It’s less than two weeks until departure for Hanoi, Vietnam! And the number one question people are asking me right now is, “Are you getting excited for your trip?” Well, yes, but mostly I’m nervous.
And that’s the truth. Travel anxiety is real! I’ve been experiencing it big time for the past two weeks. This what I meant when I said the Travel Years is “a blog about anxiety”. In all of our eight months of planning, I never expected to feel this right before departure, but here it is. Loud and clear and glaring me in the face at 5:21 am as I sit here typing this out. No one warned me about this when I first started planning for South East Asia.
Would you believe me if I told you I haven’t been doing any destination research or reading? I haven’t been blogging either. When I should be the most excited person, about to leave on an adventure, I am nervous, second guessing myself, and anxious. I am reminded of Bilbo Baggins, who lived in his hobbit hole, reluctant and clinging to the comforts of home before heading off to the Lonely Mountain.
>>> I wrote that down a couple of mornings ago, after waking up in the middle of the night and failing to fall back asleep. Today however, excitement is finally winning out over anxiety!! Emphasis on finally. This I believe is in part due to
- Some useful articles and tips found around the internet (World Nomads, Nomadic Matt)
- The persistence of the snow storms currently sweeping through Ontario
- The support (a.k.a. patience) of my friends and family.
So if you’re a first time traveler, what are some of the best ways to deal with nerves or anxiousness before leaving on a trip? Here’s what is working for me
- Educate yourself about the risks! Having never been to Vietnam, or Indonesia before – I have no idea what to imagine. What I do know is that some of the people I meet have their own set of pre-conceived notions or opinions about the countries we plan on visiting, whether they are correct or not. Instead of getting worked up, do your research. Look for honest websites designed by travelers for travelers! Know the risks so you can be aware and prevent problems before they arise. The travel insurance provider, World Nomads, was a good resource for me in relaxing.
- Plan ahead! But I’m not talking about planning every minute of every day. Just be prepared. Take a first aid kit, stocked with some basic medical supplies. Be aware that tourists are natural targets for crime such as pickpocketing, and take precautions to protect your valuables. Book accommodations for at least your first night or two in a new place while you (hopefully) familiarize yourself with your surroundings, and deal with your culture shock. Taking the time to prepare and anticipating problems means less stress now, and down the road.
- Do yourself a favor and don’t scramble. I’m finally getting everything together that I need for my pack – a week before. A little too close for my personal comfort zone. I have been amazed at how much more relaxed I am about the trip now that my basic gear and paperwork needs are taken care of. The Visa is in, I’ve decided on travel insurance and I have (most) of the medications and vaccinations that I have decided I need. The silliest thing I have been worrying about? What pants to bring. Yes, I realize that is slightly ridiculous but there it is. Anyways, determine what your key issues are (pants and travel insurance in my case) and deal with it! Don’t put stuff off just because you are nervous.
So what’s my final verdict as a long time worry-wart and first time international traveler? Ignore all of those people who tell you that automobile accidents are statistically more likely than airplane crashes – even if they’re right – and take matters into your own hands! Be prepared, know the risks, and don’t leave the details until the last minute because there are a lot of them. A lot of them. You will (hopefully) be better equipped to experience a new culture, and handle your culture shock!