How I overcome travel anxiety

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Last updated: June 26, 2024

I am most happy when I am travelling, but that doesn’t mean I don’t experience travel anxiety. I have had to learn some useful tricks to help me avoid and navigate my travel anxiety. Let me share these with you!

As someone who lives out of their suitcase, it comes as a surprise to many people that I suffer from travel anxiety. In fact, I struggle with anxiety, full stop. But my love for travel trumps all the fear I have, so I have had to learn how to manage my mental health so that I don’t live in a constant state of worry.

Whether I am exploring a new place, boarding a plane, or navigating roads to find my very hard-to-locate Airbnb, I utilise all of the following tools to ensure I alleviate any of my travel anxiety.

1. Breathwork

Learning how to breathe my way through an anxious episode has been one of the best things I’ve done. Typically, when I get anxious about travel I either start to hyperventilate or stop breathing altogether. This tightens my chest and can bring on a panic attack, which isn’t particularly fun when you are in an unknown environment.

I have learnt a few breathing methods that help me avoid and navigate difficult situations like these. My favourite is box breathing, which you can learn from this Headspace video. The other is to lengthen my exhale, so I will breathe in for 4 and out for 8. I also find it helps me to find a quiet space to do this. If you are on a plane, you may want to shut your eyes to block out the environment.

2. Mindfulness

Mindfulness was one of the hardest tools for me to learn but it has been incredibly useful. It essentially requires you to notice, sense, and feel something in that moment, be it your breath, or the way your feet feel against the ground.

My favourite mindfulness exercise involves focusing on each sense, one by one. I focus on 5 things I can see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste. Feel free to do this exercise with a different numbering system to suit your environment or your sense preferences. For example, I find a lot of comfort in scents so I sometimes like to focus more on these.

Try this out if you are in a crowded place and your brain goes on overdrive. It is also a good exercise to practice daily. It may help you to notice things on your travels that you may not have otherwise!

3. Watch pilot videos

Despite flying a lot, I get nervous every time I take a flight somewhere. The one and only thing that has helped ease my nerves is watching YouTube videos by pilots. There are many videos out there debunking myths and proving their competency. I particularly enjoy these YouTube channels:

4. Always have travel insurance

Nothing gives me peace of mind like having travel insurance. It covers me if I experience any transport delays, or if my baggage gets lost. It also provides me with health insurance everywhere that I travel. Knowing that I am covered makes me feel a lot less anxious about all aspects of travelling.

My favourite travel insurance is from SafetyWing. They offer flexible plans spanning many countries, which is really useful for longer trips. Read my SafetyWing review to find out more.

5. Carry a comforting object

When I was younger I used to have a blanket (blanky) that went with me everywhere. I used it to cover my nose and would feel comforted by the scent. As an adult, I no longer carry this blanket around but I do keep an object on my person that helps to ground me. My object is a smooth black stone that I found on the beach. It has a few grooves on it that are really nice to feel.

Whenever my travel anxiety hits, I put this stone in my hand and mindfully think about how it feels. It very quickly takes my mind away from my anxious thoughts.

6. Plan ahead

For many, travel anxiety kicks in when something goes wrong, or in anticipation of something going wrong. So it is a wise idea to plan for any eventuality. This will give you the time to think about packing anything that may help you in a bad situation, be it an old school map for your next road trip (in case your phone battery dies), or a comforting object that can help you navigate your anxiety if something goes wrong.

The trick here is to plan in accordance with your own mental health. Think about what could trigger you, and plan for this. For example, I know I suffer from panic attacks in enclosed spaces, so my comforting stone (mentioned above) comes with me on all flights.

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