When Anxiety Follows You Around the World
My name is Alice, I am 23 and I am traveling solo around the world. Oh… and I struggle with anxiety.
Before I came traveling, I read a lot of travel blogs. From these, I painted a picture in my head that traveling would be this whirlwind experience, that would make your Instagram account look on point and make your friends at home jealous. Don’t get me wrong — this has been the most amazing experience I have ever done (and I’m only a quarter of the way through). I have been to places I would never have dreamed of, learned about different cultures and made some great friends. But I have also experienced some of the toughest moments of my life, which is hardly spoken about with traveling peers, on social media and blogs. After having a few difficult days, I wanted to share my experience.
I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, but it was only when I went to university that I was actually diagnosed with it. Previously, I would just be “the worrier.” Through the years, I have been in some dark places but I always see the light at the end of the tunnel. And if I am honest, that has not changed since I have been traveling. Put your hand up if you have felt homesick, cried or frankly lonely when traveling solo? Yup, me too! I have literally sat in the sea on a beautiful Thai island and cried because of how anxious and lonely I felt.
Sometimes my anxiety feels heavier than my backpack, and that weights a lot. But shouldn’t I be having an amazing time? Yes, but sometimes that is easier said than done. A few days before writing this post (and what triggered me to write it) I had a panic attack whilst learning to dive, and then had several days after which I felt very low and anxious. During those days, I was occasionally exploring with friends, but that anxious feeling was always at the back of my mind, niggling away at me. It was exhausting. I was on the verge of booking a ticket home. I felt there was so much pressure to have a good time, but I could not have felt lonelier and could barely pull it together. And this wasn’t the first time I have experienced this traveling. On a number of occasions, I have been completely overwhelmed with anxiety, homesickness and loneliness.
However, I count myself lucky I have a strong family unit and friends who are always there for me, no matter what. When traveling solo, sometimes you need them just to help you out, give you some encouragement and show you how rubbish the weather is back home. What I have learned living with anxiety is that I know I will be OK, as I have got to the other side plenty of times before.
From my experience, for anyone having a bad day whilst traveling:
1. Do whatever you need to do to calm yourself down. Talk to friends, family, buy that burger or chocolate bar, have a nap. Breathe.
2. Don’t put pressure on yourself to go “have a good time.” Sometimes you need to go to bed early and watch a movie. Chill out.
3. A tip one of my friends always tells me to do: treat yourself. And why not? Even if it is getting a manicure or having a nice meal.
I would like all fellow travelers, solo or not, to know it is OK to have a bad day. Life can be hard sometimes, but as cliché as it sounds, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” If you can battle your demons, especially when traveling, you can achieve anything. You really will have the time of your life and meet some incredible people.
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