Life Lessons Learned from Travel Anxiety

Airplane travel sign

I have a serious love/hate relationship with traveling. On one hand, I love going to new places, getting out of my routine. I also love flying. On the other hand, I get extreme anxiety from going through security lines, managing boarding passes and managing the to and from details of an airport.

And it’s not just flying, although that’s probably the worst of it. I love road trips but hate sitting in the car for hours at a time. I think travel is amazing and yet packing sends me into a panicked frenzy that affects anyone who gets near me.  

All the moments leading up to leaving turn me into an insane person that I can barely stand. My last flight took 2 glasses of something bubbly to just stop me from vibrating with anxiety. (Thank the wine gods for Vino Volo Airport Wine Bar – best thing to ever happen to airports.) As soon as that plane takes off though,  the anxiety melts away and it’s just joy at the take off.

I know I’m probably in the minority but I love take off and touch down. Those in-between moments are so full of potential and possibility. They are ripe with the excitement of journey and adventure. The plane starts to push forward and all of my worries are pushed aside.

Sure the guy behind me won’t stop kicking my chair (Seriously though, what are you doing with your feet?  Or is that your knees? Are you river dancing?) and the line for the bathroom is a little long, but I’m on my way. I’m focused and I’m past the worry and craziness.

Knowing Your Trigger

I happen to know that I need to be as close to packed as possible the night before a trip. I need to have at least 2 hours before “go time” to get ready and repack. (Yup, I have to pack twice.) I know that if I don’t have a list, this process of packing and then repacking with be highly problematic.

Somebody Sedate Me gif

Even with that list though, I’ll be on edge. That’s okay though because I know it’s coming. I can prepare for it and adjust.

Plan For A Meltdown

I am someone who tends to run a little extreme. I don’t set goals to achieve them. I set goals to slaughter them and then deal with the let down if I didn’t hit +200% to goal. I don’t make quick packing lists either. I made detailed lists that encompass any item I might need for any situation that comes up.

While packing can be a stress trigger for me, it can also be stress relieving. I just need to take the time to sit down and think it out. I plan for my meltdown, knowing in the moment I’ll forget what I think is important. I’ll pack 3 extra pairs of underwear but forget deodorant – come repacking time, this will mean I lose my $h!t.

I also know that if I don’t give myself time to double check and repack (adding in the last second things like toothpaste and toothbrush) a meltdown is sure to occur.

So I plan for it, well in advance. I think about the worst things can be and work backwards to avoid it.

  1. Talk out the location with someone.
    Just in case it’s somewhere new or I’m not sure what I’m going to need, I start off by just getting 10 minutes with a friend or the Colbster to discuss the weather, my activities, etc.
  2. Make the worlds greatest to-pack list.
    I start with my head and work my way down my body creating a list of all the things I’ll need (Q-tips, contact solution, pants, shoes, etc.). Once I’m done with that, I make a list of all the accessories or tech gadgets I might want for all the things (see #1) I might be doing.
  3. Go through and delete half of my list.
    It’s highly unlikely I’ll need all the things that occur to me but just by writing them down, I get the feeling of forgetting out of my system. I probably don’t need my kindle, chromebook, tablet, iPhone and 3 books but if they don’t make the big list, I’ll worry about them later.
  4. Make outfits and bundles of things. 
    When I start off, I’ll have 3 outfits for everyday I’m there – it’s too much. So I collect everything, assess it all at once and dwindle down.
  5. Attempt to pack it all and then repeat #3 and #4. 
    Because I have a problem. 🙂
  6. Set calendar appointments and specific time frames for myself to accomplish these tasks. 
    It sounds pretty lame but by booking out that time, I’m committing to the process that I know will help to alleviate as much stress as possible.

Once I’ve planned for the worst, I can implement the plan that allows me to be as chill as I’m capable of. I know this won’t be easy on me but there’s no reason I can’t make it as easy as it can be.

Build In Comforts to Pacify Yourself

Travel makes me anxious. It also makes me joyful. I am constantly trying to balance between the two spaces. To help lean more towards joy, I try to build in comforts to lean on.

  • I pack a book that I know I’ll love even if it’s not my priority to read.
  • I get to the airport early enough to have a glass of wine or walk through the newly released books.
  • I buy the expensive bottled water and maybe a candy bar.

I’m still the nutcase I’ve always been, but I’m pacified by the little things that bring me pleasure. I can then calm down faster and enjoy my travels.

How is this a life lesson?

Because you can apply it anywhere. Are you anxious before a big test or an interview? Build a plan and give yourself some comforts. Don’t hold back on the things that make you uncomfortable but don’t make it any harder for yourself either. Learn what sets you off and then try to find a way to relax into it.

What are your coping methods? Any recommendations for my next trip?

Photo credit: Cropped image by Flickr user Anne.

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