Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
The Secret to Conquering Travel Anxiety is to GET EXCITED
If you haven’t read Vagabond Secret 1: How to Quickly Leap to Your First Adventure, do that shit now.
After buying a plane ticket, you might be buying new swimsuits or reading the refund policy. There’re all kinds of travel anxieties that creep up on us, from buyer’s remorse to unsettling feelings that we’re about to ruin our entire lives somehow. Don’t worry; nothing is happening right now. You made an investment in something you know in your heart is the right thing to do. That is important. You don’t want to look back at your life in old age and realize you missed an opportunity to travel the world. That’d be a catastrophe and that’s something to worry about. You took precautions to avoid regret: the enemy of life.
On the other end of anxiety is excitement.
Step one: Get excited! The best way to do this is to get yourself hyped up about all the magical things that’re about to happen. Look through images online of where you’re going. Check out photos other travelers have taken. Find adventures at your destination that really rev your engine and jot them down. Get excited that you’re finally doing something you’ve always wanted to do! I have a nagging suspicion that this’ll be one of the greatest moments in your life, that you’ll be talking about this trip forever. What could be more valuable than that? A memory you relive over and over again is the best investment you can make (so long as it’s good). You’re going to learn more on this one trip than you could at home for a decade, and what could be more fruitful than that? Everything about travel makes you a better person. Your spiritual core will strengthen as you test out your courage (courage is kept dormant until you exercise it… and here’s your chance), your emotional capacity for others will broaden, your perspective will widen, any stereotypes society has implanted in your head will disappear, and all that will make you more pleasurable to be around and allow you to impart more wisdom to those in your life. You walk with a new strut to your hop when you respect yourself in the highest fashion possible, and travel is one of the most esteemable acts you can do for yourself. As the saying goes: if you want self-esteem, do esteemable acts. I’m not sure who actually said that…
Step two: Normalize it. The best way to do that is by telling everyone you know. Release those nerves into the air by way of conversation and let them die out in the stratosphere. We do our best thinking and process our feelings best when we talk about them out loud. Talk about them and they will dissipate. I’m not saying to get rid of all nerves, that’s not realistic (or healthy). It’s good to feel a small sense of anxiety because it means you’re alive, but too much is never good, especially if it’s keeping you from making that first move: buying your ticket. If you keep it a secret that you want serious change in your life and say nothing about your trip to anyone, you’ll look like a lunatic when it comes to departure day and you tell everyone in your life that you’re heading to Indonesia. You’ll sound manic and people might struggle to take you seriously. All big decisions happen within a moment, but most of the time that moment has been pondered over for months, years, or decades. You’ve known your whole life you were going to do this.
Tell the important people in your life something along the lines of: “I know this might sound crazy, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do… I’m going to Ireland next month.” Your mom or sister or whoever might freak out, but they’ll get used to it. It’s like my first tattoo. My mom asked me if it was bigger than a quarter. I was eighteen years old at the time. The tattoo was an intense half-sleeve tribal tattoo (I know, I know… I was an angry teen in the ’90s, forgive me). Now, fourteen years later, she looks at my arms—now covered in tattoos—and says, “You know, they really did a good job with that Snow White.” Yeah, I’ve got a tattoo of Snow White… The point is that people get used to things after the initial shock. The trick is to convince yourself that it’s a necessary action. You’re living your damn life; the one you’ve always envisioned you’d live; the one you’ve dreamt about when you were eighteen years old; the one that completely escaped your agenda when you got out of college and found a job that scared you into not making that paycheck every week. All of that is about to change. The ticket has been bought and you’re going abroad in less than five weeks (or whenever you bought it for).
If people ask you why you are doing what you are doing, you don’t want to sound flighty and irresponsible, even though this is the most responsible thing you’ve ever done in your life: taken care of yourself. Just say the truth: It’s been on my calendar for years. Just because you’re referring to your imaginary calendar that has no physical form, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t really exist. Don’t you think about your future in your head quite often? Would you say getting married, buying a home, or having kids is on your calendar? Did you actually schedule it for a certain date? Probably not. You’re just waiting for the right moment and that moment may come at any time. Well, there’s no difference here. You always had every intention of travel, and now the moment is here. You’ve had this on your mind for a very long time. It’s been on your calendar since you were much younger, and that’s the truth. You just finally gave it a date, which is the only difference.
When people ask me those types of questions, I usually just say the truth, “I have a fear of regret. I see [insert place] in movies, read about it, hear about it from others, and I don’t know… I’m going to check it out.” You don’t really need to explain yourself to anyone other than yourself, you really don’t. Most people regret many things and that won’t be you. You’re doing something that most people make excuses to not do until it’s too late (or until it’s much more difficult to go). You’re officially a traveler, and all you had to do was tell people you were traveling somewhere! It’s that easy! People will see you in an entirely new light, and the most important person you need to impress is yourself.
Some people will ask you questions that you may or may not know the answers to, like what the hell will you do when you get there? Maybe this is your parents or group of friends or siblings or co-workers. Many people won’t think it’s a good idea because it seems impractical (to them). Don’t let your lack of specific answers prove their point. Your idea to travel is not a bad idea. Whether they support you or they don’t, they will get used to it. Keep casually talking about it and normalizing it in everyone’s head. People will be shocked, then they will get used to it, then it’ll become completely normal. You have to get that shock factor out of the way immediately, and once it’s real and you get excited, people will usually show their enthusiasm for you. It will slowly dawn on you that you are doing what others only imagined they might one day do for themselves: travel the world.
Step three: Gain clarity. Talk articulately about your trip. In other words, it helps to have a singular goal you hope to achieve by traveling to where you’re going. This is totally optional, sometimes you just want to go somewhere, and I get that, but try this—can’t hurt… For the next few weeks, every single morning, take out a sheet of paper and write what you hope to experience on your journey. Write for at least ten minutes without stopping. Many books and great thinkers advocate this as a great practice. And if you’re ever curious about what you’re really thinking or how you actually feel or what you truly want, just start writing and it’ll become painfully obvious around the second page. The first page you’ll stumble around with sentences like, “I’m only doing this writing exercise cause this book told me to do it and I don’t know what to write and this is what I’m writing and I’m not sure how to keep going but I know I need to so I can see how I feel and how I feel is…” blah blah blah. Keep doing that and around word number three hundred, you’ll hit a realization. There’s no better way to gain clarity than to write—unadulterated—for ten minutes every morning about a certain subject. But it’s not easy… so, good luck!
You’ve done all you can do at this point to relieve your nerves. All other anxieties are simply part of a transition, but at least you now have some sort of framework to work within. There’re two universal truths I’ve learned from travel: it will change your life forever, and you’ll never forget it. You might not realize it, but you’re becoming an inspiration to everyone around you on every trip you take. You’ve gone from cookie-cutter human to interesting being and all it took were a few swift moves of the keyboard that most people are so terrified to make, they never do.
The secret to conquering travel anxiety is to get excited.
Next secret? How to make the most of your time.