How to Deal with Travel Anxiety and Traveling Alone

By Cathy H - 5:06 AM

As someone with an high level of of anxiety on a daily basis, traveling would be one of the things that make me the most anxious and uneasy. This is quite ironic because I go to multiple destinations every year. But, most of them are with friends and not long-haul flights requiring airport transfers or planned by my parents so I never had to worry about anything.

Living in a new country, I come to realize how scary traveling alone is ...even from my city to Seoul which take 2.5 H by train. The whole prospect of finding my housing, finding where I want to go, and not getting hopelessly lost in some terminal is just so stressful to me. My sense of direction is bad, on top of always thinking of worst case scenarios. In a week, I'll be flying to Bali on 12H and 17H flights and will meet up with friends once there thankfully...I just realized that flying internationally is so stressful and requires some planning and being aware of things beforehand. So, these are my suggestions and what I do when I have to travel alone long distances without having a high level of anxiety:

1. Make a itinerary chart: These can be done in Microsoft word or Excel, and for Bali I literally wrote every SINGLE thing I can plan in my control. Research the airport taxis, currency exchange places if going to countries that have a lot of shady scammers (Southeast countries are mostly like this), figure out the hotel distance to all the attractions and even book tours ahead of time!! Yes, planning does take away from the "freedom" of the trip, but just seeing step-by step words written out makes me feel like I'm capable of handling international trips. I remember I did a east coast trip for 2 weeks with family once, and now looking back will not take my dad's trip planning for granted. Some things seem of easy from the surface, like booking hotels and tours and airport procedures. But it requires preparation!!

2. Arrive to the airport EARLY: I'm going to arrive 4H early, get some sleep for 2H before checking into the airside of the terminal. Especially when passing through U.S. security, the lime gets tedious and before you know it an hour or so passes. Than, gates close early sometimes and it is obviously stressful especially being in a new airport for the first time. 

3. Accept that things do go wrong: I think that's what I tell myself when I think of bad scenarios, it is beyond your control and it just happens. Generally, I just make sure I do enough on my part to make sure things go smoothly. Everything else that's not beyond my control, I just try not to get anxious for no reason over it. 

4. If your friends don't plan a lot, take initiative: I tend to do a lot of research for vacations, but I always check back and forth with friends and make sure to CONFIRM what we plan to do multiple times, so everyone's on the same page. I do this even when hanging out, let alone traveling. I think for me though, I just have a low trust in others in general to do things the way I want it to be done.

5. Find out general travel information: This is just general tasks before flying, to make sure that entry is allowed to that country and you are allowed back in your country if living abroad. For example, I failed to remember I wanted to visit China this summer until my dad reminded me I needed a visa....some require weeks of applying while others are "Visa on Arrival" (VoA) like Bali. Also, search some medical and safety issues about the destination to look out for, especially being female and traveling. Sometimes it's better being safe than sorry. Also, look at the airlines baggage information and do online check-in to get a boarding pass to save time. 

Even though I get paranoid about traveling in general, I think it's amazing once you made it there and realize that wow....this is a new country and so far away from home! Everything is worth it at the end, with a lot of planning and preparation and not leaving things to the last minute. Travel is definitely quite a task!

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