Traveling with Anxiety - Emily Tong

Traveling with Anxiety



When I am not photographing, I work full time as a program coordinator for World Internships, where we send people abroad to pursue their career. I absolutely love it, but it doesn’t come without its difficulties.


One of these is seeing people struggle with anxiety while traveling and end up coming home early. It breaks my heart to see them miss out on such an amazing opportunity, but at the same time I know the feeling as I’ve been there many times before. So below I hope to share some tips on traveling IN SPITE of anxiety and how if you can make it past the hurdle it will end up helping your anxiety. I have now solo-traveled to 5 countries - every one an anxiety challenge but every one my new favorite place!


RECOGNIZE THAT YOU HAVE ANXIETY



The first is to know what you are struggling with. I was officially diagnosed with anxiety after going to the doctor for several other ailments. My doctor said “your body is stressed” and prescribed me anxiety medicine, making the other ailments much better. Looking back, I’m sure that I had been living with anxiety for a long time without really recognizing it. By putting a name to what you are feeling it makes it easier to take the next steps in prevention and mitigation. So if you haven’t been diagnosed with anxiety but are struggling, be sure to reach out to a doctor for a consultation to better prepare yourself.


BE KIND TO YOURSELF


Traveling is stressful - nobody is saying that it’s not. There's a reason people say "I need a vacation from my vacation." Packing itself makes me crazed. Navigating public transportation is a huge challenge. Planes aren’t comfortable by any means. Talking to strangers can be hard.


Traveling takes a lot of energy and is very hard on your body, whether you have anxiety or not. Remember this and take care of yourself. Maybe this means going to bed early, or escaping to a botanical garden in a bustling city, or getting yourself some chocolate - travel is stressful so give yourself a break and take it slow.


Know your triggers

For me it’s germs and not feeling settled. So I pack with this in mind. Know yourself, know what triggers your anxiety, what helps your anxiety, and don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

Carrying too much makes me overwhelmed:

So I pack one small carry-on sized suitcase

Germs are my demons:

So I carry a small bag with handsanitizer and a lavender roller at all times.

Hotels make me feel unsettled:

So I pack my own cozy travel blanket and if I can fit it my own pillow. This provides something familiar that I can literally wrap myself in.


KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE

The world is small now, use this to your advantage! I love the supportive communities on Facebook (like Girls Love Travel) and chatting with loved ones throughout my trips. Not to mention most countries have counseling support if need be. If I have a hard day, I look towards the next day with an open mind knowing that I have many people to help me through it!


TRAVELING IS EMPOWERING

Because I have anxiety, every trip and small accomplishment is empowering and makes me even more confident for the next time. In a way, traveling has helped my anxiety as this independence is a medicine of its own and makes me look forward to the beautiful world I have to explore.

And if you stick it out - this is what you can see!

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