Fear of travel is a familiar barrier for many. Being weary of the unknown, experiencing concern about safety in a new destination, and having dread of air travel itself can stop us from dreaming big.
I know because I struggle with it sometimes too.
If unchecked, my fears could rob me of the ability to live the life I want to live. But as a traveling filmmaker and journalist, I spend a fair amount of time on the road, so I’ve had to devise a system that enables me to move past my negative feelings and into a state of peace.
With my system in mind, and in support of Expedia’s “No Excuses” advertising campaign, here are five tips for how to calm your nerves and enjoy the ride that travel brings.
Write a better story
One way we provoke anxiety about travel is by imagining potential negative scenarios. Personally, I fret about missing my flight or finding myself alone and in danger in my destination. I have become quite the master at crafting these tales. But I must remind myself that these narratives are not reality. They are all in my imagination.
My advice? For each negative story your brain constructs also think of a detailed counter-story that is positive and can outline an ideal chain of events. The truth is that most often trips turn out fine, and all that worrying is for naught.
Shine a light on your destination
To a certain degree, it's human nature to be wary of new surroundings. And not knowing what to expect once you are on the ground as you travel can be a source of anxiety for some (again, myself included).
If you struggle with this, do research and prove to yourself that you’ve done all you can to eliminate the unknowns. This is an exercise in practicality and psychology.
Don’t just read travel publications that seem to make destinations appear flawless. Find blogs by regular travelers to get a fuller understanding of your destination. Watch travel videos on YouTube to get a visceral impression of the place. And finally, once you’ve researched, promise yourself to let go.
Engage in healthy habits
Our emotions are not governed by our surroundings; they are impacted highly by our activities and hormones. When I am anxious about a trip, I find it is especially useful to engage in healthy habits leading up to my travel day.
Specifically, I suggest exercising the morning of a flight, train, or car ride (as well as on days leading up to them.) I find this decreases the chance of restlessness or swelling in the legs when sitting for long hours. It also releases endorphins that make me see the world more positively.
Additionally, I find that when I am experiencing dips in blood sugar, irritability and dormant fears can emerge. To combat this, I eat frequent, balanced meals and snacks (of wholesome, low sugar and high protein foods) on my travel days to keep my metabolism fired up and my blood sugar level.
Use a musical distraction
If anxiety sets in for you while you are at the airport or on the plane, remember this: An anxious mind is like a small child. Distract yourself from negative thoughts, and a more pleasant emotional state will set in. Music is a useful tool to achieve this goal.
What does this mean? It means you create a few playlists that make you smile for travel days that may make you fret. I sometimes listen to a mix of 90's R&B that takes me back to an eighth-grade dance. Or I’ll fill my ear buds with salsa music that reminds me of having fun on the dance floor. These playlists can provide just enough distraction to get me through a tough moment.
Get out of your head and into your skin
A powerful technique that we can use in any stressful situation is called progressive muscle relaxation. It helps calm down an anxious mind by bringing attention to the physical body. And you can do it standing or sitting down anywhere.
Here's how to do it. Make a fist and squeeze your hands tight for 3-4 seconds, then release. Next, flex your forearms for 3-4 seconds, and release. Then do the same with the biceps. Cycle through these muscle groups a few times over and your anxiety will find itself out of your fast-moving mind and into the physical world. Use this as much as you need. And if you are sitting or laying down, you can include a wider range of muscle groups. The more you use, the more relaxation it induces. I've learned that one first-hand.