Travel Anxiety

Travel Anxiety

I like to travel, but I don’t think I fall into the #wanderlust category. I like seeing new places, eating new things, and having new experiences, but I also like my home, my bed, and my routine. Overall, I’m something of a homebody.

Add my tendency to worry about all things and the fact that any change makes me anxious, and one can imagine that I get a little stressed when traveling.

This travel anxiety definitely affected me when I studied abroad in Europe for a semester–4 months–but it even hits me during shorter, seemingly easy trips. I was reminded of this fact when I visited Niagara Falls for just a quick trip this past weekend.

I think that one of the biggest problems for me when traveling is that not having a plan makes me really anxious in general, but when I’m travelling, I’m also afraid of scheduling myself too rigidly. I want to be able to change my mind and follow a whim if I see something that looks interesting and worth exploring. It’s hard to have it both ways. If I leave time in my plans for unexpected adventures (or delays) and none pop up, then I feel as though I have a wasted chunk of time on my hands. But if I schedule every minute, then I feel like I’m rushing myself and any travel companions.

And that last part segues right into my next biggest cause of travel anxiety–the fear that whomever I’m traveling with is not having fun or is resenting a decision I made. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get pulled down by other people’s bad moods, so if someone is not having fun, I get sucked into a downward spiral of negativity. Especially if I think that they think it’s my fault that we’re not having fun. I struggle a lot with feelings of guilt in general, so the thought that I’m ruining someone else’s trip really freaks me out.

One other, slightly less pleasant to discuss, sources of stress for me while traveling is my IBS, which has the wonderful perk of being both a cause and a result of stress, which means that it’s a bit of a vicious cycle. Plus, depending on who I’m traveling with, I may or not be comfortable explaining my (slightly awkward) situation with. Can we start a movement of de-stigmatizing talking about bowel movements?

This last weekend managed to pack all three of these issues into a trip lasting less than 48 hours–quite impressive. Going forward, I think I need to work on developing trip itineraries that are a better balance of (1) planning and (2) room for revisions/additions/subtractions to said planning. Working together with all travel companions on these plans would also probably help ameliorate some stress too, by making sure that we’re doing things that everyone wants to do, at least some of the time.

As for the IBS issue, I’m working on improving that area of my life in general, with all my talk of probiotics and the gut-brain axis. Reducing travel anxiety from other sources should also help to reduce my IBS symptoms when traveling and in turn reduce my stress attached to IBS.

I have no problem being a homebody (hey, it is cheaper than traveling!) but I would like to attach less stress to traveling. How do you deal with travel anxiety? If you have experience with IBS, do you have a hard time talking about it? (And yes, I recognize the irony inherent to answering that question.)

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