting others know when I don’t feel too great – A new one for me but I’ve recently had the confidence to tell people I need to have five minutes to rest or grab a drink of water if I’ve felt uncertain or on edge. People are always so accommodating and understanding, and it’s so nice to know people care about you.
  • Mediating – This one has come up before and being able to to this so easily by a phone now is the reason why I love technology these days. Meditation generally has helped me with understanding my surroundings more, what I can see, hear, smell, touch. It helps my mind be more at ease and relax my breathing, something I struggle to control when I feel like I’m about to have a flare up. I never thought I’d be the mediating type of person but it’s growing on me more and more every day. I even started to use it when I’m not feeling anxious like on my walk to work and before I go to sleep.

Coming Home

There tends to be a heap of things to do once I’m back from a trip. Just like the pre-travelling, when coming home I tend to make sure I sort out things slow and steady and at a pace where I feel most comfortable. Things like getting a food shop in, catching up on work emails, doing the washing and ironing of clothes can feel like a never-ending list in my head. My anxiousness at this stage is certainly at a place where I can control it well, but like anyone, it can be hard to get back into the day-to-day routine you had before you left for your travels.

What works for me at this stage:

  • A to-do list – Of all the things I may need need to do in the first week of being back, similar to the first stage, planning helps with setting expectations of whats to come, and what I need to do going forward.

It’s important to remember that these things work for me, this doesn’t mean they necessarily work for everyone. It’s taken me some time to understand what works for me and what doesn’t. Exploring the options however has be insightful. From books, to podcasts, videos and apps, I’ve tried a fair few.

The one tip I could give anyone who suffers with anxiety (or anything similar) is to make your own mind up on what works best for you. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve Googled the odd thing and have read recommendations from forums and whatnot, but the best thing to do is talk. Whether it’s to a friend, family, member or a health specialist (I have done all three) speaking up to whoever you find best to can do you the world of good.

Initially, I found it hard to openly speak to people about this type of stuff, most people didn’t (or still don’t) know how hard it can be sometimes (I can be good at hiding my real feelings), but one thing I have learnt recently is that talking it out really does help. Keeping it bottled up can be so easy to do but so hard to keep up. I always felt silly for feeling how I did when travelling and felt embarrassed to tell someone when I wasn’t feeling okay. Being able to talk about it in a safe environment with people I trust really has helped not only myself when recognising when I don’t feel great, but also others. They know how to make me feel more comfortable and know what to say at the right time.

Travelling is not great experience for me and I don’t think it will ever be perfect, but I won’t let my mind ever stop me from doing it. If you feel the same about anything, speak up, talk about it, you’re not alone.

Some helpful resources if you want help or advise with any mental health issues (in the UK):

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