Have you ever wanted to go somewhere or do something, but you felt like you couldn't because of your anxiety?
I've had anxiety ever since I can remember. If you have it, you'll know. It literally feels like a barrier that holds you back from doing the things you want to.
Sometimes, it's even the simplest of tasks because anxiety does not discriminate.
The older I got, the more I had to learn how to deal with this on my own. My friends were starting to venture out and see the world by traveling the country, traveling out of the country or heading off to college.
I knew at some point, if I wanted to live my life — and I mean, really live my life — I was going to have to get over it. And so, my journey began.
Here are five ways you can learn to travel while dealing with your anxiety:
1. Plan your route.
Traveling is always an adventure. You never know what you are going to run into, and for people with anxiety, that scares us.
Where are you headed? Are you camping, or are you planning to stay in a hotel? Is this a backpacking trip or a road trip? Are you flying to your destination?
There are many ways to travel, but one thing you'll want to do is plan your route. While being random and doing things on a whim is always great, if you are an anxious person, planning will save you from feeling nervous.
Put money aside just in case your first situation doesn't work out. Maybe the website said the hotel was a four-star, resort-style listing, but when you got there, it wasn't.
If you are backpacking, map out where your nearest hostels and hotels are just in case you want somewhere safe to stay. You never know when anxiety will hit, so you might as well be prepared for it.
If you are driving, do the same. Map out all the potential places to stay and locations you want to see. For the extremely anxious (I know there's some of you out there), make a note of hospital locations because you just never know.
Planning will give you something to fall back on. Say you are camping out, and you realize you are uncomfortable in an unfamiliar location, you feel unsafe or you are being eaten to death by mosquitos in blistering heat.
Having a plan will soothe your soul.
2. Do your research.
Where are you heading? Do you know which parts of town you will be traveling through? If your car breaks down, do you know who to call?
I wish I had done this part when I started my trip. I traveled across the country with an old friend, and once we hit New Mexico, it was around 9 pm. It was pitch black, and we were in the middle of the desert.
The roads were one-way, and we couldn't tell if they had fences aligned along them, which meant animals could run out at any point. As we were driving, every 10 or so miles we would pass torches lit in the middle of the desert. We thought we were going to run into a cult at some point.
When we arrived to the hotel, the clerk told us he didn't think we were “real people” because he was so used to seeing Native American apparitions wandering around the parking lot.
The next day, we realized the roads had fences along the sides, so we probably could have driven a bit faster, and the torches were related to oil in the area. We can't account for the ghosts, but I wish we had done our research to prepare for what we were driving through.
Sometimes, it's exciting to go somewhere and not know anything about it. But once you get there and realize how little you know, especially if it's another country, you're going to wish you knew at least the basics.
3. Have a kickass playlist.
Music always helps. Make a travel playlist. Put on your favorite tunes, your turn-up tunes, your calming tunes or even your sleepy-time tunes. It is scientifically proven that music calms anxiety (unless you love death metal because that might pump up your blood).
If you have Spotify, you can turn your playlist offline, which means you can access it anywhere, anytime. It's great for Airplane Mode, or if you are traveling overseas and won't have any access. However, keep in mind Spotify only works for up to two weeks out of the country.
If you keep it on your iPhone, iPod or Android, you can access this anywhere as well. Maybe you are trying to sleep and your hostel mates are causing a ruckus. Plug in your headphones and calm yourself to dream world with those bedtime tunes.
Any time you feel your anxiety coming on, turn on your favorite tune. It always helps.
How can you not get excited about traveling around while you are rockin' out to your favorite artist? Impossible.
4. Stay positive.
Too many times, I have found myself thinking the worst. What if I get lost? What if something breaks? What if I lose something?
You are only making it worse for yourself. Stay positive.
Instead, turn the situation around and ask yourself more positive-influenced questions.
How many people will I meet? What items am I going to be crossing off my bucket list? What new things can I try?
It makes it easier to get excited when you are picturing trying your first beignet in New Orleans, instead of wondering what's going to happen if you get lost.
Think of all the awesome things that are going to happen on your trip. You will be seeing parts of the world you have never seen before. You will be seeing things that others only dream of seeing.
It's an amazing, eye-opening experience. Don't let your anxiety churn out negative thoughts. Stay positive, even when it feels impossible to.
5. Soak it all in.
Traveling is fun and, as we all know, expensive. Take in your experiences. Take it one day at a time.
If you feel anxious, call a friend, text your mom, read a book or listen to some music. But most importantly, don't forget to enjoy your surroundings.
At some point, you will be returning home to your safe space. Make the most out of this time now by creating your own safe space where ever you are.
By now, you have a plan, you have an understanding of your location and surroundings and you have a back-up plan if the first one fails for some reason. You're ready to do it.
While anxiety can still be a bother, just know it passes in time. You aren't alone in the world of anxiety.
In fact, by talking about it more, you will be surprised by how many suffer from it. That's right, some of your friends feel it, too.
Conquer the world one day at a time.