Traveling may first and foremost be a way to give oneself a much-deserved break from their everyday woes – but for some people, getting to their “dream destination” is such a nightmare in itself that nothing about traveling sounds like the kind of relaxation they need in their life.
If you’re that kind of person, this is for you.
Now, there’s no shame in being afraid of, you know, giant metal planes that get into the sky without crashing down every day by some miracle (though we like to call it good, reliable engineering), or getting food poisoning in a foreign country and taking foreign medicine. And it’s true that these fears can have extremely stressful mental and physical effects, leaving people sweating, mute, and even struggling to breath. But there are ways to get over your fears! And it would be such a shame to miss out on the many, or at least a few, of the widespread wonders of the world waiting to be discovered
In fact, tackling your traveling fears can really help a person build skills that can benefit other areas of life, as well. That’s because there’s strength in being able to cope with situations that are out of your comfort zone. Who knew that that flight to your dream vacation could be the ticket to a better future as well?
There are all kinds of uncommon or even unheard of fears out there related to traveling: being afraid of accidentally touching a slimy fish while swimming in a coral reef, or being afraid of sleeping on hotel pillows, for example. But no matter your fear, there are therapeutic ways of facing and conquering them that can help you get out there.
New York City-based psychologist Megan Hughes says, “The trick is to do slow, steady exposures in advance of going on the trip.” Ready to put your fears in the past and warm, sandy beaches in your future?
We’ll start with just the basics…
Fear of flying
This one is more common than you might expect: one in four people deal with claustrophobia, fear of crashes, or some other gripping negativity regarding planes – according to Jonathan Bricker, an anxiety psychologist from Seattle. But there are online classes to help people address this fear by explaining the technical side of flying and what makes it so secure, the psychological side of flying fears, and even provide meditative classes.
Fear of heights
Hughes says, “A lot of people, when they are up [on that mountain or tall building floor], they feel like they are having a heart attack,” she says. You can practice dealing with heights wherever you live by either going to places that scare you and patiently sitting through the rising moments of panic until they pass, or you can try watching videos that simulate heights for you to get you better acquainted.
Fear of germs
Mysophobia, a fear of contamination and germs, is becoming more and more common as we learn about the micros coping workings of our world. But there are so many ways to keep germs at bay while traveling: carry sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer with you, for example – and exercise awareness about touching your face and mouth while you’re on the move. It will also help to give your immune system an extra boost before and during travel, as well: zinc and vitamin c are proven to be extra effective, but multi-vitamins are always a great choice.
Fear of bugs
A bug in the wrong place at the wrong time can certainly ruin a good time…okay, there’s no right time for certain bugs. But bugs generally want to stay away from humans, and when it comes to more common traveling pests like beg bugs or spiders, there are always ways to take care of them; bug sprays can help keep them away right off the bat, and prescription drugs and local clinics can almost always handle whatever situation you’re dealing with no matter how unpleasant it is at the time. The truth is, though, that having a bad run-in with bugs is just not very likely while traveling – so it shouldn’t get in your way!
As Hughes explains, what happens when you’re in a situation that triggers anxiety or panic is that the more time passes, the more your body’s parasympathetic nervous system—the part that calms you down—will kick in and subside your anxiety. By getting some exposure and training ahead of time will help train your mind to anticipate the eventual calming down, and remind you that your body will take care of you in scary situations.