Cultural Experience | Resources

Why you Shouldn’t let Anxiety Discourage you from Traveling

Let’s talk about something that no one wants to talk about

Anxiety is an everyday issue that affects millions of people and is something many college students deal with. Traveling and being in an unfamiliar country (even continent) can make normal, everyday struggles escalate. However, it is not something that should prevent anyone, including world wanderers, of participating in the exciting life they want to live.

Knowing that anxiety measures itself on a spectrum that can range from circumstantial to general to disorders, and that everyone’s mental health is different means this is not an exhaustive, concrete list. It is a list, though, of reasons that encouraged an anxiety-sufferer and fellow college tourist to never let that annoying problem prevent her from going after her dreams of seeing the world. Hopefully these reasons will help anyone who doubts they can embark on their own global journeys due to this issue.

Adventure really is out there.

Although watching the news and being knowledgeable about what’s going on in today’s international community might scream otherwise, traveling the world can be a safe adventure. Racing thoughts of “what if all of my belongings are stolen?”, “what if I get kidnapped in a foreign country?”, or “what if the plane crashes before I even get there?” are worries that might keep you up at night. Weighing the reality of these fears against the reality of adventure might convince you to buy that plane ticket. Staying up-to-date with your destination of choice’s current events and registering with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to get travel warning updates are resourceful tools to work through this. Taking all the necessary precautions before and during your travels might ease this anxiousness.

Preparation is necessary, easy, and beneficial for a trip.

Sometimes anxiety arises out of not being prepared or having uncertainties of the future. Traveling abroad can be frightening if you don’t know what to expect and if rolling with the punches isn’t listed in your skill set. The comforting aspect about this is that you can easily prepare for your travels and for yourself before you leave. The information in preparing for travels is handed to you from trusty travel sites to program meetings. However, helpful tips for preparing for yourself is not as popularly presented, so:

-Get a call/data plan. This is a lifesaver since there will be people back at home who know you and your situation. The simple fact of being readily able to call home, in case of an anxiety attack at 3 a.m. or a break down at the train station, should hopefully calm the storm.

-Visit with a trusted therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional before you leave. Learn ways to combat and cope with your case of anxiety (this is where the necessary and beneficial part is emphasized). Knowing how to fight the anxiety on your own opens up a world of possibilities. There is less of a hesitant resistance to take that flight abroad if you know how to overcome potential anxieties.

-Have written words of encouragement or an inspirational music playlist ready in a moment’s notice. Sometimes racing, exaggerated, and/or irrational thoughts can overwhelm your brain. This goes into overdrive if you’re in an unfamiliar place. Escaping into a reassuring quote or calming lyric can force you to pause, collect yourself, then assess whatever situation or state you’re in with a more level-headed attitude.

words of encouragement image

Live life with no regrets and no missed opportunities.

Whether it’s general, everyday anxiety that can spark up in an instant or circumstantial anxiety about the unknown that is travel, both can cause people to miss out on big and small events in life. In this case, the first step is getting you to your destination, the second is exploring that destination.

Think about the life you’ll live on your time abroad versus the life you’d live back home. Imagine all the museums, cafes, 1000-year old monuments, late night fun, culture, people…(the list is endless) you’ll experience. The overwhelming excitement of those thoughts can outweigh the overbearing fear of anxious thoughts. Once you convince yourself you CAN go and actually get on that plane, don’t stop there, keep going. Once you arrive to your dream city, continue to say “YES!” to wondrous opportunities the city offers you.

Getting there is half the battle, exploring there is the crucial other half. Take it from someone who regrets an event or two of missed opportunities at the hand of anxiety, it’s not worth it. You never know how life changing your time abroad could be if you force yourself out of that safe, comfort zone.

You are not alone.

As you travel and meet people from all over the world, through long dinner conversations or getting lost in random neighborhoods, you’ll come to find that other people struggle with anxiety, too. What’s interesting about this realization is it leads to another: neither of you are allowing anxiety prevent you from fulfilling your dreams. That is the beautiful thing about travelers. There is resilience and bravery in their spirits that cannot be tarnished.

You will discover a new you.

The most rewarding takeaway after a successful trip abroad is celebrating the fact that you overcame so many internal obstacles (time to do a happy dance for yourself!). You were able to discover more than the world, most importantly you were able to discover yourself (cliché, but true). Traveling abroad while struggling with anxiety will have allowed you to learn how you handle what life throws at you. You might have found that some anxieties that you struggled with back home completely left your mind, or that you had to face other issues and conquered those like a world champ. Self-reflection on how you dealt with situations and overcame anxieties along the way points out areas of exponential growth in your life, a type of growth that could not have been done in any other situation but through traveling.

Kristin Naujok

Texas A&M University | 7 stories

Kristin is a senior at Texas A&M studying International Studies and Geography. She has a heart for travel, food, and Jesus. This past summer she studied abroad in Seville and Barcelona, Spain.

One response to “Why you Shouldn’t let Anxiety Discourage you from Traveling”

  1. ISA says:

    We love reading ISA alumni stories! Some great, valid tips in this article, Kristin! Cheers from Austin.

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