Introduction to Travel Anxiety: Causes and Cures
Most people in the world dream of travel. But travel anxiety is also very common. Many people are simply afraid of travelling – some people may not even realize it – and those fears make it much harder to travel for work or pleasure.
This article explores the idea of travel anxiety, as well as provides tips and information on what you can do to reduce that anxiety in the future.
Travel Anxiety is Often Due to Life Anxiety
Are you someone that finds yourself anxious most of the time, even when not travelling? The more anxiety you experience in your daily life, the more likely you'll experience travel anxiety. Learn how to control anxiety by taking my free anxiety test.
How You May Have Travel Anxiety and Not Even Know It
Travel anxiety is such a complex issue that some people have the anxiety without even realizing it. There are those that find that they'll make an effort to avoid travelling as best they can (like not buying a ticket or thinking up excuses) because the idea of travelling makes them anxious, yet they do not even realize that they have travel anxiety in the first place.
Those with persistent generalized anxiety and panic attacks are also prone to travel anxiety simply because travel represents change and distance from comfort. If you haven't taken my anxiety test, make sure you do so now.
Causes of Travel Anxiety
Travel anxiety is unlikely to have any one specific cause. Many people have travel anxiety their entire lives. Others seem to develop the anxiety either because of some experiences or from nothing at all. Some examples of travel anxiety causes include:
- Fear of Flying – Probably the number one issue with travel anxiety is a fear of flying. Fear of flying is a very common phobia due to a broad range of factors. The lack of control, the changes in air pressure, the discomfort, and the turbulence can all contribute to a fear of flying especially as you age. Since most travel involves flight, it’s not uncommon for these fears to interact with your ability to control your anxiety.
- Horror Stories – Some people are influenced by the "worst case scenario" stories they hear on the news. You may not even realize you're influenced, but when you hear news articles about kidnappings, injuries, etc., it's easy to subconsciously associate travel with worst case scenarios.
- Home Comfort – Some people also develop a fear of being in a place so far from home, because their home is their source of comfort and stress relief. It's very common in those with panic attacks, for example, because their home becomes associated with being safe. The idea of leaving their home for an extended period of time then becomes very stressful. This can affect those without an anxiety disorder as well.
- Post Trip Worries – You may not have travel anxiety before the trip, but you may find that you develop travel anxiety during your trip. This type of anxiety can be due to any number of issues, including the stress of planning and dealing with trip needs, the lack of comfort you have in the area, the trouble you have communicating with others, and even just the jetlag and anxiety that comes from going on a long flight.
But this is just a simplified list. You may not even know the exact reasons that you travel anxiety developed. It is possible – and important – to understand what your specific worries are (we'll get to that in a moment), but it isn't always possible to know why you have those worries. Travel anxiety affects many people, and when it does it can be fairly disruptive.
How to Overcome Travel Anxiety
Of course, knowing these issues is only the first step. Ideally, you'll also want to learn how to overcome your travel anxiety and travel much more easily. Consider the following tips and strategies to make travel anxiety easier:
- Don't Avoid It – If you want to travel or you have to travel, don’t avoid buying the ticket if you don't have to and don't push back the date of the vacation. The act of avoiding something fearful actually increases future fear, because by pushing it back you've created what's known as "negative reinforcement." You've reinforced the fear by avoiding it. If you really want to overcome your travel anxiety, you need to take action and not let yourself fall into the avoidance trap.
- Figure Out Your Fears – While you may not know what caused your fears, you can often figure out what your fears are. Are you afraid of flying? Afraid of being away from home? Afraid of the stress of planning a vacation? Figure out what your specific fears are and write them down. Knowing your fears will give you an opportunity to evaluate them.
- Be Prepared Way in Advance – Start your trip anxious, and your trip will often remain anxious. Do your best to pack, plan your mail, see if anyone's going to look after your home, etc., as many as several days in advance. That way the day before you leave and the day you leave are simply you grabbing your stuff and going, without the hectic beginning that most people experience when they travel. Have your entire tripped planned as best you can too, so that you're never worried about what you're doing.
- Have Someone to Call at Home – You may also want to consider having someone that you can call if you experience anxiety – like a friend or family member. Ask someone you know that will be around. Tell them you have travel anxiety and you want to know that they'd be available if you needed to call someone. Knowing that person is there can often be enough to show a major impact on your anxiety levels.
- Take Vacation Breaks – If you find that your anxiety while on your trip is acting up, take a short break from your vacation. Don't try to tough it out or fight the anxiety away. Anxiety is the type of condition that is nearly impossible to "fight" because fighting it increases stress, which ultimately creates more anxiety.
- Plan an Empty First Vacation – If you have a fear of travelling in general, make your first vacation something where the entire goal is to do nothing but get used to the idea of travelling. For example, catch a plane to a location near a beach, and spend each and every day just sitting on the beach relaxing. This can help you get used to the act of being on a vacation without the pressures that come from some of these trips.
Beyond these travel anxiety ideas, you'll also want to focus on reducing your overall anxiety. Anxiety is a cumulative disorder. When you experience anxiety in one area of your life, it causes more anxiety in another area of your life. If you have any anxiety on a daily basis, reducing that anxiety will provide you with a powerful advantage when it comes to fighting your anxiety overall.
I've worked with many people suffering from intense travel anxiety. Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more about your overall anxiety levels and how to stop your anxiety forever.
Reisinger, Yvette, and Felix Mavondo. Travel anxiety and intentions to travel internationally: Implications of travel risk perception. Journal of Travel Research 43.3 (2005): 212-225.
McIntosh, Iain B., et al. Anxiety and health problems related to air travel. Journal of Travel Medicine 5.4 (1998): 198-204.