Anxiety Abroad: How to Travel as an Anxious Human

One of the comments I hear the most when talking about traveling is: “Oh, I could never do that. No way. I’d be too scared.”

Know what that is? It’s anxiety. Facing up to learned anxiety has been one of my biggest struggles in life thus far. It cripples me in front of crowds. Has crashed n burned more relationship than I care to admit. And it makes traveling abroad as a solo-female-traveler just that much more uncomfortable.

If you’ve got the anxiety bug (looking at you, fellow millennials), then I have some tips for easing palm-sweats when you also have travel-lust.

Before you leave: overplan. Go ahead. Let that anxious voice spend hours reading blog posts about traveling. What to pack. What to do in an emergency. Where to go and when to go there. You’ll probably use less than half that knowledge while traveling AND still feel pretty inadequate, but you’ll be thankful for that which you do retain.

While abroad:

  1. Move Slow – Anxiety makes the world seem like it’s going too fast to handle. Slow down everything. Speak slower, make decisions slower, eat slower.
  2. Move Slow Part 2 – go to fewer places and stay longer. You’ll feel more comfortable once you recognize the streets surrounding the hostel. You’ll meet more people and build a network of humans who have your back. Not to mention becoming recognizable to staff or homestay hosts.Jpeg
  3. Leave When You Want – a big perk of traveling solo! If you find yourself downright queasy in a town or can’t ignore a gut feeling about fellow travelers….LEAVE! Say ‘ciao’ to the discomfort, listen to your intuition, and catch the next bus outta town.
  4. Identify and Treat Triggers – Folks, I get hangry (definition: angry from hunger). While in Cambodia, I learned over and over that my day would go a lot better if I had breakfast on hand in the morning. Even if it’s just toast and coffee. Identify what makes you extra anxious and treat it before there’s even a chance to have issues. Nervous about where you’re sleeping? Book ahead of time (shoutout to the Hostel World mobile app). Transport departures have your undies in a bundle? Get there early. Traveling alone puts enough on your plate without adding things that could easily be conquered.
  5. Build in Safety Nets – Traveling alone, it’s important to be especially smart with your safety. It’s all on you. Download a maps app (Maps.me is my favorite) to always know where you’re going. Carry a portable charger. Check-in with hostel staff/homestay hosts about potential security threats. If you’re down for it, have a friend or family member that is aware of where you are—frankly, not my favorite thing at all, but I can respect the reasons.
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BONUS: Learn about the oppressive capitalist system that helped to create the anxiety within you! Then crush it.

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