Anxiety and travel. Not a great combination but possible to overcome.
For our honeymoon, my husband and I booked a tour to Greece and Turkey with Fez Travel. The months before our trip to Turkey were filled with trepidation and excitement for me. On one hand, I was drooling over amazing pictures of Cappadocia and Istanbul on Instagram, while on the other hand I was terrified I would contract typhoid, rabies, or food poisoning based on what I was reading on the CDC website. I was also reading food safety articles recommending avoiding buffets and street food, while at the same time feeling like “you only live once” and envying other bloggers who eat whatever they wanted, street food and cold cuts included.
As a worrywart and germaphobe with anxiety who’s adventurous at heart, this is the constant struggle I face with every trip. I’ll worry over vaccinations I do or don’t get, worry about what can go wrong during a trip, agonize over whether or not to buy an anti-theft purse, and pack a few too many “just in case” medicines. I’m afraid of sickness, assault, pickpocketing, kidnapping, and more–that’s the problem with anxiety and living in a world that does have evil people.
Someone recently said they’d think I’d be the last person to travel based on how I am! But here’s the funny thing: I love travel and push myself to do it even when it means going out of my comfort zone. It’s not always easy, but the benefits outweigh the risks. I’ve wanted to see the world since I was fourteen, so avoiding travel wasn’t an option for me. I take what precautions I can while also realizing that some things are out of our control–even if I avoided travel, there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t be robbed or killed in my own state. The world is too beautiful to live in one place.
How do I cope with the anxiety? Things like preparation, research, journaling, meditation, and talking to a trusted friend can help. It helps to develop what precautions or plans I can. For example, I might keep some of my cash and credit cards separated, so that if I’m robbed, I will have at least a little bit of a safety net. I can also travel with a copy of my passport and the phone numbers of all my credit cards–in the event my passport gets stolen or my cards need to be cancelled due to theft, I have the information I need to quickly do what I need to do. I’ll rent pocket wi-fi for reliable internet, and if the wi-fi fails my back-up plan is to turn on roaming data if there’s an emergency. If I’m visiting a county with a language gap, I learn how to say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Help,” and have a language phrasebook. Despite the risks of mistranslations, I’ve also used Google Translate to help when I don’t have any English speakers to help. My biggest thing is I make sure to buy trip insurance, because that can save thousands of dollars if I were to be seriously injured or if I died.
You also don’t know what things are truly like until you’re there. Our tour guide assured us that rabies was not a huge risk like the CDC website made it sound like, especially in the areas we were visiting, and the only place our tour guide really cautioned against theft was in Istanbul. During our tour in Turkey, it was very rare that I felt unsafe.
On our honeymoon, my poor husband heard so many of my complaints and obsessive thoughts about everything from hotel cleanliness to risky drivers, but it really helped to just be able to talk about my fears instead of bottling them up inside. It helps to have someone to help walk through the best and worst case scenarios so that you have a rough idea what you’ll do if the worst happens.
During our trip, we tried to be cautious and weren’t pickpocketed. We ate what we wanted during the entire trip for the most part, and since we weren’t totally cautious with what we ate, my husband did get food poisoning for one day. That was the first time on any of our trips past or present where one of us got food poisoning, and since we like to eat new foods, we also have to take a calculated risk. Most of the time, the things I’ve worried about the most haven’t come true. (And for the record, my husband has gotten food poisoning in our hometown, so it can happen anywhere, not just in a foreign country.)
The main key to overcoming anxiety during travel is to prepare for what you can, accept what you can’t control, and to know that you did your best to prepare in the event something does go wrong. I try to do my best, and love seeing new places, so this anxious traveler is going to do her best to keep traveling.