It’s an unfortunate yet all-too-common truth that the anxiety surrounding travel can sometimes overcome the joy of exploring the unknown. While some people revel in uncertainty, others feel crippled by it—for those identifying with the latter, there’s a little more planning and consideration required ahead of a trip.
In addition to whatever routine behavior goes into the preparatory stages (triple-checking flight dates and times, spending extensive amounts of time on Google maps trying to plot travel routes, getting lost in city-specific Internet research, etc.) — there are a few additional practices you can employ to help ease some of the anxiety that comes with an impending adventure.
Before you leave
Consider seeing an acupuncturist ahead of your trip. Research shows acupuncture may be effective in relieving stress and anxiety—though it’s not necessarily an immediate fix. Visit a trusted, licensed acupuncturist (abbreviation is usually LAc after the name) to determine if this could be helpful for you, and how often it’s recommended you visit for best results. Additionally, these practitioners might be able to advise on herbs to help alleviate chronic or event-induced stress—think a natural Xanax alternative.
Simplify the packing process
A time of adventure is not one to worry over wardrobe. Consider the practical implications of your destination (weather, activities such as hiking, boating, etc., as well as occasions and events like weddings) and prioritize these. With whatever room you have left, build a capsule wardrobe of your hardest-working pieces. If you can’t imagine wearing an item more than once, consider ditching it. Generally speaking, neutral-colored items are easy to mix and match, as are classic staples such as cotton t-shirts and well-fitting denim. Lean on fun accessories like jewelry and small handbags to diversify your looks. When you feel good about what you packed, the stress of “having nothing to wear” (not to mention impulsive shopping out of “necessity”) is a non-issue.
Arm yourself with knowledge
If flying makes you nervous, there’s great literature to help ease your mind. Cockpit Confidential is written by a pilot, and explores topics from turbulence to terrorism, all the while working through the intricacies of how planes actually work. The more you know about what’s truly going on when you’re 39,000 feet in the air can have a profound effect on your psyche.
To dive deeper into practices of elevated consciousness before and during a trip, Away & Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel (available now for pre-order) offers tips including how to connect with people you encounter, and what to do when things go wrong. Consider it a primer on how to make the most of your trip, take setbacks in stride, and ensure you’re fully present during your time away.
For the plane
Unless you’re flying business class, there’s only so much that can make a cramped, moisture-depleted cabin more enjoyable. Don’t worry—we won’t suggest you do a “relaxing” face mask in-flight (as many brave beauty editors implore). Instead, bring a small vial of your favorite essential oil and dab just a touch into a bandana. You can then tie it loosely at the neck or over your eyes (be sure to strategically place the oil so it’s not stinging you right in the face) for a mini aromatherapy session. Lavender, rose, and vetiver are our anxiety-squashing favorites, but pick one that smells good to you (or create your own unique blend).
During your stay
Make your hotel or Airbnb like a home away from home with cozy, familiar touches. Travel-size bath soaks and a mini candle can work wonders to help unwind after a long day. (Who doesn’t love a warm, candle-lit soak?)
If you’re a compulsive social media-checker, consider leaving your phone at the hotel and, instead, bring an actual camera (what a concept!) to document your experience. (If you’re in an unfamiliar place, maybe bring your phone because, you know, safety—but commit to only using it when you truly need to). That, or download an app like Onward that helps track how much time you’re actually spending on your phone.
For each day of your stay, devote just a few minutes to writing morning pages. For the uninitiated, “morning pages” is a stream-of-consciousness exercise that takes just a few minutes, and ideally fills up two or three journal pages. You can write about whatever you want, but this brief moment of reflection is aimed to help ground you in the moment and provide direction and clarity that’ll carry you through your day. Down the line, you’ll also be grateful to have documented these personal memories from your trip.
Yoga and exercise are known to be stress relievers—but you’re already well aware of this. While it’s easy to cast these mind-body practices aside (“Because I’m on vacation” is a permissible yet not exactly advisable excuse), squeezing in just a few minutes of mindful activity can enhance your travel experience—not to mention quell some of those post-vacay feelings of epicurean guilt. Stream a yoga or Pilates class from a site like Gaia (your first month is just 99 cents) to give your body some TLC—and maybe atone for last night’s gluttonous dinner.
Go ahead—turn on that out-of-office reply and pack your bags. You’ve got this.