You did it! You started planning your first solo trip. Maybe as a treat to yourself, or fulfil that dream of eating your weight in pasta in every Italian town. But what about that pesky thing called anxiety? If you are like me, travel anxiety was one of the first things you thought of.
Living with an adventurous soul but an anxious mind is a bit like living with one foot on the gas and the other on the break.
What if I have an anxiety attack? I have always wanted to eat pasta in Italy… Can I handle being alone in a strange place? Should I cancel the ticket?
You are not the only one, and because you are an anxious person doesn’t mean you can’t take that solo trip you have been dreaming of.
Take The Wheel!
As I said, travel can be amazing. But anxiety isn’t going to take a break just because of the change of scenery. So, I tried my best to ignore it. I went out, met new people, tried new food and kept myself so busy I forgot to sleep.
Until I finally did, and the next morning it was grey and rainy outside, and an anxious storm brewing inside my head. For those that have never experienced this feeling of anxiety, it is different for everyone. For me, I feel an intense melancholy, and like my brain won’t slow down.
Sometimes I can see it coming and others, a not-so-fun surprise. Feeling the way I did, I didn’t want to go out and adventure, or even be there. For me, sketching is an amazing tool to get everything out on paper and really clear my head. Others have found walking, exercise, medication or even talking it out with friends and family have helped alleviate those feelings of anxiety and homesickness.
(Please keep in mind, these are what have worked for me in the past and are my personal tools to manage anxiety while travelling alone. Please seek out a medical practitioner before going on a solo trip if you are worried about your mental health.)
Feel Those Feels
If you have these feelings while travelling, just take a deep breath and recognize those feelings. Ignoring them and pushing away an anxiety attack could make it worse or cause other issues on top of that.
Next, create a safe space for yourself either mentally, physically or (ideally) both. You are not the only one feeling this way, it is common for those travelling alone to feel a sense of homesickness, anxiety, depression and fear. But to let it control you and this amazing experience you bravely chose would be a mistake. Reminding myself of this, I called my sister back home, creating that safe space for me (including music, meditation and sketching) to feel the feelings.
I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go on my planned adventures in Seoul that day. And I have the pictures to prove it! Side note: anxious about adventuring in a new culture alone? Reach out to the reception desk where you are staying for ideas, and have a game plan on where you are going and how to get there before you leave your room. I actually bring my Mom’s necklace with me when I travel, taking a bit of home with me to keep me grounded.
And The Next Thing You Know…
Once you are out, enjoy! Soak it all in, try the delicious smelling cart food you don’t recognize, sit in on a street side performance in a different language. All the while, keeping in mind how you feel.
Check in, stop by a cafe and sit for a while, taking in the crowd. Maybe read a book while letting the rest of you catch up with the whirlwind experience.
If I find myself getting so swept up in the experience I’ve found I forget to take a beat and sit with it. Besides, who doesn’t like some good ol’ fashioned people watching?
But Actually, You Can
All in all, travelling on your own can be an amazing experience. That push beyond that chest-tightening breath can be a scary one, but please promise me you won’t let those feelings and that voice in your head tell you that you can’t.
That voice will still be there, in Prague, Italy, even at the new restaurant down the street! I’ve found that anxiety isn’t always a hindrance, as I thought.
But a superpower to make us stronger, a challenge to prove to ourselves that we can push beyond it and grow to know ourselves better. If you can conquer that, then you can do anything. Even buy that ticket.