Dealing with travel anxiety? I get it. If you’re anything like me travel can make your anxiety a whole lot worse.
I’m someone who thrives on routine.
I wake up early and workout 5 times a week (most of the time). I come home from my 9-5 job and work on my blog, cook dinner, watch an episode of Jane the Virgin and go to bed by 10:00pm.
When I’m travelling my routine gets thrown out the window. I’m not the kind of person who likes to work out on holiday (besides, I mostly stay at hostels and generally hostels don’t have gyms). I take the view that because I walk A LOT, that’ll do.
Likewise, on the road my eating habits are different from at home. Like all travellers, I eat out a lot more and refuse to feel guilty about that for a second. I firmly believe that when in Rome you should eat all the pasta, pizza and gelato. But still, eating out and eating richer foods than I would normally eat can affect my mood.
I don’t always get 8 hours sleep. If you’re sleeping in a dorm or out adventuring, it can be kind of hard to get into a good sleep routine.
And because I’m in a foreign place I don’t have access to my normal self-care practices I utilise at home. I can’t take a bath, or bake cookies, or have a cathartic cry while listening to vintage Taylor Swift. Tear Drops on My Guitar, anyone?
Travel Anxiety & Me
Since I’ve started travelling solo it’s been a learning curve for me to find ways to deal with my anxiety.
In London there were nights where I couldn’t bring myself to leave my hostel to go and get dinner (or even grab a Tesco meal) because it just felt too hard. Instead, I ate a muesli bar and watched Netflix. And that was ok. I respected that I needed to stay in and that I wasn’t up to any more social interaction, even with the checkout operator.
But there are also healthier ways to deal with travel anxiety, because a girl gotta eat. So if, like me, you’re dealing with travel anxiety or worried about travelling solo, here are some self-care techniques you can practice wherever you are.
7 Self-Care Tips to Help You Overcome Travel Anxiety
1. Plan For Your Anxiety
Often travel anxiety stems from dealing with unfamiliar situations or feeling like things are out of our control.
When I left to move to the other side of the world I had stopovers planned in Singapore and London. The thing I was most nervous about wasn’t finding a job or making friends (although that was definitely scary). What was giving me major anxiety was the thought of getting off my 14 hour flight and trying to navigate the tube to my accommodation in London.
There were too many variables – what if my train didn’t show up? what if I got lost? – and it felt like I didn’t have control over any of it. I even thought about getting a taxi, but considering how expensive black cabs are I got over my fear and rode the tube. (And was strangely proud of myself when I made it to my hostel).
There are things you can do to help ease your travel anxiety and make settling in easier.
Have your accommodation booked for the first few nights before you go so you know where you’re staying. You could catch a taxi to your accommodation so you don’t have to worry about getting lost or navigating unfamiliar public transport. I like to take screenshots of my hotel address before I leave so it’s super easy to access and show the taxi driver.
Research things to do so you have a plan for at least the first couple of days. Planning ahead can help you feel more in control, and when you feel in control it can help lessen your travel anxiety.
2. Go For a Walk
Whenever I’m feeling anxious and like everything is a bit too much I make myself go outside and take a walk. I’ll listen to music or a podcast and focus on walking without a purpose or destination.
Walking is good for you physically and mentally as a brisk walk will create endorphins that can boost your mood and help improve self-esteem.
Movement can also help regulate your breathing as the more you walk the more carbon dioxide your body produces naturally, helping your body to breathe more efficiently. I also find walking meditative and a good way to clear my head. Going for a walk is a great self-care technique you can utilise most places while travelling.
If walking isn’t possible where you are, or you don’t feel safe walking by yourself, why not try some yoga? You could try doing a YouTube yoga workout (my fave is Yoga With Adriene).
3. Schedule Time to Rest
When travelling I always have a long list of everything I want to see and do. I’ll get up early to beat the tourists and be the first one at an attraction, then spend the entire day walking and exploring. I’ll head back to my accommodation in the afternoon for a couple of hours of downtime and then head back out again for dinner and to find a great sunset viewpoint.
And most of the time I love it.
I get so fired up and passionate about exploring a new place and want to make the most of my time there by doing and seeing everything I can.
But if you’re travelling for weeks or even months, that kind of schedule can be exhausting. You couldn’t keep that pace up in your home life and you can’t while travelling. So every once in a while, maybe once or twice a week, make a conscious decision to set aside time for rest.
If you’re like me and you feel a sense of urgency when it comes to avoiding crowds and getting somewhere first, turn off the alarm and accept that today you might not see everything on your list, and that that’s ok. Rest is important, and so is your mental health.
4. Talk to a Friend
Solo travel can be liberating, exciting and challenging, but also So. Damn. Lonely.
I don’t find it naturally easy to make friends while travelling and have always been envious of the girls who can strike up a conversation with someone in their dorm and 5 minutes later have dinner plans together. That’s just not me, but I’m forcing myself to get better at it.
As I’ve started travelling solo and moved to the other side of the world I’ve had to rely on myself. And honestly, I’ve come to like my own company a lot more than I thought possible.
But still, humans are social creatures and sometimes when chatting to (friendly) strangers makes you want to curl up under your duvet and hide you just really want to talk to your best friend/sister/mum. Luckily, technology and reasonable Wi-Fi make it easier than ever to stay connected with friends and family at home.
When you’re feeling travel anxiety kick in have a conversation with someone you love and a lot of the time that can help ease some of the loneliness.
Read More: 7 Easy (Ish) Ways to Make Friends Abroad
5. Show Yourself Some Love
When travelling it’s often hard to feel like you’re taking care of yourself the same way you would at home.
Maybe you can’t be bothered shaving your legs or your nails get a little rugged-looking. And hey, that’s part of the fun of travel life, and if you don’t shave your legs anyway, more power to you. But sometimes it’s nice to show yourself a little bit of love.
That can look like different things for different people. For me, if I can pluck my eyebrows, do a face mask and paint my nails it goes some way to making me feel more in control. When I feel good about myself, I feel a little less anxious about travel.
6. Get Lost in Nature
Coming from New Zealand my soul craves wide open spaces and lots of green. I love exploring new cities, from Bangkok to London, Singapore to Paris, but I do find city life a little stifling.
For me, the best way to clear my mind and help ease travel anxiety is to get lost in nature.
There’s a lot of scientific research into the benefits of time spent in nature. It’s proven to help improve your mood, boost feelings of happiness and ease stress and anxiety.
So if you’re on a beach in Thailand, get outside and soak up that vitamin D in the name of mental health. Find a forest to walk in or a hill to climb, or grab a picnic mat and head to your local park. Wherever you are in the world take time to reconnect with nature, and you might find it helps a little with any anxiety you’re experiencing.
7. Remember Why You’re Travelling
If all else fails and everything feels too hard, you have options. You can fly home, which is totally fine. I personally take comfort in knowing that home is always there if everything falls apart.
Or you can pause for a minute and remember why you’re travelling.
Think about how long it took you to save up, how excited you felt when you finally booked your tickets, the places you researched and dreamed about visiting. Picture how it will feel when you finally get to climb the Eiffel Tower, or feed an elephant in Thailand, or see the sun set over Oia in Santorini.
Now imagine how it will feel a year from now if you cut your travels short and go home.
Chances are you’ll be pretty disappointed in yourself. So if you can, take a moment to remember the excitement of travel. Because travel is exciting. Utilise self-care techniques that work for you, and try and find ways to manage your travel anxiety. If you can, I promise the adventure that awaits you will be more than worth it.