It can be tricky to travel when you have anxiety. Here are some ways to cope:
- Sit with the anxiety. Tell it you understand and everything will be OK.
- Invite it to a duel and battle it head on.
- Do your tried-and-tested breathing and meditation exercises.
- Get drunk.
While I’d love to say I’ve gone the more mature route of steps 1 through 3, most times I attempted to keep calm and carry on with booze. Precious, delicious booze.
This is the approach taken when checking in to a new hostel. Gripped by fear that I’ll be left sitting alone at the communal tables for the entire stay, talking to myself, or donning headphones to pretend I’m cool enough to sit with myself, I lock myself in the loo or sit on my bed and talk myself through it.
“Did you see that group of lively Italians drinking in the lounge? Ok, you’re going to wipe those tears, put on your favourite top, and go sit with them. If after 20 minutes you hate it, you can leave.”
I’ve never once left. Those enigmatic Italians, Germans, Canadians, Spaniards…they’ve always welcomed me in, and within a short while I’m cheersing with my glass of gifted wine or beer or vodka and making plans with the group to go dancing.
That’s the beautiful thing about travel – everyone is seeking the same. Companionship. Laughs. Good times. And when you’re on your own, they’re even more welcoming.
Hostels are even better. Where else can you sit down at a table of strangers and know they won’t look at you like you’re a creeper or tell you to sod off?
When I was in London, I deliberately booked at a self-confessed ‘party hostel’. This was where you went when you wanted fun company, good times, and a week-long hangover. After buying two beers (2 for 1 offer, why not?), I approached four bearded men sitting at a table.
“Hi, can I join you? I don’t know anyone here,” I said smiling.
They seemed a little surprised but motioned for me to sit.
For the next three hours, we drank round after round of Sol, ordered greasy burgers and nachos, and got to know each other.
“So,” I slurred. “How long are you guys staying here at the hostel?”
They looked confused.
“We’re not…” one ventured slowly, as though treading carefully.
“We just came here for drinks after work. We’re Londoners.”
Oh holy crap.
Turns out, the hostel bar was open to the public too. I’d just plonked myself down with a group of laddish locals, something I wouldn’t dream of doing at home unless I wanted to be thought of as a complete and utter weirdo. No doubt it’s the same in London – where on the tube no one dares to even look at or speak to a stranger.
There I was, so proud of myself for initiating my first hostel encounter, and they weren’t even from the bloody hostel. Ah well, way to jump in the deep end!
And that’s how I deal with anxiety when travelling. Sorta muddle through. And hope I come across as cute and quirky, not weird and crazy.