I have generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety, and I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Put all of these things together in one person, and, well, you get someone who finds traveling enormously difficult. As much as I love to travel and see new places, I also spend a lot of time worrying about it. So much so that I sometimes wonder if it’s even worth it. Is it worth feeling so anxious for this? Sometimes, I think it is, but not always.
For example, my last big trip was the seven-day cruise I took with my mom in May of last year. I have been on many cruises, as is well documented on this blog. But this cruise was different. I spent the entirety just wanting the trip to be over. I didn’t know it then, but I was entering a period of depression, and that’s most likely what led to feeling so anxious on the cruise. We had booked some more active excursions, too, including a zip-lining excursion in Honduras, and I was just so scared something terrible was going to happen to either my mom and me. (And, look, these are not irrational fears: on one cruise, my mom fell off her bike and down a ravine during an excursion and I broke my ankle during a hiking/zip-lining adventure.)
Thankfully, I have more tools at my disposal this time around. I’m on a higher dose of anxiety medication, I’m in therapy, and I know the warning signs to look out for. So I’m hoping my trip to Ireland will go much more smoothly, mentally, than my cruise last year.
Before I head off to the castles and cliffs of Ireland, however, I wanted to talk about some of the issues I experience as a generally anxious person. In doing so, I hope to normalize my anxiety and show others that the worries they have aren’t unique to them. You’re not alone in this. I promise. 🙂
Anxiety Issue #1: Worrying about something bad happening in the days leading up to the trip.
I started feeling this way last Friday, and I could immediately identify it for what it was: the age-old panic I always feel right before a vacation begins, the worry that something terrible is going to happen to either me or my mom and we won’t be able to go on our vacation. I start having to check in with my mom more frequently than usual, and I do it in a very odd way. Like, I’ll ask her a stupid question just to make sure she responds and that way, I know she’s alive. Last year before our cruise, I remember a morning where I checked in with her and didn’t get a response for hours. I was convinced something terrible had happened when, in reality, she had just had a busy morning full of meetings and didn’t have time to respond.
This constant worry can be so exhausting. I feel like I’m constantly on edge and it means I’m spending less time anticipating my trip and more time worrying about what could go wrong beforehand.
Anxiety Issue #2: Worrying about all the things that can go on wrong while on the trip.
Ah, yes. Not only do I worry about what could go wrong before the trip, but also all the terrible things that could happen while on the trip. Some of the things I’ve been worried about for Ireland:
- Learning to drive on the other side of the road – I am very worried about this! But also excited, which is why I really want to do it. I want the experience of driving on the other side of the road. I have booked a car to take us from Galway to Kilkenny, and then from Kilkenny to Dublin (not all on the same day). But if my anxiety ratchets up too much, we can nix the car for the train. The car just gives us more flexibility and also allows us to stop at the Rock of Cashel on our way to Kilkenny.
- Making it to the train station on time – Logistics are always a huge anxiety trigger for me. I’m always worried about being exactly where I need to be on time. As such, we’ll be getting to the train station at least 45 minutes before the train leaves so I’m not freaking out beforehand.
- Getting caught up in customs – I don’t even know what I’m worried about with this. I’ve just never been through the process, so I get panicky about it from time to time.
- Not scheduling enough downtime – Our days will be busy while we’re in Ireland because we only have six full days to see everything we want to see. We’re basically exploring a new town every day, so there won’t be a lot of downtime. However, there will be some long train rides and I don’t expect us to be out late at night. (Most mornings we need to be up by 7am, which will feel like 2am our time, so I expect many early nights.)
Those are some of my biggest worries and they really aren’t anything like my worries for my last cruise, where it was more like “will I die on this zipline excursion?!?!” And I have a plan in place for every worry, which eases some of my panic.
Anxiety Issue #3: Feeling uncomfortable in new settings.
This worry falls under: Traveling While Having Social Anxiety. Feeling uncomfortable in new settings is a hallmark of social anxiety, and I expect to feel a lot of that while I’m in Ireland. There will be loud pubs and a new bed to sleep in nearly every day and new sights to see. I’m going to feel very out of my element, and that’s not my favorite thing. And when I feel that way, the only thing I want is to be back home, in a familiar environment and in my comfy bed. That’s how I felt last year on my cruise, and I really do not want to feel this way in Ireland. I want to enjoy each day. I want to be present, not looking ahead to what’s next and how many days until I can be home.
I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to remain present during this trip, other than trying to be very mindful of my thoughts and journaling when I feel the anxiety creeping in.
So, that’s how my anxiety manifests in the days and weeks leading up to a vacation. There is a lot of anticipation and excitement, please don’t think there’s not! I can barely sleep at night because I’m so excited for what awaits me next week. I spend all of my free time looking up restaurants to visit in Ireland and have worn the hell out of my copy of Rick Steves Ireland. But I wanted to write all this out as a way to normalize it. This is just the way my brain operates; it doesn’t mean anything other than that. And, hopefully, if your brain operates similarly, you can take comfort knowing you’re not alone and we’re in this together.
What do you get anxious about before a trip?