5 tips to overcome travel anxiety (from a meditation teacher)
Travel anxiety can feel painful, embarrassing and seemingly endless. While you may feel alone in those moments, travel anxiety existed long before the pandemic and will be here for years to come. There are many people who live with anxiety at different levels when at home and abroad. Some even experience panic attacks when they are in unfamiliar territory or may feel triggered while at home. But there are simple things we can practise to help overcome these feelings.
I’m Elaisha, a 3x certified meditation teacher, mental health advocate and travel enthusiast! My meditation practice began after almost 5-years after the Toronto start-up tech scene left me overworked and ill. By studying and applying meditation and mindfulness teachings I was able to find purpose and productivity in my work again. Now, I have led over 100 remote meditations for companies across the globe.
If you are someone who gets anxious about travelling, then these tips to overcome travel anxiety might help you get back into your comfort zone…
1. Get a baseline
After the collective trauma of the pandemic, it doesn’t hurt to get a baseline for where you are mentally before utilizing the rest of the tips listed below. One way is to consult with a healthcare professional if you have been feeling anxious, extra fatigued or not like yourself lately. That could lead to receiving the tools you need to get to feel prepared to take on the world again. These could be anything from medication, one or more counselling appointments, mindfulness/meditation techniques, journalling and more. They can help you identify and understand the warning signs of travel anxiety.
2. Understand the warning signs
According to healthline.com some of the warning signs of travel anxiety can include…
- rapid heart rate, chest pain, or difficulty breathing
- nausea or diarrhea
- restlessness and agitation
- decreased concentration or trouble focusing
- trouble sleeping or insomnia
Do a daily emotional check in. Keep a diary on your phone or carry a journal if you’ve got the space. Then write what you’re feeling emotionally and physically – as well as what you did that day. After a few days on your trip if you’re feeling “off” check in on what you’ve written. Read back on how you rated your emotions, what you were feeling physically. In the moment, we may misinterpret our nausea on a bumpy car ride or misread our ability to sleep as excitement for the trip when really these can be signs of travel anxiety.
I experienced my biggest and most painful anxiety attacks while abroad. In a tiny hotel room in London, on my first big solo trip, I didn’t understand why my chest and throat felt like they were closing up. I lay awake all night in silent agony unsure of what to do. What made this experience difficult was that I didn’t have any tools to understand what was happening and how to manage my symptoms. It’s important to know the warning signs of an anxiety attack to ensure you have the tools you need to ride it out as easily as possible and not extend or exacerbate the experience further.
3. Plan (reasonably)
A good way to help ease travel anxiety is to plan your trip. It helps to know what you’re doing, how long it will take and what commitments you have afterwards. If you have a connecting flight, try to find out how far away your gate is from your arrival terminal. If you have dietary restrictions, try to plan what restaurants can accommodate your needs through checking out some online reviews or asking friends who have been to the area.
Alternatively, Contiki is a great way to give all the stressful planning stuff (accomodation, transport, destinations and experiences) to someone else, so you can just focus on having fun.
Remember: plans are an useful way to alleviate some travel-stress. But nothing ever goes exactly to plan, and overplanning can cause a different kind of stress….
4. Welcome the magic of failure
Anxiety can cause a person to become overly focused on the details of their trip, which can result in a lot of stress about the possibility that something might go wrong. As a meditation teacher I recommend mindful practices while travelling, such as allowing ourselves the experience of discomfort from disappointment instead of allowing anger to take over.
Some of the most magical moments in travel is when your plans fall through but you end up visiting a different museum and making a new friend, or you check out a restaurant that isn’t booked out and tasted even better than the top one on Tripadvisor. Try listening to a body scan meditation to allow yourself to understand how to experience sensations in the body caused by moments of ‘failure’ or ‘disappointment’ and instead of rushing to fix or change the situation, learning how to safely sit in the discomfort.
5. Let go!
Sometimes we can have all the tools, tips and tricks in the world but we just end up feeling blah, or anxious on a trip. Instead of judging ourselves or beating ourselves up for those feelings when we let go of the need for things to be perfect we grant ourselves grace. While travel is an immense privilege and an incredible way to get to know ourselves and the world around us, things might not go your way. Releasing the need to judge ourselves or have the perfect Instagram Story every day is freeing!
It is totally normal to feel anxious before and during a trip. After all, there are so many things that could go wrong when you are travelling. For some people, the idea of travel can be extremely stressful. There are several things I ensure I bring with me on trips to help reduce anxiety by stimulating or relaxing one or all of my five senses:
- The Saje pocket pharmacy. Creating an environment filled with relaxing smells before I go to bed is part of my routine and this is a compact way to use aromatherapy while on the go.
- A black out eye mask to ensure that on a flight with bright lights or in a hotel without black out curtains I can always get to sleep.
- A pair of ear plugs. If I am travelling on a noisy overnight train or I’m stuck on a long layover and need a nap, these always come in handy. I recently got the lifetime subscription to the “Calm” app. It’s great because I can download guided meditations to do while offline and on a flight or I can do my daily emotional check ins to look back and see how I’m really feeling.
- This might seem really random, but I always bring warm fuzzy socks to help with anxiety on trips. If my feet are cold I’ll never get to sleep and if I can’t sleep I’ll feel anxious.
The most important thing is to remember that you can deal with any issues by using relaxation techniques, planning ahead, working with a healthcare professional and letting go of the need for your trip to be perfect!