Travel Anxiety Sucks: Can It Be Prevented?

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Travel Anxiety Sucks is part of the ANA, Take Me ‘Round the World Trip Report.


TPOL lives a reckless life. I don’t plan anything in advance (see How to Book Trinidad’s Carnival Last Second for Free*), and I live to blog about it. This comes at a cost to my mental health and makes travel unnecessarily stressful. The first problem is not booking hotels if there aren’t points options available (see Travel Planning: Check Prices Or Just Go?). The second is when I change my travel plans midstream (see TPOL’s Best Travel Advice: Stick to the Plan!). The third is overdoing my Travel Philosophy by going to ten different cities for 3 to 4 nights each and thinking I will be able to live to blog about it (see #NoCollusion, No Albania for TPOL Trip Report). The fourth is my compulsion with documenting every part of my trip even though some posts receive little or no attention (see Haircuts Abroad: Marseille Edition or Albania Edition as examples). Add in alcohol, a lack of proper sustenance, no exercise, and you have the perfect formula for travel anxiety, a debilitating ailment that can disrupt any trip.

You would think that work would be stressful and traveling would be relaxing. It’s the exact opposite. I take comfort in dealing with the drama of being a consumer lawyer (visit Bachuwa Law). I find no comfort in sitting on a beach looking at yachts while realizing that travel may be a contributing factor as to why I’m not on one (see Porto Cervo, Sardinia: My Yacht Is Bigger).

But laziness is not the cause of travel anxiety. If I could diagnose myself, I would guess that extreme imbalance of going from a somewhat regimented, relaxed routine of golf, beach, work (see Despacito! TPOL Is Moving to Puerto Rico! Effective Inmediatamente) to a disruptive and destructive routine of bar, club, new hotel, sightseeing, airport, lounge, bar, club, beach, hangover, sightseeing, airport, hangover, new hotel, taxi, sightseeing, language barrier, SSSS boarding pass, no sleep, and repeat in no particular order is as reckless as playing Russian roulette.

Once the anxiety sets in, it’s next to impossible to make it go away. I start to think of how many more cities I have to go to and how many more photos I will have to take to chronicle the adventure. It is not a great feeling.

Curiously, the only solace from travel anxiety is to do work or to workout. These normal activities bring calm while the “fun” activities bring stress. Lately, the stress has become so overwhelming that I contemplate whether it is even worth traveling anymore or – heaven forbid – pay for someone to put my itinerary together so I don’t have to do anything. Crazier than that is thinking that I should scale back the blog posts to cover just the essentials. I quickly dismiss that idea because even if nobody reads a a trip report cover to cover, I do. And anytime I decide to shirk my blogging responsibilities (see Hangover = Blogger Malpractice?), inevitably someone asks me for a Travel Guide and I kick myself for not having one ready to go.

Overall, I don’t think there’s a cure for my travel anxiety as long as I travel the way I do, blog the way I do, and live it up the way I do. My hope is that I can read this post in the future and remind myself that sometimes it’s fine to take a break, even when I’m on vacation. That’s why it’s vacation. Oh, and eating may also be helpful.

Do you get travel anxiety? What do you do to fight it?

Riga, Latvia

TPOL’s TIP: A beer and double espresso first thing in the morning is not the cure for travel anxiety.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I have some travel anxiety. Partly it’s because of OCD, but it also hits me hard to see my wife stress, which happens a lot before and during travel. You learn some tricks after a while. Bourbon helps, as does flying business or first class long haul. Bring cat treats for my wife (to share, not eat) so she can get her cat fix. Stuff like that. I’ve also tried to live – mostly successfully – and share with my wife – much less successfully – the first rule of travel: things go wrong.
    For you, I’m pretty impressed that you just show up somewhere, then decide where to stay and figure what to do from scratch while only staying for a few days. I think that would drive most people nuts, myself included. Then again, I’m way too cheap to pay $500+ for a hotel room for a night, so planning becomes more important. Why don’t you at least reserve hotels in advance if you’re visiting a place during high season?

    • Who’s paying $500 for a room? Not I. I probably should book hotels but sometimes I don’t have time to do the research. I don’t think I’ll do that again though. The other stress you talk about it’s not what I mean by travel anxiety. Anxiety is an irrational loop based on nothing tangible.

      • You can have anxiety about legit things as well. As to the $500 room, I hadn’t realized that you used Bonvoy points last minute in Sardinia rather than spending 700 Euros, not that I blame you.

  2. I always stress about travel. Make it a point to be at the airport 3 hours prior to a domestic flight just to ensure that I am checked in well in time.
    What works for me is the below :
    1. Always fly a full service carrier, except when impossible
    2. Always book a ticket which allows me to make one free change
    3. Reach the airport well in time
    4. Pack my phone and wallet in my carry on bag while going through security
    5. Scope out the distance from the lounge to the gate well in advance.
    6. Lounge hop where allowed. (At BOM on the domestic side, I can use the Amex Lounge, the MALS lounge (through Citi Premier Miles card) and the contract lounge
    7. Always but always have a suitcase, but make sure it gets checked in.
    8. Buy priority security access where allowed
    9. Have just one tall drink while waiting for the flight
    10. Browse through the airport bookstore and pick up some trash novel to read

    Please note the above are highly specific to the Indian market, and especially BOM which is my home airport

  3. I find not knowing what is going on just adds to my stress. Many airline employees don’t know answers to your questions or they have other things they need to get done before they can look it up. Essentially, they have their own stress to deal with.

    So I have taken to figuring out what is going on through apps. Sometimes the airline app has a wealth of information. So at least have a look at the app. The Delta app is pretty good and American Airlines is trying its best to match whatever Delta puts in their app. Some airline apps are a good, concentrated amount of information. The information has to be specific to you or it can be overwhelming. Create an account at the airline (it is usually free) and log into the app.

    My second go to for figuring out what is going on is FlightAware app. I can use it to track my flight and send me alerts. Additionally, the inbound flight will have a direct bearing on your flight being delayed. The alerts have settings for “on the flight”, “meeting the flight”, etc. but I always go for Advanced and select everything for the inbound flight. In FlightAware you can search your flight. Once you look at it, there should be a link for the inbound flight. Click that and set an advanced alert on the inbound flight. You find out when it leaves its airport and starts heading to your airport. Or if it gets delay, canceled, divert then you will know.

    If the inbound flight gets canceled you might have to refresh the alert because you are getting a new inbound flight. So you’ll have to search for your flight again and see if there is a new inbound flight.

    Maybe the problem is the weather at an airport. I’ll track the airport my inbound flight is coming from, the airport I’m at and the airport I’m heading to. If there is bad weather at the inbound flight, my flight might get delayed or canceled. If there is bad weather at my airport I will definitely be delayed. If there is bad weather at the airport I’m going to, we will get delayed and have to wait, even when my plane is here and everything is ready at our airport.

    I also find out every time something happens, why did it happen. So I can match the data I’m seeing to what is actually happening. Mind you, I fly a LOT. So it is worth it to me to find out what is going on and learn from past experience.

    Finally, remember that some people you ask might not know the answers. So always approach them with the statement, “I don’t know if you know the answer to this but ….”. And a lot of people will take out their stress on say a gate agent. So when you approach that gate agent they might be expecting you to freak out on them. Make them feel safe to help you.

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