In 2019, we flew over 200,000 miles. In 2020, we went 243 days without a flight. And something happened in those 243 days. The world flipped upside down. People lost their lives. People lost their livelihoods. The world came to A. Screeching. Halt.
The things we used to worry about, the things we used to strive for, the things we used to wake up for now seemed trivial. The change in the world made us question everything.
243 days later…we boarded a flight. It felt strange. It felt uncomfortable. The usual feeling of butterflies 🦋 of excitement before a trip dissolved into an uncomfortable heavy feeling in our guts. It was anxiety. Travel. Crowds. Strangers. The things that used to excite us now…scared us? We were professional travelers with….travel anxiety.
But when we finally touched down at our destination – a new country with new people (and strict COVID protocol), it felt like we had time traveled to 2019. That beautiful and familiar feeling of teetering into the unknown in a foreign land brought us a deep joy. We were in our happy place talking to strangers, listening to their stories, and immersing ourselves in a new culture. Plus, for our fellow travel industry folk, it felt SO damn good to support the local travel industry & economy in a safe way.
Our first international flight in 2020 – donning N95’s and feeling something new: travel anxiety
It’s ok to feel anxious right now…even about the things that bring us joy. While I’m not a psychologist, I have dealt with bouts of anxiety for the better part of my life. Add in a pandemic and I’ve really had to sharpen the tools in my shed.
Nothing is permanent in this wicked world — not even our troubles.
— Charlie Chaplin
As we begin to head back out into the world, how do we balance safety and fear?
I chatted with my dear friend and neuropsychologist, Dr. Kate Cummins, about anxiety in travel. As both an avid traveler and neuropsychologist, she recommends to,
“Make the decision prior to traveling that you have control of your own thoughts. When you start feeling anxious or fearful about the travel itself or safety, create alternative perspectives internally about the positive outcomes of your trip. This creates opportunity to connect with the reasons you’re going on this vacation in the first place, resets your worries to exciting thoughts, and will decrease negative emotion getting in the way. Most individuals are overdue for a reset after the pandemic, so remind yourself that you are worthy of the time off.”
Here are additional tips to help with travel anxiety:
- Look to peer reviewed scientific studies to guide you along the spectrum of risk. Wherever you fall is ok. There is no judgement.
- Focus on What is vs. What if. Anyone who has felt anxiety knows that the idea of, “what if” is always lingering. Focus on what IS right in front of you instead of anticipating what could happen. No amount of anxiety can change the future.
- Create your own happy space and be prepared to self-soothe with things that calm you such as your favorite Spotify playlist or podcast, a Headspace meditation, a journal, or a book.
- Control the things you can control. Air travel and crowds can be chaotic. After a year of avoiding people, it can be nerve wracking to be in a public space. It’s ok to keep your distance, control your breathing, and smile (under your mask of course)
- Choose wide open spaces: If you’re anxious about traveling in crowds, postpone that city trip and instead, opt outside. There are plenty of beaches, mountains, and wide open spaces for you to travel safely.
- Do your research: If you want to book a hotel, make sure to call ahead and ask about what safety precautions they’re taking. If the hotel is going above and beyond to assure guests of their safety, you’ll feel safer going into your travels.
- Choose self-contained travel: If you don’t feel comfortable in a crowd, that’s completely ok! Look into renting an RV through Outdoorsy or rent a house on AirBnb.
- Have a sense of humor: Good humor is the best antidote to anxiety.
What is your risk of getting COVID on a plane? The Department of Defense and United Airlines completed this study.
If you want to travel, the great outdoors are a safe place to explore
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