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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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