It’s important to understand that everyone’s anxiety is different. Some may have no issues with travelling at all, or may find stepping outside their comfort zone to be transformative and almost curative. However, for some such as myself, suffering from anxiety can be extremely restrictive, limiting what you’re able to tick off that summer bucket list because of the fear of the unknown. It doesn’t have to be that way. In a lot of small steps, an adventure away from home can be made far more enjoyable, instead of fuel for anxiety and stress. I’ll be sharing a few of the tips I’ve picked up over time, including on my recent trip to Edinburgh.
1. Book everything in advance that you can. Sites such as groupon, train line, and booking.com are particularly helpful from my experience. They’ll save you money, help with budgeting, and also allow you to know your exact timings for any activities, so that you aren’t rushing around on the day or waiting in long stressful queues for tickets.
2. Travel with a small group of 2-4, but no more. Going away with my best friend was great, as it allowed us to avoid the chaos of trying to plan in a group chat, whilst having the security of another person there. Chances are if you get lost or unsure, one of you will be able to resolve the problem. Big groups however can be very difficult to organise, particularly with making bookings and actually getting around the area where you’re staying without clashes of interest (or misplacing the 5’3 and unders in crowds.)
3. Budget your money in advance, so that you don’t have to concern yourself with it while you are there. Prepaying for hotels, train tickets and activities really helps with this, as you then won’t have the nagging fear of being caught unable to afford essentials. If this is a particular worry for you or you’re on limited funds, I recommend sensibly dividing your remaining funds as well into groups of food, public transport/taxis, drinks, shopping, and a small emergency pool to cover anything unexpected – though I’m sure that won’t be needed!
4. Create a flexible itinerary for your trip. Arrival times, leaving times and prebooked activities create an outline, which you can then fill with any sites you want to visit in order of distance, or just ‘free time’ if you’d rather be spontaneous.
5. Use Google maps and work out walking distances in advance. Apps such as Google trips are especially helpful, as it allows you to highlight places you want to visit and creates an optimal walking route for you, so that you can maximise your time and have the most stress free experience possible. Walking directions on Google maps are especially helpful if you’re nervous about getting lost!
6. If you’re nervous about public transport and your holiday isn’t all possible on foot, I recommend the first bus app. This allows you to find nearby bus stops, and buses that will take you to your destination, with a built in map to show you where to get off and how far left you will have to walk. For me, this is an absolute god send, especially on city breaks. (I use this pretty much every day of my life, in fact.)
7. Don’t be afraid to ask tourist Centres for directions. This is easier said than done, but remember that they get these requests all the time, and that’s essentially what they are there for. Google maps isn’t always the best if your data or GPS is weak, but particularly in a city you will almost always be within walking distance of a tourist information centre or a tourist shop. It can be nerve wrecking to ask a stranger for directions, but take comfort in the fact that you are probably the 50th person to do so that day, and they won’t mind at all! Souvenir shops equally deal with large numbers of tourists, so if you can’t find an information centre, maybe try asking politely in one of these.
8. Pack light but comfortably. You’re less likely to worry about forgetting something or leaving something behind if you aren’t overburdened with luggage, and this will also make travelling much smoother for you. I recommend making a list of everything to pack, and keeping this on your phone after you leave so you can remember precisely what you brought.
9. Keep your phone well charged at all times for peace of mind, so that Google maps, first bus and any crucial contacts are always available to you. I recommend turning on power saving mode and closing all apps you aren’t using to make your battery last through a long day, and carrying your charger in case you sit down at a cafe with charging ports. Incase it does die, though, all isn’t lost! You’ll have your friends phones, and even in 2019 it never hurt to pick up a paper city map from your hotel or train station.
10. Talk about your feelings. It’s often hard to admit that the simple, seemingly trivial things make you nervous, but ensuring that members of the party are aware of your anxiety can be extremely helpful. It allows them to accommodate you in small ways, such as being the one to ask for directions or order at the restaurant, and will also take a weight off your chest in that if you do suffer a bout of anxiety during your trip, it won’t shock anybody, and they may be able to offer help or support. Anxiety can be very hard to deal with in unfamiliar situations, but you do not have to suffer in silence around real friends.