Anxiety and Traveling


I’ve mentioned this a few times on the blog, generally quickly and casually, because it’s an uncomfortable topic for me. I also never know how to bring it up. It doesn’t generally fit into my fun travel posts, or my expat revelations post.

Ultimately, this blog is about my story, and as often as I wish this anxiety and depression wasn’t a part of me, it is.

I’ve struggled on and off with depression and anxiety for a long time. I feel grateful for the fact that, as debilitating as it can be for me, it hasn’t prevented me from living my life.

I tend to feel anxiety about everything–it doesn’t discriminate–but for some reason, travel is often exempt from this category. Sure, I feel anxious about the details and the logistics, so I occasionally over plan (or, um, always over plan), but usually, I am certain that traveling to someplace new is never something I could regret. So, for some reason the anxiety around travel just…disspates. Which can seem completely opposite of what one would expect.

However, now that I am essentially traveling full-time, and after a year of living abroad and traveling as much as possible, my anxiety around travel has increased. Perhaps because travel is not just an escape from my life, but it kind of is my life? Travel is not just a quick vacation any more, but what we are building our life around, so I suppose it makes sense that it brings a whole other suitcase of things to worry about now.

I don’t have a magical solution for my anxiety, but I have noticed some things that help with this. I hope maybe they can help you, too, if you struggle with this or are nervous about traveling in general!

  1. Plan, plan, plan. Obviously with travel, it’s important to remember that there is so much that lies out of your control. No matter how perfectly you plan, you are still not in charge of the flight or the hotel or the weather. However, it helps me to research as much as I can about where we are going, especially the best places to stay and the best ways to get around. If we are traveling more free-form, I also like to read as much about the country we are visiting as possible so I know our possibilities. I like the website Rough Guides for the general overview it gives to almost every country in the world–along with pictures!
  2. Write a daily grateful journal. This one has been so important for me! I absolutely love journaling, but occasionally, as is common with anxiety, if I have too much freedom, I will end up dwelling in writing on whatever is making me anxious. Not good! My grateful journal gives me a positive direction to write in, helps me catalog specific memories I am grateful for that day, and reminds me of my staggering privilege. Since beginning to write in my journal almost every night several months ago, I’ve noticed an overall decrease in my anxiety and much better sleep at nights.
  3. Coloring. This one is a method that has taken off huge recently thanks to the report that coloring is the next best thing to meditation. As a psychology student, I was introduced to this technique as I was working with kids. I discovered that it also works great for me! I have this awesome travel coloring book and it’s a fun way to calm myself down.
  4. Focus on the moment. Mindfulness is huge in the psychology world, and for good reason. Since mindfulness is tricky and can take a lot of practice, an easy way to start is to play what I call “the Mindful Game.” I do this basically by turning my natural ability to over analyze and ask questions away from my own brain and onto the world around me. Asking questions like “what do I smell right now? what do I see? do I like what I see? why or why not? what am I sitting on? what do my socks feel like against my feet? am I comfortable? why or why not? do I like any colors or shapes around me? why?” and so on. It’s good to focus on something you like around you and explore why you like it. Like, why do you like that blue car? Is the blue pretty? Why do you think it’s pretty? It is cute? What makes it cute? However, when it’s something you don’t like, it is best not to judge your answer–say you don’t like it and move on, rather than dissecting that, because it could be a trigger.
  5. Puzzles. I prefer crossword puzzles, but Sudoku or anything like that works well, especially when you are waiting and you are concerned about waiting or what comes next.
  6. Breathing. Simple, but so important! There are so many breathing techniques, but they are all so effective. Sometimes I count to three as I inhale through my nose, count to four as I hold it, count to three as I exhale through my mouth. Sometimes I breathe deeply, again through my nose, as I imagine relaxing every muscle in my face, or even relaxing every muscle in my body, starting at my toes and moving upwards. Make sure to spend extra breaths on the parts of your body that hold more tension–I spend extra time on my knees, stomach, shoulders and forehead! Finally, a great one to do is one that I have often taught kids: the balloon method. Pretend that you have a blue balloon (or whatever color you choose) in your stomach. Breathe in slowly, filling up the balloon as big as it can get without popping. Don’t breathe too fast or it will pop! Then, imagine the air slowly leaving the balloon. You can even watch the balloon get bigger and smaller in your stomach if you want, it can be helpful to see what those breaths are doing. Just make sure to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  7. Music. Calming music, or fun music, can go a long way in soothing your anxiety. I have a bunch of music that I call my “nostalgic” music because it reminds me of different periods of my life, good ones!, which means hearing these songs will remind me of the good past, and give me a bit of a break from the stressful present.
  8. Reading. If my anxiety level isn’t too high, reading fun, light books is a great way for me to relax. It also gives you something to do during those long hours trapped in an airplane, car, bus or train. I often will read highly suspenseful novels as a way to distract me from a long travel day, but I have to be careful because these can sometimes suck me in too much and increase my stress level, so I start to feel more stressed about my current situation than I had before.
  9. Being prepared. Here’s where my extensive years in the Girl Scouts pays off–I always love to be prepared! (Okay, so that’s the Boy Scouts, but still). Along with my number one tip, to plan, being prepared can help alleviate some anxiety. I personally tend to go overboard with medication and extra underwear–and if I over pack in these areas a bit, but it gives me peace of mind, so what? I tend to have way more medications than I need. As long as I can over pack in these areas and still bring everything else along that I need, it’s no problem. In fact, I even have anxiety soothing medication that I have never used, just in case I have a panic attack or my anxiety gets out of control. Again, it gives me peace of mind to know it’s there.
  10. Give yourself a break. Remember to validate your feelings. It’s okay to be nervous or anxious. It doesn’t mean that you don’t want to go, that you’re ignoring your instincts, or necessarily anything like that. I find that acknowledging my anxiety–instead of just trying to run away from it–helps calm it a little bit, as if my anxiety is a separate person screaming “PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!! Oh, you’re listening? Oh, okay.”
  11. Do it your wayThere is no wrong way to deal with your anxiety (although admittedly there are healthier responses than others). Do what works for you! Don’t forget to that usually, all of the traveling is worth the stress and anxiety.

Do you have anxiety while traveling? How do you deal with it? Share below in the comments! 

Linking up with Travel Tuesday

Three Months on the Road: By the Numbers

I can’t believe it’s been THREE months since we left Prague! I admit that I miss it so much. It’s strange that we were only there for a year, though–three months on the road, a large chunk of that at home, feels very different from our first three months in Prague. Interestingly enough, it’s been almost a year to the day since I wrote my Three Months in Prague: By the Numbers post. Funny how math works. And funny how life works. It certainly looks different one year later: I’m sitting on a balcony in Central America, surrounded by rainy jungle, with a husband (who is currently re-organizing my suitcase because he can’t handle how I pack…).

I will have to write a long essay about my current emotional state regarding all these changes, and won’t that be fun??, but first, let’s discuss…


THREE WEEKS in Costa Rica. I can’t even begin to cover everything we’ve done, really!

EIGHT NIGHTS (total) at one of the best Airbnbs in the world.


ONE MEAL in an airplane…on the ground. This is a common thing here, weirdly!


COUNTLESS headaches as I navigate the murky waters of Apple and getting my computer fixed (yes, it’s still a doorknob).

TWENTY DAYS with a car to explore! Loved our little jungle car. And although Costa Rica’s roads are just as wild as claimed, it was worth it to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. IMG_5277

AS MANY Pacific sunsets as we could manage!


FOUR VISITS to these hot springs near the Hacienda Guachipelin.


FIVE WATERFALLS. For swimming, for seeing, for visiting, and one even ridden down to via horseback.


SEVEN national parks visited.


SIX DAYS (three longer than planned!) in one of the best stops in Costa Rica: the cloud forest of Monteverde.


THREE DAYS of fighting sickness…hence the reason for our extended stay in Monteverde (that and it’s amazing). Not SO bad to be sick on your honeymoon when you get to snuggle up in a cute little cabin though, right?

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ONE NIGHT with a volcano view.


SIX NIGHTS on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.


THREE NIGHTS at the incredible Banana Azul. A home away from home!

ONE Caribbean sunrise.


TEN (at least) hanging bridges crossed.


SEVEN sloth sightings! Including one baby! Which was too far away to get a good picture, but I will certainly remember it for.EVER.IMG_5104


One Month on the Road: By the Numbers
Two Months on the Road: By the Numbers

Now, tell me…how was your month?! Since I missed out on fall, my favorite, share some of your best autumnal moments in the comments! 

Pura Vida // A Quick Update

In Costa Rica they say “pura vida” as in “the pure life” for…well, everything. Greetings, farewells, randomly interjected into the conversation…I’ve found myself completely smitten with the idea of pura vida and the lifestyle it embodies.


We’ve been in Costa Rica for over four weeks now–we only have about a week and a half left! Our trip has looked rather different from it did when we first booked our tickets. Our ambitious plan was to fill our six weeks here in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. Then, our wedding planning, a year of extensive travel, and our actual (amazing) wedding happened. We got tired and the thought of traveling around three countries at a fairly quick pace sounded exhausting, rather than exhilarating. I also did more research on Costa Rica and realized how much there is to see here! So, we’ve spent these last four weeks just in Costa Rica, taking turns between adventuring and relaxing (and working). In several days, we will head south to Panama. I’m disappointed we won’t make it to Nicaragua this time around, so we hope to visit again soon! I admit it’s unnatural for me to travel at this slower pace, but it’s really what we need.

The benefit of this is that we’ve got a much more in-depth snapshot of Costa Rica than we might have otherwise. The laid back attitude and the dedication to peace at all times can be an adjustment to someone like me, who likes to know the when and where of things, but everything has worked out for us.

Costa Rica has also been, in many ways, exactly what we wanted. While my love of Europe is well documented (and is staying strong), we wanted to come to region closer to home since we planned to be back for the holidays. We also literally are not allowed in Europe yet! In addition, after a year of exploring some of the world’s greatest cities, we wanted a more adventurous/outdoorsy themed honeymoon, unlike anything we’ve done together. We’ve boogie boarded, gone in search of turtles laying eggs at midnight, spotted monkeys and sloths in the jungle, swam in the ocean at dusk, stayed in a treehouse, ridden horseback to a waterfall, swam in several waterfalls, bathed in volcanic mud, zip lined across a canyon, hiked in a misty cloud forest, relaxed on a Caribbean beach, and tubed on a whitewater river. It’s been fantastic! I’ve also learned that I’m not as brave as I think I am when booking these activities (read: zip lining), and that I’m allergic (and still terrified) of horses.

I’ll be on Instagram sharing some snaps of our time in Costa Rica and Panama over the next week, but we are also really focused on unplugging for the last days of our honeymoon. Pura vida, indeed!