Cultural Experience | All Experiences

Anxious Travelers’ Guide To The Universe

Six tips to help anxious souls make their journeys across seas.

While studying abroad, I only truly thought my life was in peril once. My mind produced the words “Am I going to die?” one night on my way from Croatia to Venice, Italy.

My friend and I, avid bargain travelers, were lucky enough to snag a night train that had a three-hour layover from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. We arrived at our night train to find we were put in a six-bunk sleeping cabin – us on the top bunk. Feeling like we were strapped into stretchers, we closed our eyes hoping to catch a few hours of sleep.

At 12:45 the conductor woke us up. Begrudgingly, I rolled over and checked my phone to see what time it was. Squinting at the screen, my phone displayed the message: welcome to Slovenia.



— Cue anxiety attack here –

 Trying to control my breathing, I tried not to imagine what a train station in Slovenia … in the middle of the night … would look like. A lot of European train stations are often small, and I’m pretty sure the cities hire gang affiliates to decorate. All I could imagine was hiding behind my suitcase trying to fend off Slovenian bandits.

Shaking, I stepped off the train with my two suitcases in tow. A warmth of relief came over me as I not only saw a sign welcoming me to Austria, but a huge train station ascending in the distance. Little did I know, Austria was right next door to Slovenia.

This experience was anxiety inducing, but was it worth the memories I made that night. Relaxing in a 24-hour Austrian bar and being hit on by mustached-Austrian men with feathers in their hats was worth every anxious feeling I felt that night.

Traveling has always been a passion for me and I wasn’t going to let my nerves stop me. Nobody should. This is why I have compiled a list of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re too nervous to take that leap across the pond.

1. Cell phone service doesn’t matter.

I know our primal instinct is to use our phone when we are in trouble. Having 911 to dial has always been a comfort to me. However, cell phone service isn’t vital to your well-being and never has been. Our parents didn’t have it when they were our age and we don’t need it either. Every airport, hostel and gift-shop has a map with resources and most cities have security check-points with police milling around. Trust me, not everyone in the world is out to get you.

2. People are friendly.

I had some incredible experiences with people while I was abroad. Almost every person is willing to help you out when you’re in trouble … or just lost.

3. Don’t let your overactive imagination get to you.

Your life — unfortunately — does not emulate Hollywood. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and tell yourself everything will be okay.  Liam Neeson won’t have to come and save you.

credit: Geeks and Cleats

credit: Geeks and Cleats

4. Try and learn some key words in the language.

It’s always good to know a couple words like “hello” “please” “thank you” “bathroom” “Where is…” because if locals see that you are making an effort to speak the language, they are more likely to give you directions.

5. Keep up with current events.

If a country is unsafe to visit, it will be all over the news. I was in London during the February Paris terror attacks and advisories were everywhere. You most likely won’t be able to travel somewhere if it’s unsafe.

6. Remember, people travel all the time. 

Out of 397594387591+ planes, trains and boats that disembark everyday, the chances of dying in a plane crash are equivalent to being struck by lightning seven times. Just keep that in mind.

Some of my friends didn’t think I could travel the world with my anxious personality and surprisingly, as I put myself into uncomfortable situations, I was able to cope better.

Traveling is all about discovery: discovering new cultures, food, people, and most importantly, yourself. When you’re having an unbelievable time,the little voice in your head telling you your life is in peril slowly fades into the clouds behind you as you embark on a journey of a lifetime.

Mia Kavensky

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | 5 stories

College girl who likes to wander the world.

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