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Necessities for the Anxious Traveler

I'm an anxious traveler. There's no denying it. Actually, scratch that first statement. I'm not an anxious traveler, I'm an anxious person. There we go. Much better. Anyway, that obviously means that as an anxious person, traveling can be emotionally and physically draining. Even though you're incredibly excited to be on a new adventure is a brand new place, it takes a LOT out of you if you're anxious and you're in a city or country where nothing is familiar. (And don't get me started on the journey to your destination! That's a whole other mess of anxiety. Security, baggage, waiting/delays, UGH) As a (somewhat) seasoned anxious traveler, I have come up with a few necessary accessories that have helped me while traveling and may help you too if you suffer from anxiety and have a trip coming up. Traveling with anxiety is all about being prepared; that's half the battle. The other half is just accepting that anxiety is going to happen. But I can only help you with the first part, so here are my top necessities for the anxious traveler! (As approved by me)

Obviously! Your phone will literally be your lifeline on a trip. You got your obvious phone and texting usefulness (make sure to change your plan so you don't get crazy phone and data charges!), you got your clock (to change to the new time zone), your alarm (so you don't oversleep and miss the plane/bus/train/tour/continental breakfast), all of those fun apps to help you in a foreign country (language apps, maps, pretty much any app you can think of), and, of course, the ever popular FaceTime and Skype just in case you really, really want to see your cat's face (just me?). When you're feeling anxious about getting lost, or you're feeling homesick, your phone will be your saving grace. Just knowing it's there (and charged! Bring your charging cord! And adapter!!!) will ease your anxiety tremendously (somewhat).

List of Important Numbers
This is another "of course!" one but having it will still give you a minor sense of control while you're on your trip. Having a master list with you (and maybe at your hotel too) of your hotel address and phone number, your tour company's phone number (in case they screw something up. It happens) emergency/police numbers, the number and address of your country's consulate in the place you're visiting, and numbers for your bank just in case your credit and debit cards get stolen (hence the extra list of numbers at your hotel room in case your purse gets snatched away from you) are a wonderful safety net to have just in case. In the perfect world, nothing will go wrong, but even if does all go to sh*t (which it totally won't, but just remember that not all things will go smoothly and that's totally okay and you can get through it!), you'll have your back up plans all ready!

Detailed Schedule
Does this sound like too much? Trust me, it's not. If you go through a travel agency, they will send you a detailed plan of where you'll be staying, what transportation they'll provide you with and what you'll be doing on certain days. If not, it's up to you and whomever you're traveling with to make these necessary arrangements and make up the schedule. Make sure your plan is detailed and you know where you and who you're traveling with are going to be and when you'll be there (especially if you get separated!) and what transportation and routes are the best/easiest for getting where you need to go (especially your hotel aka your home base!). It'll be a BIG load off your mind if you don't want to wing it. I know some people just like to wander and see where they end up, but as an anxious person (like me!) you probably get a lot of comfort from knowing exactly where you'll be and when. Trust me, you can still have fun on a schedule and it'll make sure you get to sights you see without running out of time! (Like those crazy non-planners!) Plus it'll give you that extra sense of security, especially if you add some free sections of time just so you can regroup and catch your breath (VERY important for us anxious folks. Don't forget to take care of yourself while you travel!).

If you suffer from anxiety, there's a good chance you have some handy anti-anxiety meds that you may have to use. I carry some anti-anxiety meds in my purse at all times as a safety blanket, just in case I need to use it. And 9 times out of 10 I usually don't. But when I travel, something about being stuck on an airplane for hours on end (and I'm not even afraid of flying or even claustrophobic!) and then being in a very unfamiliar place can make me pretty anxious and on edge, so sometimes taking a little bit of anti-anxiety medication is necessary to get me through a rough patch during the trip (and there will probably be a few). So please don't be embarrassed about your meds and bring them! If they help you or just give you that sense of security, they're worth bringing. The same goes for over the counter medication: I get the occasional tummy trouble (that's the least gross way of putting it that I can, haha) so I always bring an array of medications for either end of the spectrum (I don't need to explain, right? Please don't make me explain!) and I feel so much better just having them in case disaster strikes. I got a cute new travel pill case from Charming Charlie which is perfect to have in my carry on! If you have to bring meds along, they might as well be in an adorable new accessory! ;)

Not only am I an anxious person, I'm also a picky eater with low blood sugar! (Any fellas interested in the quirky, imperfect specimen that is myself? I'm single, boys!) So I pretty much always have a snack with me in case I end up as a restaurant where I literally can't find anything that sounds good. Cliff Bars (and other granola bars with lots of protein), crackers with nut butters, nuts, and other high protein/healthy snacks are great, especially if you're stuck on a plane, bus, or subway/metro/underground and you have to skip a meal- which I highly recommend you don't! My anxiety seems to get a lot worse when I get super hungry or tired, so please eat to keep up your strength and stave off that anxiety. Traveling is stressful enough already, you don't want to add being hangry along with having anxiety!

Something else that helps with plane travel for me is music. I load up my iPod (yes, I still have an iPod) with all of my old favorite songs, some new hits from today, maybe even a few oldies and show-tunes (because why not?). Anything that will help relax me in any given situation (feeling stir crazy, can't sleep, your seat is near the restrooms so you constantly have a group of people lined up in the aisle right next to you and the toilet keeps flushing. That hasn't happened to me at all), load it up on the device of your choice! Podcasts are also a great choice because they're engrossing and the time will pass in no time! (Well, not really, but it'll help) Audiobooks are also good, but make sure you charge your device beforehand or can charge it on the plane so you don't lose power in the middle of a really good part of a book (can you imagine your phone losing juice during whatever Game of Thrones book the Red Wedding is in? The horror!). Distraction is key on these long flights so come prepared! Your psyche will thank you.

Not going to lie, if you're an anxious person like me, tears are going to happen at some point. I don't know about you, but when my anxiety gets going, but I'm trying to hide it because I'm traveling and I don't want to ruin the trip for my family. friends, or whoever else I'm traveling with (and me too! I don't want to ruin the trip for me either!), I end up internalizing all of that anxiety and it usually comes out in a big burst aka tears. Talking with a friend or loved one who knows you and your struggles will help a lot (see last entry) to curb the (maybe) inevitable breakdown, I expect at least one breakdown per trip, because traveling is so stressful and anxiety-inducing that it really seems like only a matter of time before every bad thought, feeling, or awful situation makes me literally cry everything out (though in the perfect world this WOULD NOT HAPPEN. But I'm a realist so I plan ahead!) So tissues in my purse or carry on are a must!*

*But, head's up, please don't be discouraged if you do breakdown during a trip, or have to retire to your hotel room to compose yourself for an hour or so or even the afternoon or night. Traveling is incredibly stressful for everyone, but especially for anxious people, and the fact that you're going out and doing it despite all of your fears/reservations/hesitation is a fantastic accomplishment! Take some time for yourself, have a moment, and get back to it! Giving into your anxiety is the worst thing you can do and as hard as it might be, and as much as you would like to call it a day, it's better to take the time to regroup, because you feel so much better afterwards and you're given a second chance to go out and see the world with a fresh (and hopefully not so anxious) set of eyes. Take care of you but try not to miss any of the amazing experiences you will probably come across on your trip!

Something That Reminds You of Home
For the last few trips, I've been forgetting to do this but on my next trip that's coming up, I'm making sure to bring something that reminds me of home. Whether it's a familiar scent (lotion, body spray, body wash, etc), an article of clothing that just feels so soft, cozy, and homey, or your favorite well-read and loved book, it's important to have something familiar with you when you're in a very unfamiliar place. It'll help keep you grounded and not feel so anxious about being far away from your home and loved ones. Bonus points if the sweater you bring has fur on it from your pet! (Cat hair makes everything better. Plus it might make potential pickpockets have an allergic reaction and that might prevent them from stealing your purse. You never know. It could happen!)

Have a Literal Lifeline 
Now this one is very important. If you're not traveling with someone you can confide in about your anxiety (and I would highly recommend that you would go with someone that you can talk to about your issues/worries), then you have to make sure that you can have someone back home that you can call, FaceTime, Skype, or text when you're going through a rough patch and you need to talk. Ignoring or not acknowledging your anxiety just makes it ten times worse and that's the very last thing you want to do on your trip. Just remember that anxiety will happen, and it's how you handle it, not if or when it happens (because it will happen), that matters. Having that lifeline to talk to can really help, especially if you can't seem to get a hold of your anxiety yourself, or you just need someone else's non-anxious perspective to help stop those anxious thoughts from taking over. Also, a lot like having your emergency meds with you, knowing that you have a lifeline that you can contact will be a big load off of your mind, and just knowing that they're there, in case of an emergency panic attack, will be enough. They'll be there if you need them, but you might not even have to talk to them, because you'll be so busy having fun and making new memories while taking selfies with your friends and the Mona Lisa (do people do that? Or is it way too crowded? I bet some people have done it. Challenge accepted!) and various other national treasures to worry about something as trivial as your silly anxiety! And just remember:

If you are an anxious person and you're going on a trip, you can do it! I know going on a trip, traveling to a new place, or even staying in a place that's unfamiliar is super hard, but the experiences you'll have despite all of that anxiety will be so worth it. So many memories, photos, and stories will come out of it, but more importantly, you'll also be so proud of yourself for going and showing your anxiety that it doesn't control you. If you can travel with anxiety, you can pretty much conquer anything. I believe in you! (And me. I believe in me too. I have to remind myself of that before I go on a trip, too!)

What did you think of my list? Do you use any of these tips to help you when you travel? Did I miss anything? Let me know!

Stay Weird,

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My Week Without: Social Media!

A week ago I decided to do something that most would not be able to do or wouldn't even attempt to do: I decided to go a week without social media.

That's right. That meant no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest (surprisingly I don't have a Snapchat account). Pretty much none of the apps or services that would connect me with others.

The biggest reason I decided to do this was because I was feeling bogged down by the constant stream of information that was being constantly bombarded at me through these sites, especially Facebook. I (usually) love hearing from my friends and family, but constantly seeing all of these announcements (engagement, wedding, baby, dating, new house, new pet, etc.), travel photos, and just overall bragging was getting to be too much. It was making me feel inferior and like I needed to post more things and pictures about my life and how great things were, just to feel relevant and like I mattered. I started to dread checking my Facebook and Instagram and had to steel myself for the onslaught of good news and images, and instead was turning to Twitter (for the blogger community) and Pinterest (because, well, it's Pinterest) exclusively instead. But even then I noticed that those two were constantly taking up my time. I even started looking through Pinterest while watching TV and movies and was missing big chunks of the plot line. (To be fair I am researching ideas for new Halloween decor crafts. So at least it's a semi-useful waste of time. Of crafts I'm never going to make or attempt to do. Ahem)

I decided that I needed to detox and take a break from social media. Facebook and Instagram were making me feel worse about myself and Twitter and Pinterest were sucking up my time. It was time to put away my iPhone, iPad, iPod, and laptop (surprisingly, not an Apple product) and take a much needed vacation from constant notifications and not very relevant information (to me).

The Rules (That I Made For Myself):

I allowed myself texting (of course. I didn't want to be cut off from my immediate friends and family) and to able to watch Youtube and Netflix and check Buzzfeed and Bloglovin' so I could attempt to stave off boredom. But other than that, I couldn't check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Not a peek, quick click, even to get rid of all of those pesky red numbers indicting how many live notifications you're missing out on (I love Buzzfeed but I honestly don't care when they go live. Sorry, guys).

Baby pictures, engagement announcements, "hilarious" shared videos that no one else thinks is funny, and slightly disturbing political rants would have to wait a week. I was on a mission! Monday to Monday, I'll be social media free. And here's what I learned from going a week without social media:

You Don't Realize How Bored You Think You Are Until You Force Yourself To Put Down Your Phone
I never realized how bored I thought I got until I finally put down my phone. Anytime I had to wait (at the doctor's office, at a store in line at the register) I would always check my phone and the multiple social media apps I had installed on it. But starting that Monday I just couldn't. I had to suffer through the boredom, or I just checked my e-mail if I felt I just had to look busy on my phone (it probably would look strange to be a reading a book in line at Target). It made me realize that even though I denied it, I was very attached to my phone and used it as a cure for "boredom" and a source of distraction. Instead, I just learned to either people watch (while at a store in line) or if I'm in a waiting room, bring a book (much more appropriate than in a Target).

You'll Want to Check Your Phone- All the Damn Time
And it's so frustrating not to be able to. The compulsion is real, as well as the fear of missing out (FOMO) on whatever may be going on in a friend's (or that random friend of a friend of a friend that you added because you met them once five years ago. We all have at least five of those on our friends list) life. I literally picked up my phone dozens of times that first Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) to check on my Facebook or Instagram, before remembering I couldn't. But as the days wore on, it got better and I only checked my e-mail/the news/surfed the web a few times a day. Which was a great reduction from what seems like the dozen times I would check social media before that!

You Actually Have to Look Up the News (The Actual News, Not Social Media Drama)
Like, a lot. I used to check my phone for news from Facebook right when I woke up and during breakfast (and by news I mean the stuff that popped in from news sources I had liked that were in between all of my friends', friends of friends', and relatives' status updates) but during my week without checking social media, I had to actually check out news websites or even watch the news on TV (people still do that!) to see what was going on with the world. But the breaking news that people talk about will always be on news sites or TV, not the kind of (non)relevant news that seems to spread and across your Facebook page and friends (who got pregnant! Who's getting a divorce! Who's so in love that they have to post a million selfies and themselves and their significant others to stuff down our throats! We get it, if you guys break up love will die), so you're really not missing much. I learned that if people need you, they'll text or call you, not post something on your page. And that it's kind of delightful to watch an actual news anchor tell you the news, not some radical distant relative who's damning a certain politician to hell via a status update. (So basically, non-biased news)

You Start Using Your Phone for the Actual Reasons It Was Made
Without social media I was forced to text more and use the actual phone part of my phone (I think people forget about that original feature), and I have to admit, it's pretty refreshing to do something pretty simple without getting distracted by someone's new engagement pictures (gag. No offense) instead of replying to your friend's tweet or Facebook message.

You Suddenly Have a Bunch of Free Time
Without social media, my time was now mine. I didn't realize how much time I devoted to checking all of my social media accounts. Facebook took up most of my waking up and falling asleep time. Ditto with Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. But now that I didn't have to check them (as if I didn't have a choice, HA), I had all the time in the world! I could sit and read a book without checking my phone every few pages (I may have been guilty of that. Sometimes. Maybe) and I could watch an entire movie and not have to rewind because I missed a part because I was reading someone's Instagram caption and all of the comments underneath it (yes, I'm guilty of that too). My time was mine and even though I still felt compelled to check my phone those first few days, eventually that wore away and I started to feel relieved that I wasn't chained to my phone anymore.

You Finally Realize That Social Media Is Just a Form of Connection- It Doesn't Have to Be Anything More (And It's Not)
Social media is just that: a way to connect with others, share information and pictures, and communicate. It wasn't intended to become a forum for bragging or making others feel jealous or bad about themselves (at least, I hope so. Mark Zuckerberg, was this your evil idea all along??). Just remember that every picture/selfie you see posted on Facebook, no matter how candid, was posed for and probably taken a few dozen times, then edited until it was finally that "perfect" picture capturing how happy that couple is and the description of how blessed and successful they are was probably rewritten a handful of times. People on Facebook don't post about their problems (unless they're going through a nasty breakup and they vent. That's another reason I took a break from social media. Where there are five people bragging about how great their lives are, there's one person who's spewing hate towards their ex and listing everything wrong with them. It's almost as bad as the bragging but I relate more to the hate. I'm a dark person, what can I say), just the good things to brag and get the likes, as if to prove that yes, since they posted it, it is real and great and everyone should know it. After my week long break, I think I've slightly detached from the social media life and can see it what for really is: it's not real life, it's just a way for people to display the happy and perfect things about their lives aka share their lives with others and vice versa (but more the happy people sharing). Try not to focus too much to the virtual social media life and focus on your real life, not the drama that comes along with social media.

So in conclusion...

As hard as the first few days were of not checking social media. I actually relished the week-long vacation from it. I didn't have to worry about seeing engagement pictures (that make me question my own singledom and wonder how some women can actually land a man who wants to commit to them), "cute" baby pictures that only the parents of the child think are cute (you know you are!), and travel photos (how can they afford to go to Dubai????). But in all honesty, when today (Monday) came around, I was actually afraid of checking my social media because I was afraid of how much I missed and would I have to catch up on everything that everyone posted on their individual timelines? Turns out, nothing too exciting happened (in social media world) and I actually got pretty bored looking through everyone's updates, pictures, tweets, and pins. In fact, I've only checked social media a few times today. The fact that I'm not as attached to my phone and checking it is exhilarating. It also put into perspective that I should stop trying to focus on how I'm portrayed and how I'm seen on social media (new profile picture! Filters! Clever tweets!) and start focusing on me in my real life. Less selfies, more self-actualization! *flexed arm emoji*

I would most definitely suggest a week-long break to anyone who's feeling bogged down from social media and just needs a real life break to focus on themselves, not the lives of others. Would you guys try it? Could you make it a week? I honestly didn't think I would for the first few days, but I ended up going all the way without breaking! Let me know what you think! ♥

Stay Weird,

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Being Non-Photogenic In a Photo-centric World

In a world of selfies and status updates, everyone wants to take a picture to commemorate a moment, no matter how meaningful or trivial. I'm one of those people, but unfortunately I have a MAJOR disadvantage: I'm not photogenic. At all.

At least in my very humble (and right) opinion. Despite my non-photogenic ways, I still take selfies. How else am I supposed to prove I exist in a world that revolves around social media? (I'm being sarcastic here) That's really the only mode of picture taking of myself that I approve of, since I usually take about 20+ pics before I finally find one that makes me look decent and somewhat human (seriously, most of the time I take a selfie I either look like I'm possessed by a demon named Pazuzu or else one of my selfies would be perfect as a mugshot if I ever become a drug addict/criminal).

But when it comes to group shots with other people....*shudders* That's where I get scared because that's where I usually look the worst and I feel like I need to prepare before they happen. You can't insist on your friends to take too many pictures just because you keep blurring in the shots like you're some sort of ghostly presence caught on camera (yes, that has happened to me. Everything has happened to me in pictures) And don't get me started on candid shots aka pictures at parties or weddings where I always seem to have a "resting murderer face" (yes, it's a thing BECAUSE THAT'S HOW I LOOK IN ALL CANDID SHOTS).

This post is for anyone who's not photogenic and it explains what I through whenever someone decides to whip out their phone or camera for a "fun" photo (fun = HELL, for us non-photogenic folks). If you are photogenic, well, lucky you, but for the rest of us it's not so easy. Read on to find out why!

Knowing That Photos Will Be Taken is a Nightmare
Girls night out? Pictures will be taken. A wedding/bridal shower/bachelorette party? Pictures. Birthdays/family reunions/vacations? Pictures, pictures, everywhere! No event or moment is safe from memorializing that exact time in your life. So you steel yourself and prepare. Friends and relatives with smartphones and cameras are coming.

You Practice Posing in the Mirror Before a Night Out
Of course, there's the hand on the arm and the slightly bent knee thing that every single girl in a group shot goes with but when you're caught off guard (or very awkward, like myself) you usually end up just standing like a deer caught in the headlights ready to leap out of the road once your brain kicks back in. So you practice in the mirror and pray that despite all of this practicing that when it comes to group shots you can hide behind your friends and just poke your head out. I've had many group pictures where I'm just a floating head behind people and honestly, in those pictures I've never looked better. No worrying about arms or what your angle your body should be in based on where the camera is, it's AMAZING. Be a floating head, it's great!

When Your Friends Want to Take a Group Photo You Scream Internally
It will be fun, they said. We'll all look so cute, they said. Why do you look like you just saw the Ring, they ask. Seven days, you answer back and the phone rings.

You Usually Try to Make a Silly Face Instead of Smiling Because When You End Up Smiling You Look Like the Joker Or Possibly Like You Just Committed the Perfect Murder and Are Pleased With the Place You Hid the Body and Are Sure You'll Never Be Caught*
Duck faces and sticking out your tongue Miley Cyrus-esque are annoying in all pictures and selfies, but they can save your life if you can't figure out how to smile naturally for photos. But dammit, even when you have to take a smiling picture, you try, even if it turns out terrible! "I was having a great time at the wedding, I swear!"

*Or is that just me when I smile? I feel like I give off a very creepy vibe in photos. I need to work on that. Back to practicing posing my face in the mirror!

You Always Blink in Photos
I can't count how many times I've had to have my school pictures retaken because I always ended up blinking or half blinking in the pictures, like I was the elementary school class drunk. It came to be such a problem that whenever I knew a picture would be taken I would just open my eyes really wide and try not to blink even after the flash went off. Which made me looks like a raccoon caught digging through the trash by a person with a flashlight, by hey, my eyes were open! (If not bright red like that aforementioned demon was trying to show itself)

You Take Approximately 100+ Pictures Before Finding the Perfect Selfie
And then you've used up all the space on your phone and then it feels like it's judging you, as if none of the selfies you've taken are good enough to be on your phone so you better delete every picture you've ever taken and start again. Siri demands it. Not to mention once you pick an acceptable selfie, you filter the sh*t out of it. "There! I'm a passable human being!"

Seeing All of Those Said Photos On Social Media is Cringe-worthy
Me flipping through tagged photos: "I don't look like that in real all!" To my friends: "You delete those pictures or we are never speaking again!!!" (I'm a great friend)

But When You Finally See That One Decent Shot of Yourself....
You relish in the glory of that one perfect picture where you look like you, but happy and natural. (Unlike the other photos where you look like you've been kidnapped and forced to take a picture by your captor to send to your family to prove that everything is okay and also that the captors need your family to send them $100,000 and you're actually cringing because you know your family will scoff and say "she's not worth that much! We love the cat more than her!") You save that sh*t and make it your profile picture for the next year and a half. Because that's how long it's going to take for you to get another perfect photo that for once didn't come for a selfie. But it'll happen again. Someday. And you look forward to it wistfully, but until then, you have to come to terms with being non-photogenic. *sigh*

Candid Shots
Let's not even go there.

So my fellow non-photogenic people, do you relate to any of this? I would much rather take the picture than be in pictures, but I'm trying to be more brave and less critical of my appearance. Bad pictures happen, more often to me than anyone else, but still! I hope you liked the article I had a blast writing it! ♥

Stay Weird,
(aka that non-photogenic girl that ruins group photos 7 out of 10 times. That's me!)