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3 Pieces of Good Advice for Getting Rid of Your Travel Anxiety

You’re here because you want to get rid of your travel anxiety. You’re eager for answers. You want to see the world.

That’s why you plugged “how to get rid of travel anxiety” into your search bar, and now, you’re wading through the results. Millions…of…them…

Tread carefully through those pages. The web is a lot like the rest of the wide world. It’s a mixed bag. It’s like the Land of Oz, some of it not very nice, even though most of it is beautiful.

When you go tramping around in a place like that, it helps to have a guide who’s on your side. You need a person who knows the terrain well, someone who can steer you away from all the false wizards populating the internet.

I can be that for you. I’ve pored over the results on the “how to get rid of your travel anxiety” search pages more times than I can count. At first, I kept coming back because I wanted to see if people like you and me could find valuable advice about getting rid of travel anxiety online (answer – sometimes). And I wanted to determine if there was a need for a book on the subject (answer – there was).

This is some of the best advice I’ve found so far. By “best” I mean tips that will help most of the people who try them move past their travel anxiety most of the time. Even if they weren’t written in clinical terms, there’s good science to back them up. If you uncover others in your search, please post them in the comment section. Help an anxious traveler out!

Good advice for getting rid of travel anxiety #1 – have a purpose for your travels

I think you’ve already got a purpose. It’s just easy to lose track of it when your heart starts racing like a greyhound and feelings of doom try to swallow you up with their big ol’ jaws. It’s hard to stay tuned in to your purpose when you’re in the middle of a full-blown panic attack.

Mental time travel can help you stay connected with what’s really important to you. Lauren Juliff of Never Ending Footsteps uses her imagination to overcome her travel anxiety. When she thinks of her life a year in the future, she doesn’t want to imagine it being filled with regrets because she played it safe. What kind of a life would that be?

When she looks ahead, she wants to see herself recalling some beautiful travel memories she’s made for herself. She wants to feel proud of herself for not letting fear stop her. Isn’t that what you want for yourself too?

The practice known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy emphasizes the power of letting your actions be guided by your values instead of by transitory feelings. Imagining the life of your future self is one way to keep your actions in line with your purpose and your values.

And even if living by your values doesn’t make your anxiety go away entirely, at least it becomes less important. Calming down isn’t the point anymore when you’re traveling for a reason that’s bigger than your own comfort level. Remind yourself what that is.

Tim Sanders wrote about his experience with chatting up anxious travelers, and watching while their tension dissolved when he reminded them of their trips’ purpose. So ask yourself what’s really important. Then, do that, even if it involves travel. Even if you’re afraid.

Good advice for getting rid of travel anxiety #2 – do your research

It’s important to get the facts about your travel destinations, and it’s important to put those facts in context. For example, we often fear being the victim of crime in another country, but as The Busy Rats point out, it’s also common to ignore crime stories that are set right under our noses, in our own cities and hometowns. Familiar locations seem safe to us because we’re used to them, not because they’re really safer.

Figuring out the relationship between reality and your fears are central themes of cognitive behavior therapy and rational emotive therapy. Frightening events get lots of media coverage and that skews our ideas about how safe the world is.

What are the greatest dangers to your health and safety? Heart disease. Cancer. Accidents.

Not travel.

Hodophobes naturally overestimate risk. But if you want to move past your fears, you can’t just let yourself get away with nurturing false beliefs about how dangerous the world is. You’ve got to get the facts, and decide logically where you’ll travel based on what you know to be true, not on what you fear to be true.

If you eat right and exercise, wear your seat belt and stick with travel destinations the State Department says are safe for tourism, the odds are going to be in your favor, like, by a long shot. And don’t be put off by the State Department’s warning that “there is some risk in any international travel.” There’s some risk in staying home too. There’s the risk that a year from now you won’t be any closer to fulfilling your dreams of travel than you are today. That’s not what you want. Is it?

Good advice for getting rid of travel anxiety #3 – Practice being afraid

Fear can’t hurt you. It feels bad, so it’s easy to imagine that it’s really harmful, but it’s not. Accepting fear as a natural part of life will go a long way toward getting you on top of it.

Roanne Van Voorst tells her clients to practice being afraid because she knows that avoidance plays a huge role in the maintenance of anxiety. Here’s how that works: if you’ve taken Psychology 101 or enjoy reading about the topic, you’ll remember there are two mechanisms in play for the type of learning known as operant conditioning. Either behavior can be decreased through the application of punishment or it can be increased through reinforcement.

Now imagine that you’ve been asked to join your friends on a trip. You say “yes,” but then instantly regret it. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll have a panic attack on the flight over. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll get lost or catch a disease you don’t think you have to worry about at home. Maybe you’re afraid something bad will happen to your dog while you’re gone, or that you’ll get mugged or that you’ll lose your luggage. Whatever the exact nature of your fears, you’ll fret and worry. You’ll imagine the worst. The anxiety builds as your departure nears.

Suddenly, you have an insight about how to make the pain stop. You’ll cancel the trip. And as soon as you do, you feel better, lots better.

That wonderful feeling of relief serves as a reinforcement for your avoidance. It’s like throwing a bone to your dog when he rolls over at your command. Only this time, you’re the one who’s being trained. Fear has become your master. And the next time you try to plan a trip, it’s even more likely that you’ll back out.

Going into fear instead of away from it is a powerful tool for eventually moving beyond it. When you stop letting it stop you, you’re going to get a different kind of reinforcement – the reassurance that comes with knowing that the world is a safe enough place to roam around in, the reinforcement of a rewarding trip.

Don’t expect instant evaporation of your travel anxiety

Travel anxiety doesn’t usually disappear overnight. And it doesn’t really respond to all the quick fixes you can find on the internet. That doesn’t mean you’re at its mercy though. When you get the facts about your safety, identify your purpose for travel, keep an eye on the well-being of your future self, and practice letting yourself feel scared instead of relieved, fear doesn’t stand a chance.

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