Feeling anxiety about travelling solo? This article covers my tips on traveling alone with anxiety before and during your travels.
The thought of travelling solo may conjure up excitement, fear and some anxiety. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, it’s natural to have travel anxiety before going away. It can be a really weird feeling – a mix of excitement and nerves at the same time. You're taking yourself out of your comfort zone so it can create some panic.
The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Travel anxiety is actually more common than you may think.
Thoughts of whether you’ll meet anyone or can cope by yourself can make you panic before you even book your flight. But don’t let travel anxiety put you off going and having the most amazing experience.
I have been to 147 countries (115 of these solo) and I still experience some anxiety when I’m on the road. My anxiety tends to get worse when I’m overtired and I now know the triggers and how to deal with it. In my experience the reality of everything is never as bad as we imagine it to be. It is just our body’s way of protecting us by trying to stop us going into the unknown.
Here are my tips for dealing with anxiety when you travel. You'll find a free meditation at the bottom of this page to help too:
Travel Anxiety Before You Book
1. Write down what is causing the anxiety – is it the thought of not meeting anyone, of not being able to cope by yourself, maybe it’s social anxiety and the thought of walking into a room full of strangers fills you with anxiety. Then write down the worse that can happen to see that it’s not actually that bad.
2. It can sometimes be overwhelming at the thought of everything. Break your trip down into smaller steps: getting to the airpot, first flight, accommodation, next flight, transfer, hostel.
3. Plan as much as you can before. Know where you need to go, how to get there, what currency you need etc. Cover every detail so that you don’t have anything to worry about it. Leave yourself enough time too. That eliminates so much anxiety.
4. Find someone else in Facebook groups or forums who has been there and ask them how it is for added comfort.
5. If you are volunteering or joining a placement, organisations will usually look after you and arrange group inductions and activities. Or ask the organisation to put you in touch with someone already there.
Overcome Travel Anxiety on Your Trip
1. Picture the end result to remind yourself why you are doing this. Visualise yourself laying on the beach that you've been saving up for and keep that as your ‘happy place.'
2. Congratulate yourself with each step you take. Tell yourself you’re doing really well and how amazing you are. Take it step by step.
3. Don’t get travel fatigued. Sometimes we feel as though we should be doing and seeing everything especially if our trip is short. Allow yourself enough rest and build rest days into your itinerary. If you take an overnight train or bus, stay still for a couple of days to recuperate.
3. Avoid sugary drinks, caffeine and junk food which can make it worse. We are what we eat may sound like a cliche but it's true. Watch what you are putting into your body and avoid alcohol if you are having an anxious day.
4. Meditate and breathe deeply. If you find it challenging to meditate or have never done it before there are plenty of anxiety meditations on Youtube to help guide you.
5. When the mind starts going on overload – go for a walk. Just changing the energy within your body can help. Within a few minutes you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel as you take the action.
6. Say positive affirmations and replace any negative thoughts with positive ones.
7. Keep a travel journal to write in. This really helps if you haven't spoken to anyone in a few days. Just getting it out of your head onto paper can give the negative thoughts an outlet to help dissipate them.
8. Get yourself into nature whether it's by a beach or in a nearby park. Sit on a bench and observe everything around you, listening to the sound of the waves or the birds singing.
9. I am a fan of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Just by tapping certain meridian points on my body can dissolve my anxious thoughts and unlock any fears I have surrounding it. It's really simple to do and so effective. If you've never heard of it, here's a video on how to do it.
Flying on a plane can cause anxiety as you not in control in the plane. Your anxiety may be more of a fear of flying. If you get anxiety before flying (like me), here are my tips for coping on a plane:
1. Think about things that you are in control of instead of not being able to control the plane. Bringing back control allows your mind to choose your reaction rather than allowing your body and mind to choose it for you.
2. Wear loose fitted clothes i.e. leggings instead of jeans and wear shoes that you can slip off to make yourself more comfortable.
3. Get up and walk around if it gets too much. Go to the plane toilets and splash some water on your face, neck and wrists.
4. Stay as cool as you can – direct the airflow onto you and turn it up if you need to.
5. Choose a herbal tea such as peppermint or camomile instead of coffee to feel calmer. Avoid sugar and sweets if you can.
6. Take apples or ginger tablets with you if you suffer from travel sickness. Purchase travel sickness tablets before you travel or use seabands which help during turbulence.
7. Make sure that you get a good night’s sleep before the flight and avoid early morning flights if you can. Being more tired can make you more anxious. Take mints with you and suck a mint whenever you start to panic.
8. Upload some relaxing music on your iPod or phone or listen to an audiobook or meditation. Don’t listen or watch anything that will get your heart beat racing.
9. Sit as close to the front as you can (the back moves more), and choose a window seat.
10. If turbulence gives you anxiety, imagine that you are on a train when it starts rocking. Look at the air hostesses. If they are not sitting down, it is just normal turbulence.
11. Read the magazine on take off and landing when you can’t have any electrical devices on. Or learn something such as another language or something from a book to take your mind of what it is feeling.
12. Use tapping techniques (EFT) before boarding.
13. Think how amazing you are going to feel once you get off and arrive at your exciting destination.
14. Worse case scenario – ask to hold the person’s hand next to you.
When you're traveling alone with anxiety, remember that any emotion you feel is temporary. Energy goes where you put focus on so shift your focus to the good things about your trip. Do more research and write down what you’re excited about.
Most of all be kind to yourself and listen to your body. If you need to take another day to rest do it. If you feel like staying in and crying, do it. Take it step by step and do whatever you feel you need to do to feel better. Travelling solo takes guts and you're doing it!
If you are feeling anxious about booking your trip, post in our Facebook community and reach out in the group if you need help. If you’ve arrived somewhere and are feeling anxious, tell us. With so many members on different time zones, there will always be someone to answer and help. Remember that you’re not alone. Lisa x
Travelling With Social Anxiety
Not many people know this and it will probably seem like a bit of a shock especially as I travel the world by myself and have now been to 75 countries but I suffer from bouts of social anxiety.
If you haven't heard of it, it's a phobia that makes you feel unable to leave the house and is similar to those of a panic attack (which I experienced many of in my twenties) and although I don't believe in labels, this is a recurring symptom for me.
And as I'm writing this, I'm experiencing another bout of it. I'm sat in an apartment that I found on Couchsurfing and have been sitting here alone for the last three hours unable to go out. The longer I sit here, the greater the anxiety of going out is rising. It feels silly as there's no real logical reason why I'm feeling like this but the very thought of opening the door and going outside fills me with dread.
As an introvert with social anxiety, it doesn't happen often but when it does, it's hard to overcome.
The only way for me to combat it is to tell myself it's not a logical fear. It makes me feel as though I can't face the world but I know I have to. When I'm travelling with others, staying in dorms, and being in the company of people I don't even feel it but being alone for a long time seems to trigger the symptoms.
I'm writing this post to try and inspire others who get the symptoms to overcome it too. It does not stop me from travelling and does not hinder my experiences but only because I don't let it. Sometimes the thought of going out is too overwhelming but the worse thing you can do it is give into it. Make plans, arrange to meet someone so you have to leave the house, plan the next part of your trip to take your mind of the anxiety or just open the door and take a few deep breaths to tell yourself that it's okay out there.
For me, surrounding myself with others is the best cure, but it's just getting to them that causes the mind block. If I can travel solo experiencing these symptoms, anyone can. Don't let fears stop you from living your dream. They are only what's in your mind and not real.
So for now, I am going to open the door with a deep breath, and get myself back out into the wide world…soon