Flights booked. Bag packed. Online check-in done. I was ready for my little solo trip to Prague.
But as I hopped on the bus to the airport, a familiar friend spoke up:
“What if you got the days wrong, and the flight was yesterday? You’d better check your confirmation. For the 50th time today.”
“What if you’ve overpacked and they make you pay $100 to check your bag?”
“What if you get to Prague and the airport transfer you booked isn’t there? Oh Lord, you might have to sleep at the airport!”
“What if you get dropped off at the wrong hostel, and you’re wandering dark streets at midnight?”
Anxiety loves the unknown.
It thrives on playing a horror film in your mind of all the things that could go wrong in the future.
And travel is FULL of unknowns.
It’s what makes it so exciting. But it can also be terrifying for us worry warriors.
So, how can we keep a calm mind when travelling?
Here are some things I tried on this trip:
1 Tell your crew
Having a support circle has helped me keep my anxiety in check. And when you’re feeling wobbly about your travel plans, touching base with your supporters can help you refocus and get set to go.
Find a friend or loved one you trust, or reach out to online support groups. I love the anxiety community on Twitter. There are loads of Facebook groups, too. (Like the Worry Warrior Community. We’re a friendly bunch!)
Let them know you’re feeling anxious about your trip, and you’ll find your cheerleaders are there to offer tips and unconditional support.
2 Be prepared
I’ve noticed that rushing makes my anxiety WAY worse.
So I always try to leave plenty of time to get to the airport and checked in. I’d rather relax at the gate, than get flustered when stripping off for security!
Being organised is crucial. I use the TripIt app to keep all my travel documents and bookings together. At a glance, I can see that I’m on schedule and know what to do next.
3 Eat calming foods
Do you know what foods and drinks fuel your anxiety — and which ones keep you calm?
For me, caffeine is great when I’m writing to deadline. But it’s not so awesome when I’m about to get on a plane that I’m worried might crash! So I stick to water (also a wonder for keeping healthy and hydrated in transit) and herbal teas.
Some anxious peeps will have a glass of wine or beer to calm their nerves. I used to do this, too. But alcohol can become a risky crutch when you’re a worrier, so I steer clear of it now. But hey, no judgement if you knock one back!
For food, I try to avoid sugary meals. Instead, I eat a healthy and filling meal at home, loaded with veg. At the airport, I’ll munch on nuts and fruit. But if I’m ravenous, I’ll choose something fatty (like French fries) over something sugary. And I loathe airplane food, so I never buy on-board.
4 Find a quiet spot to breathe
Airports are anxious places. Everyone’s nervous about clearing security (it makes all of us feel like terrorists!), and getting to their plane on time.
So there’s a lot of stimulation and noise that can get you a bit flustered and overwhelmed.
I try to find a quiet(ish) spot to sit. I close my eyes and go through some simple deep breathwork exercises. Like inhaling for a count of 5, and exhaling for a count of 5.
I’ll then pop in headphones and go through a guided meditation. Or listen to relaxing music. Podcasts are great too – you’re chilling and learning at the same time. And tuning out the whirring world around you.
5 Have a back-up plan
What if things go wrong? Sometimes they do.
- Your phone goes flat, so you can’t check the exchange rate — or find your hotel address.
- Your flight’s delayed, so you miss the last airport shuttle.
- You find out the taxi only takes cash in local currency…at the end of the trip.
- Your luggage goes missing.
To quiet my anxious ‘what if’ mind, I always have a back-up plan.
Here are some things I do before every trip:
- Keep a portable phone charger in my purse.
- Have a print-out of my hotel booking, with directions in English and the local language.
- Make a bee-line for the ATM and withdraw a small amount of cash. Enough to get me to the hotel, but not so much that it’ll ruin my trip if I’m robbed).
- Write out what to do if my luggage is lost.
You don’t need to account for every possibility. But knowing where to go, and how to get there, is often enough to calm your mind and fluttering heart.
It puts you in control — not your anxiety. And it helps you start your trip in the best frame of mind.
If you try it for a few weeks and realise travel isn’t for you or that this isn’t the right time, you can always go home. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it means you tried something and you didn’t like it.
6 Have fun!
Ohhh, that’s right. Travelling is meant to be fun! It’s easy enough to forget this little fact.
So, smile at your anxiety. Laugh at your self. And know that everything is going to be OK.
Remind yourself why you booked the trip in the first place.
Visualise yourself having a fun and safe time.
Then take a deep breathe and step out into the world.
I’ll see you out there.