Anxiety has a lot of different triggers. If you’ve been living with anxiety for a while, you may already know what sets you off and mostly try to avoid those situations at all costs.
I have social anxiety, so my triggers are mostly to do with crowded places and meeting new people. You’d think this comes with loud, busy, foreign places too. So, why do I travel? Because I love it!
Anxiety shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the things you love the most. For me, that’s travelling.
I love nothing more than ticking places off my bucket list, taking photos of gorgeous destinations, eating as much local cuisine as I can and making new friends. All of these things in some ways conflict with my anxiety but are not impossible to do/achieve.
So, how can you travel with anxiety? And how do you travel alone with anxiety?
1. Choose your first destination carefully
Pick a destination that you feel comfortable with and are truly excited about.
For me, it was travelling across America. It has loads of famous locations that I wanted to see, the food is delicious and, honestly, I had been dreaming of visiting the States for years.
Is there a place you’ve always wanted to see? Somewhere you’re more excited about than apprehensive about? A destination that you will always remember as the start of something amazing or the beginning of a new chapter? Make that the place you go to first.
2. Take it at your pace, and play by your rules
You know your anxiety better than anyone. If you’re not ready to start travelling around the world yet, then that’s totally ok. If the idea of backpacking Thailand scares you more than excites you, that’s ok too.
Just because your friends are doing it, doesn’t mean you have to do it too.
We should all go at our own pace. Some of us need more time than others to prepare for big adventures and that’s perfectly normal.
Having anxiety doesn’t mean you can never do big adventures, you might just need more time to learn to control your anxiety for such a big moment.
I started off doing group tours to get used to travelling with strangers. This helped me to learn how to control my social anxiety. I then started taking short trips to places in Europe, mostly solo, to get used to looking after myself in another country.
Then, I started branching out to locations which I never thought I would be able to go to at the start of my travel journey. It’s taken time, but I’m getting there!
3. Are you spontaneous or do you prefer to plan ahead?
The process of booking your trips can be difficult when you have anxiety. But it’s the most exciting part! Knowing that you’ll soon be flying off across the world on your next adventure, having new experiences and meeting new people.
Planning your adventures in advance gives you more time to get ready for your trip. You could have weeks, months or even a year to plan your itinerary down to the last detail. The result? Less unwanted surprises.
But, sometimes waiting can be just as bad and can build up your anxiety over time. If this sounds like you, instead of booking in advance, have a look at last minute holidays. Find a great deal and just go. No build up. Just excitement.
4. Travel solo. Safely.
Most importantly, you need to make sure you’re safe. Initially, this is what I was most worried about when travelling alone.
I’ve actually not had any major issues when travelling. But if anything was to happen, I always make sure that I have the correct travel insurance for each trip. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
5. Make lists
When it comes to packing for trips, I’ve found it easier to make a packing list that I can refer to each time I go travelling. I find I still keep adding to it even now!
After a few years of travelling this list has become an essential tool and has made it impossible for me to forget anything.
6. Travel with a tour group
I find tour groups are the best way to travel alone because you’re never really alone.
The travel company plans your whole trip, itinerary, accommodation and transport. Not to mention the fantastic Trip Leaders who know the areas and let you know the best places to go (and to avoid).
You also pay for your trip in advance, so you all you have to worry about is having a great time.
So, go on. Be brave, take a deep breath and maybe I’ll see you on your next big adventure!
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of support, please contact your national mental health organisation.
Written by Natasha Atlas
Wanna give a group trip a go? Check out Topdeck trips and take your pick 🤗