I love to travel. I also struggle with an anxiety disorder that gets worse when I am traveling.
Traveling with anxiety can be absolutely exhausting, but I haven’t let it stop my love of seeing new places. It just requires that I go through extra steps others may not go through in order to have a relaxing time.
After I’ve purchased my plane or bus ticket, or have begun to coordinate with my friends about where we are going, I am already mentally going through my things and trying to figure out what is appropriate to take for this vacation. I keep an actual checklist with me – one of those Knock Knock brand pads that I once purchased on a whim – to keep track of and make sure that I have everything that I intend to bring. This also means constantly checking the weather conditions to make sure I don’t pack the wrong kind of clothing.
When I am ready to pack – anywhere from a week beforehand to the night before – the process goes something like this:
First, I will highlight the items on the checklist I will be bringing. I know I won’t need everything that’s on the list, and I make sure to fill out the sections for travel destination and weather. Next, I will gather all of the items I intend to bring and neatly fold or roll up the articles of clothing to place in my luggage. When I fly I try not to carry more than a carry-on bag and a personal item so I can avoid baggage fees (and also reduce my chances of over packing).
Seems like a normal process, right? Well, after I’ve done all of that and my luggage is packed, I have the need to take everything out and run through my checklist at least one or two more times in order to make sure that I am 100 percent confident I’ve packed everything I need for the trip.
Even then I am still not confident and a flurry of thoughts come crashing down on me: What if I forget my passport? What if I don’t have enough money with me? What if I lose my luggage? What if the weather does a complete 180 and I have packed for the wrong weather? Should I pack for a surprise formal event just in case?
Getting to the Airport/Bus/Train Station/Meeting up With Friends
The journey to the airport, train or bus station is often a nightmare in and of itself. I constantly worry I’m going to miss my mode of transportation and I will be stuck. The last time I flew on a plane, I was going to Colorado (where I will be going again soon) and I arrived at the airport nearly three hours before my plane was due to leave because I was afraid security was going to take forever. In reality, it only took 20 minutes to get through security, if that.
I was traveling with my then-partner and I remember feeling so shaky and uneasy while we had to check our luggage and later trying to find a place to sit at our gate. I also remember feeling dread come over me that our plane was going to be overbooked and we were going to get bumped to a later flight. On our return trip, this actually happened but we didn’t get bumped thankfully.
The Importance of Traveling With Friends
As much as I would love to be able to travel alone more frequently, I find the best way to help quell my travel anxiety is to travel with a friend, relative or partner who I trust can calm me down and help ground me when I start to panic. The ones who know the unspoken signs of an anxiety attack about to happen and know exactly what to do in that kind of situation. I have been lucky in that whenever I’ve done major travel, it has always been with someone I trust to be there and help the situation rather than make things worse.
My anxiety may worsen when I travel, but I haven’t stopped moving yet.
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