Getting Rid of Travel Anxiety: Food Suitcases, Fitness and Planning Ahead

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I can hardly believe that I embark on a month-long journey in Luxembourg NEXT FRIDAY!!! It’s finally hit me as I’ve been preparing and packing like crazy. And as the travel anxiety starts to hit...

Considering I’ve traveled quite a bit, I bet you’d never guess that up until now I never really liked traveling. I think I liked the idea of it, but to be honest, I used to suck at traveling. Suck at traveling? Is that even a thing? Well, apparently it is, because I’m living proof. My travel anxiety used to be so bad that it got in the way of me being "good" at it.

As far as I can remember traveling has always just been hard for me. Any kind of change has always been hard for me, even when it’s short term like it is during a trip (plus it doesn't help that flying freaks me out). I’m a creature of habit and love my schedule. I love planning my weeks out on Sundays and prepping mentally and physically for it. I love going to bed early and getting up at the crack of dawn to enjoy the peace, quiet and, of course, coffee. I love working out in the morning and doing my thing (usually blog-related) throughout the rest of day. I like sticking to the plan. Like really like it. Which I’ll admit, isn’t always healthy.

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A lot of this stems from being a naturally-anxious person. Although my anxiety has gotten so much better over the past year, it still surfaces quite frequently. Sticking to my schedule helps me feel calm and keeps my anxiety at bay.

BUT, I’ve found that sometimes in order to truly fight my anxiety and grow through it, instead of just tip toeing around it, I have to do things that are outside of my comfort zone. I have to put myself in situations that make me a little anxious so that, instead of ignoring my anxiety, I learn new ways to deal with it.

Like, for example, going to Europe for a month after just having a conversation with my mom about how I had finally accepted that I suck at travelling and probably always will.

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Rewind for a second. I was at work in the communications office at my school one day, reading through stories that needed to be written up about the upcoming study abroad opportunities. I peaked at the course offerings, knowing damn well I wasn’t actually going to apply.

See, the majority of the students at my itty bitty school end up studying abroad at least once, so whenever I had been asked about it I would say “oh yeah, you know, maybe I’ll go during Jan Term senior year.” Well, those senior year Jan Term classes were what I was reviewing for work and the thought of going on any of the trips freaked me out.

I texted my mom and told her that I felt a little guilty for not taking this opportunity to see more of the world, but I just finally was able to admit that I wouldn’t be successful on those trips. Going that far out of my comfort zone wouldn’t have been healthy for me.

So you can imagine my shock a week or so later when I was aimlessly and blissfully perusing the isles of Whole Food and received a text from my mom telling me we had the opportunity to go with my dad to Luxembourg for a month because he had to go for work. I literally stopped dead in my tracks, right in the middle of the isle, apple cider vinegar in hand (thank God I didn’t drop it, but I swear I almost did).

As usual when someone proposes an idea that disrupts my perfectly thought out schedule and life-plan, my first thought was “oh HELL no.”

And then as soon as that popped into my head I wanted to smack myself. WAS I CRAZY?! This was a once in a lifetime trip and I was going to turn it down to house sit my own home and take care of my (annoying… sorry Kermit) dog?!

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It was in that moment that I knew it would be a test of my anxiety, but I was ready for it.

The amazing thing is, my parents get me. They understand my anxiety and especially my anxiety with travel. It’s not only that I like my schedule and it’s hard for me to disrupt it, but traveling is scary for me with my constant stomach issues. Not knowing if I’ll find food I can eat without getting sick and wondering if I’ll still get sick even if I think whatever I’m eating is safe is scary.

I know a lot of people don’t get it, and that’s completely understandable, but when you have food intolerances and mystery issues and feel sick some way or another most of the time despite your efforts to live the healthiest lifestyle, traveling to an unknown country can be nerve-wracking.

But because my family and I are well aware of my food intolerances now and how careful I have to be with my stomach and we all know how we will be most successful while traveling, we’re prepared to make this the most memorable trip yet.

The most important thing about this go-around in Europe is that we’re aiming to truly “live” in Luxemburg for the glorious month that we’re there. My mom and I are still having somewhat of a schedule during the week, I’m still running and “lifting” (more on that in a second) in the morning, we’re cooking most of our meals in the apartment we’re staying in, we’re going to walk and walk and walk some more so we feel like we’re really getting to know the city. Knowing we’ll have a sense of normalcy has made most of my anxiety disappear.

Despite this, there are a few more specific things I'm doing to help my anxiety as I embark on this trip:

  1. Packing a food suitcase: I’m sure you’ve all heard about the food suitcase by now. Remember when I went to Hawaii? Yup, there was a food suitcase that trip too. But the food suitcase has been taken to a whole new level this time. Knowing I have my go-tos with me that won’t make me sick and only really having to worry about getting fresh produce and proteins at the grocery store there makes me feel a lot better. Some of the things I’m bringing along? Nut butters, raw almonds to make homemade almond milk, RXbars, dried fruit, chickpea pasta, rice cakes, superfoods, vegan protein powder, Mary’s Gone crackers, teas, etc. Knowing we are showing up and are already stocked up on these necessities is a huge relief because 1. I know I won't starve in a foreign country and 2. I know I won't get sick.

  2. Continuing to workout: Keeping a workout schedule while abroad majorly helps my anxiety. Running and doing strength training exercises in the morning helps set me up for the day and never fails to keep me calm. Thankfully where we’re going is super safe so I can continue to run (long runs abroad?! Sounds good to me!). Instead of joining a gym, I’m bringing along a travel yoga mat and a variety of different resistance bands (which I all bought on Amazon!) and will be doing bodyweight workouts with those (hopefully in some beautiful parks) instead of lifting in a gym. Although I'll miss lifting in a gym like crazy, I knew I had to push myself because it will allow me to spend more time out in the beautiful city I’m staying in. I’ll be doing some posts throughout my trip showing you the workouts I do! Again, this just helps with a sense of normalcy.

  3. Researching beforehand: Researching where the groceries stores are, what healthy restaurants are near us, what castles, gardens and parks we want to see, what weekend trips we want to do, etc. helps me feel like I’m already getting to know the city. This helps me feel SO much more prepared and I don’t feel as out-of-sorts when I get there.

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And just because I'm still going to be keeping somewhat of a “normal” schedule while abroad, that isn’t to say I won’t be spontaneous on this trip. Our weekends are wide open for adventures and I have fully prepared myself to be more flexible in order to truly soak up the beautiful country I’m going to. :)

So here’s to being open about anxiety, fighting against it and having the trip of my life!

XO nat

Related: Packing Tips: Carryons and Clothing, Overcoming Rest Day Anxiety: 10 Tips to Help you Fall in Love With Rest Days