Travel is one of the most exciting things we get to do in this life; we get to meet new people, see new horizons and often have our belief systems and ideas completely challenged. But amongst the many amazing experiences we get from travel, there can be some not so positive emotions attached too.
Travel anxiety is real. From the anxiety of travelling solo, to being in an unfamiliar situation to the fear of things going wrong, travel forces us out of our comfort zone and occasionally this brings with it genuine anxiety.
I had my first real experience with crippling anxiety in New York. While I'd done a little bit of travel, New York was my first real long-haul flight and it was also my first solo trip. I'm very much a small, coastal town person who finds comfort in my local haunts and my familiar community. New York was always going to be a challenge for me, but coupled with it being my first big trip and a solo one at that, I don't think I was prepared for what waited for me on the other side of that 14 hour flight.
Once I navigated JFK and managed to find my way into a taxi, I sat in a bit of terrified awe as I watched the concrete jungle flash past me, the symphony of blaring horns bringing me back to reality any time I slipped away for a second. After getting settled into my apartment I decided to head out and explore. Actually bringing myself to do that though was a different story. I had never felt anything like that before; I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, I was so overwhelmed by being somewhere new where I didn't know a single person. I was sure that everyone would stare at me while I walked down the street, I was so sure they'd know that I didn't belong here and see how vulnerable I was.
I can still remember stepping out of the apartment and walking down the street. I was so far out of my comfort zone I would have ran back home to the Sunshine Coast and to familiar if I could. It didn't take me long to shake this feeling though; after wandering a few streets I started to feel my heart rate slow, started to enjoy my surroundings rather than panicking and letting that feeling of anxiety overwhelm me.
While that is always the first example that comes to mind, there have been hundreds more little moments throughout my travels. From that nervous feeling I always get knowing I have a flight that day (like right now, I have a flight later this afternoon and all morning I've been checking and calculating when I need to leave to make it to the airport in time), to having to pull over within the first five minutes of a roadtrip to triple-check I packed the important things, to lying in bed the night before a big trip unable to sleep with a mix of nerves and excitement, to feeling my heart race approaching a group of new people.
It's in these moments that I believe we grow the most. When we are faced with difficult decisions and forced out of our comfort zones, we see how much we are actually capable of. I think it's important to remember that this is totally normally too; we feel nervous because as exciting as travel is, it is a big deal. It's completely normal to feel anxious in these moments, it's part of the travel experience. So embrace it all, breathe through the anxious moments and enjoy every second of the amazing moments too. There will be far more of those.