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How Travel Helped My Anxiety

Growing up I struggled with anxiety, especially as a young child. I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel like the whole world was collapsing around me and I’d find it hard to breathe. I would get worked up and worry constantly about what at the time seemed to be the end of the world—like not wanting to go to school, or wondering if you’d be able to keep up in my dance class this year. Little things that to some kids wouldn’t matter, but to me, I’d overthink.

Eventually my anxiety lessened over the years, as some would say, “I grew out of it,” in my opinion, I just learned how to better deal with it. I still get anxiety to this day and still about silly things that wouldn’t make the average person even think twice about—not having plans for a weekend, talking on the phone with someone I don’t know, the length of time someone takes to text you back, sounds silly right? But this is a real feeling. I get what feels like a ball in my chest that backs up into the back of my throat, and it truly is the worst feeling and at times can be crippling, especially when it won’t go away no matter how much you tell yourself: “Lauren, why are you even worrying about this?”

“Some would say, “I grew out of it,” in my opinion, I just learned how to better deal with it.”

For someone who constantly worries, traveling could be the last thing you’d want to do. The thought of leaving home and putting yourself in a situation where you’re losing control of your day-to-day, but for me I found travel to be freeing and if anything, it pushed me to learn how to deal with anxiety on my own.  Travel pushes me so far out of my comfort zone. It makes me less in control of my day-to-day life, and it really requires you to let go, and go with the flow. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t give me a bit of anxiety (okay, a lot)—I mean in the first days of traveling to somewhere new, everything seems to be a hurdle (and everything seems to give me anxiety).

From the minute you step off the plane, despite the excitement I feel, it’s often mixed with an overpowering amount of anxiety. How am I going to find my hotel? What if they don’t have my reservation? What if I get ripped off in the cab ride there? Where am I going to eat? What if it gives me food poisoning? What if I get food poisoning and can’t find a bathroom? Seriously, the millions of questions and fears that run through my head when arriving in a new destination can make anyone go a little crazy, and wonder “why do I even do this to myself.” But although slightly disguised, this is actually the best part about traveling!

“At home, if a situation made me feel anxious, I’d avoid it, but abroad you don’t have that option.”

Getting over the hurdle of anxiety and worry when abroad can be one of the most rewarding feelings. No matter how bad you may want to just sit in the airport, cry and give up on trying to find your way to your hotel, you simply can’t. You HAVE to push yourself, and once you push yourself you realize that you are capable of a lot more than you probably imagined. At home, if a situation made me feel anxious, I’d avoid it, but abroad you don’t have that option. When traveling you literally have to force yourself to get over your fears and in the first few days in an intimidating place that can be tough.

It may take me a little longer to warm up to a place, but once I get in my zone, I can relieve myself of anxiety so much more while traveling. Before I know it, I have a carefree attitude and am not even that concerned when I’m racing across the city trying to catch a plane, or being ushered into what seems like a sketchy taxi driving me to my murder scene. When I travel, I become a person that I lose sight of almost every day back at home. I get so caught up in how life is supposed to go in my daily life that I forget to stop and smell the roses.

“When I travel, I become a person that I lose sight of almost every day back at home.”

Travel has definitely shown me a way to deal with my anxiety. No, it hasn’t rid me from it, and it probably never will, because it’s something that I’ll likely deal with for the rest of my life. But travel has showed me that life is short and if you spend all your time worrying about every single little thing, you’re stopping yourself from all the amazing things that could happen.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Carmen | Carmen's Luxury Travel
    August 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    As much as I love traveling, I still have anxiety when I travel on planes. It’s normal to have a little anxiety when you travel to new places, and have to adapt to your new surroundings.

  • Reply
    Vegard The NerdyExplorer
    August 10, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks for writing this post. I`m struggelig with anxciety myself and i can relate to many of the things you wrote in this blog post. When traveling solo i just have to do whatever it takes to go through it. Ys is my reservation valid? Those people over there are laughing. is it because of me? Do i get scammed in the taxi and what if that or this happens?

    But for some odd reason i`m more brave when traveling. like i don`t care as much as i do when i`m home. So Travel is a good tool for people like us to conquer some parts of the anxciety. 🙂 I`ve choosen a new path in life and that is to travel. To se the world and challenge myself. Just spent one month in Tokyo alone. I`m really proud of myself.

  • Reply
    Billy
    August 12, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Great article! I’ve felt the awful grip of anxiety a few handfuls of times, but mainly in my recent years of life. I couldn’t agree more that travel, and I think taking a break from the daily grind and routine of life, is what helps to heal and soothe those feelings. After 8 months away from home, I’ve finally gotten into the habit of meditating each morning, and I have to say I find myself feeling happy and cheerful, focussed in the present and worry free. I would recommend mediation to anyone who has a brain, and especially to those with an overactive one!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      August 13, 2015 at 10:48 am

      Thanks Billy for the recommendation. I’ve wanted to get into meditation but I’m just not really sure where to start!

  • Reply
    Solomon Jubinville
    September 5, 2015 at 1:13 am

    Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness, training the brain to stay in the moment by letting go of both the future and the past, helps reduce both anxiety and depression. You have no choice but to be present when you travel, especially as a single woman.

  • Reply
    The Barefoot Backpacker
    September 1, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Very well written article. I was going to copy-paste salient points into my comment and respond to them individually, but realised I’d be copying pretty much half the article, with my only contribution being a “yes” or a “this, just this”.

    I don’t have anxiety to the extent that you seem to, but I certainly have the same issues and concerns. And yes, forcing myself to be in social situations, into places where I have to speak to people, is hard for me but I know it’s the only way I’ll be able to do it. Maybe that’s another reason I travel alone – I sometimes fool myself into thinking I’ll be more self-confident if I’m with someone but I know what will really happen is that I’ll let them do all the conversations.

    My mantra though is “knowledge is power”. The more I know about a certain place, or a way of doing things, the more confident I will be in doing that activity. This applies especially to little things like where exactly to catch a bus from and how much it costs; so I know I’ll be ready with the right money in the right place; that way the minutiae myther me less. In theory 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 1, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      Thanks for reading 🙂 I totally know what you mean about knowledge is power. I’m the same way. I like to know as much as I can. I google the weirdest questions leading up to the trip like “what the train ticket machines look like” or like you said “where to catch the bus”. It does help me too 🙂

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