The Tales and Tips of a (Once) Anxious Traveler.
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Most people assume that those who travel are steely nerved and made of the strongest stuff on Earth. How else are you going to fly across the world on your own with no idea of where you’re going to or how to navigate it? How will you cope with a different environment, unable to gauge whether something bad will happen to you? Well, it’s not easy to start with. It used to put me right on the edge of my seat – how do I navigate an airport, where do I go, how do I check in!? What if someone steals everything!? What if I spontaneously COMBUST!?
You won’t. You CAN do this.
The first time I went travelling on my own was the most ridiculous of circumstances. I booked my flight from Cardiff to Barcelona at 10pm at night, with a schedule to leave the house at 6am the next day. I had to get a taxi to the coach station, get a coach to Bristol, wait for 2 hours, get a coach to Cardiff, get a taxi to the airport (£25 – OUCH!) and then work out how airports work and where I needed to be.
I had to somehow process this within the 8 hours I had between booking the flight and leaving for it – and still to this day I’m really proud of how brave I was. I had extremely bad anxiety at this point of my life, so anything that manifested fear of the unknown got my heart racing Usain Bolt style. But I think it was this ridiculous game plan that made it entirely feasible for me to make this journey.
All went smoothly on the way there; the journey was a piece of cake. A lengthy, dire piece of cake, but a heavenly slice all the same. However, the return journey was an entirely different story. After realising that trains only ran every 2 hours on a Sunday, my boyfriend told me I had 5 minutes to pack everything and run to the car – at this point, I was still half asleep in bed! Panicking, we ran from the car, bought train tickets and sprinted to the train; I made it on, he didn’t. I had no money, no credit on my phone, no idea where I was or how I’d get to the airport.
The worst of circumstances.
Now, at this point, I would normally burst into tears and find myself in a huge fit of anxiety, becoming an inconsolable mess on the floor in the wrath of a full blown panic attack. This vision of me breaking down on the Barcelona Metro ran through my head as the go-to outcome, but I had a sudden epiphany. The absolute worst thing that could EVER have happened, had happened. I was well and truly up shit creek. So why not just laugh about my awful luck and deal with it? 17 years old and stranded in Barcelona (not quite an Iggy Azalea song, but close) is more fun than being stuck in a Chemistry lab, trying desperately to revise content I couldn’t and still can’t comprehend.
I figured my way out of the situation, and that’s what happens when you go travelling for the most part – you just have to keep calm, laugh and figure stuff out. I make it sound easy, and trust me, it wasn’t always this way. Travelling to London at the age of 15, my friend and I missed the coach back home and I burst into tears – the thought of staying in the capital city a moment longer freaked me out no end. But luckily, I reacted to this situation in a completely different way.
I topped my phone up with credit and talked to my boyfriend on the phone. He gave me instructions which I (naturally) managed to screw up again, at which point I gave up on the Metro system indefinitely and decided to get a taxi to the airport. I made it and with help from a fantastic friend I’d made on the flight to Barcelona, I made my way through the big and scary Barcelona Aeropuerto.
Going through this experience as a 17 year old with crippling anxiety changed me for life. I still have anxiety that can be pretty disabling at times, but I’m infinitely more confident with travelling and with life. I’m more than happy to fly to different countries or cities on my own or with a partner, and it’s this jet setting that keeps building me up as a person.
Admittedly I’m still a bit scared of London and would take a foreign destination over it any day, but I’m always a work in progress…
If you’re a nervous traveler, I do have tips for being better to go on exciting adventures. Especially as I’m someone who has screwed it up royally on many occasions.
1. Always make sure you plan with as little or as much time as you have. Make sure you have a sound and reliable form of transport from and to each destination. Do not pick the last bus/train/flight. I recently nearly missed a flight to Amsterdam because the taxi rank in Palma was jam packed full of tourists waiting for a taxi, but luckily one was found one on the road a few hundred yards away and my boyfriend and I made it to our plane in time. Let’s be honest though, it eliminates a lot of stress when you know the timetable of your day – especially when you allow for a comfortable time slot on each side! This also takes away the ten minute sprint you have to do through the airport. Asthma attacks are NOT the one – even if you are laughing them off in the comfort of your seat!
2. Bring books. I’m really bad at travelling in the sense that I’ll be SO EXCITED TO GO AWAY THAT I CAN’T FOCUS ON ANYTHING AAAAAAH. But when I finally discipline myself to read or write, the time goes by a LOT quicker. If you fail at this, make sure your phone is constantly charged through the day so you can spam the group chat.
3. Download your boarding passes onto your phone. It’s an absolute lifesaver, not to mention four million times easier. If you do have the opportunity to do this, please do enter the 21st century. It’s one less piece of paper to worry about – but again, make sure your phone is fully charged.
4. Bags with WHEELS are your FRIENDS. For the longest time I would go away with a weekend bag that left the biggest indentations an object can make on one’s shoulder. It’s ludicrous – save yourself a lot of pain and physical effort and invest in some wheels.
5. Make sure you take ANY medicine you need. When you go away it’s so easy to fall out of sync with routine, but keeping up with medicines will help you stay healthy and regular. This’ll do you wonders and allow you one less thing to worry about when you’re in a totally new environment.