How to Banish Travel Anxiety, According to a Therapist

Dacy Knight

It's normal to get nervous about travelling. You're out of your usual element, and a lot can happen—a missed flight, lost luggage, and culture shock (to name a few). But feeling anxious about travel might mean a bit of cold feet for some and an absolutely crippling anxiety for others, one so debilitating that it keeps people from living out their dreams of travelling the world. "Travel anxiety is the experiencing of anxious symptoms produced prior to or during travel," explained Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, with Delphi Behavioural Health. "The symptoms can range from some gastrointestinal distress to crippling fear."

We reached out to Dehorty to explain what exactly is at work when one experiences travel anxiety, and how to best overcome it. He listed several reasons one may become anxious due to travel, including fear of flying, fear of being away from home, or becoming anxious about their safety while in a different environment or culture. "Whatever the specific fear, it is important to identify what it is, or it will become an all-encompassing anxiety," noted Dehorty. "It is also important to distinguish if this is a manifestation of a generalised anxiety or a travel-specific anxiety."

Doherty explains that once the specific fear is identified, you can begin to make progress in addressing that issue. "Let's look at the fear of flying. Now we must drill down to what about flying is fearful," he began. "Is it the lack of control, claustrophobia, turbulence, being at great heights, germs? In most cases, when we become anxious about such things, we are thinking about the worst-case scenario, so it is important to really test our thoughts. Is it true that turbulence will make the plane crash? No. In fact, turbulence can be expected and is perfectly safe. You must keep reminding yourself of this fact so that when turbulence does occur, you can repeat the statement."

In addition to pinpointing the source of your fears then reminding yourself of the messages that alleviate them, Doherty emphasised that to beat travel anxiety, it is important to not avoid travel, "as that will just increase the anxiety." He did assure that it's okay to start small and advised planning well prior to embarking on the trip. "Tell someone about your anxiety so you will be able to reach out to them if needed," he suggested. The final piece of advice Doherty gave is quite simple, though often overlooked. "Remember to breathe," he says. "When we get anxious, our breath becomes shallow, and that tells our brain that something may be wrong, increasing our anxiety. Take deep, cleansing breaths."

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