I honestly can’t remember a time when I traveled and I didn’t feel anxiety. Even recollecting childhood memories, I can faintly recall that slight increase in my heartbeat before going out of town. I’d never get any rest the night before the trip and I’d always feel antsy during the car ride to our destination. Looking back, I was clearly an anxious kid. 

In my adult life, I have made traveling a constant goal. Everyone loves a good trip. There’s nothing better than venturing out to new places and seeing the world for yourself. I was able to find myself while traveling the world as an adult. My personality thrived in foreign lands and discovering new places and cultures became soul-warming to me. 

However, my anxiety still lingered in the back of my mind. 

Sometimes it would resonate in small ways like constantly checking to make sure I had all of my documents to board the plane. Or having an unsettled feeling that I left the iron plugged in or the back door unlocked before leaving home. Before traveling internationally for the first time, my mom had cast doubt on my experience by mentioning travel advisories. This made me question my safety when traveling to Belize. 

I’ve never had my anxiety ruin a travel opportunity. However, I still question where exactly the anxiety comes from or what triggers it. My trips are adventurous, fun and fulfilling but the anxiety, somehow, still overcomes me.

Travel Is The Trigger 

woman packing suitcase
Photo credit: Vlada Karpovich

Although it can be easy to point the finger, travel is only the trigger for something deeper that affects me when preparing to go on vacation. It’s not uncommon to feel uneasy before and during traveling. However, the root issue isn’t travel but the anxiety itself. 

Like any form of anxiety, travel anxiety is a spectrum. While some travelers fret over dropping their boarding pass trying to get to their terminal, others completely avoid travel altogether due to debilitating anxiety symptoms. It’s the extreme worry that could make or break a travel experience when anxiety is present. 

However, experts believe a little bit of anxiety is good sometimes. Despite being fun and exciting, visiting new destinations comes with risks. When exploring the world, a little bit of anxiety can help keep travelers safe

Knowing that travel can be a fear-based trigger to anxiety, there are many ways travelers can cope. For me, it was important to pay attention to when I felt triggered during traveling. Was I more anxious preparing for trips or was being away the bigger issue? Knowing yourself and listening to your body is the first step in overcoming anxiety linked to travel.

Coping With Anxiety While Traveling

woman worried with hands on face
Photo credit: Liza Summer

Every traveler needs a coping mechanism toolbox when it comes to dealing with anxiety that’s personalized to their needs.  For me, the first step was accepting that I had anxiety and finding the best ways to be gentle with myself as I navigated traveling the world. Instead of being hard on myself, I choose to find ways to empower myself as a traveler struggling with anxiety. 

I noticed that my anxiety arose before the trip rather than while actively traveling. Oftentimes, I would become obsessed with forgetting something essential to my travels. Whether it be my driver’s license, passport, or debit card, I was always worried about leaving something important at home. 

To combat this, lists have become my best friend as an anxious traveler. Instead of stumbling over items in my suitcase and wallet and constantly double-checking, making a list beforehand helped ease my anxiety. However, everyone is different so planning ahead for your anxiety by making a list is just one way to cope. 

Other ways to combat anxiety before traveling include picturing yourself in the destination already and imagining how amazing it’s going to be. Travelers can also practice relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and mindfulness to help them stay grounded when anxiety spikes. 

Traveling with anxiety can feel overwhelming. But it’s important to remember that the little box anxiety keeping you fear-stricken is literally made of only thoughts. Instead of missing out on traveling the world, prepare for your anxiety and take the right steps to maintain mental comfort on your next trip.