When was the last time you stepped outside your comfort zone and did something that scared you? When is the last time you moved towards your fear, instead of away?
I love traveling, but honestly, travel days make me anxious. Even more so when they involve trains in countries where I don’t speak the language! It can all be pretty overwhelming.
The place I was staying at in France is not in a major city. Neither was my destination in Italy. That meant that my journey required three different trains, and on a tight transfer timeline. For the first train, my friend let me know exactly which platform to go to catch the train and when to get off. At my first stop, I had 25 minutes to find my next platform. I really had no ability to read actual signs or converse in the local language, but I could figure out from the board that I needed to get to Platform F. But where was Platform F? I ended up asking a gentleman that was cleaning the wall… I wasn’t sure if he understood me, but in his best charades, he directed me where to go and thankfully he was right!
Getting from the second train to the third was the switch that was causing me the most anxiety. According to the schedule, I should have had 8 minutes to find my next platform. I had to keep reminding myself that the worst case wasn’t even that awful- I could always take the next train. Of course, my train rolled into the station 2 minutes late, meaning I now had 6 minutes to find my next train. In a flurry, I found a little information board with the trains listed on it, but I couldn’t see mine. I asked someone for help but they didn’t understand. The time slipped away and to make a six-minute long story short, I missed the train. Yes, the worst case scenario that I was dreading, because I had no way to contact my ride from the train station to the hotel at my final destination and say I would be late. I have been avoiding phone calls because of the expensive roaming fees and only using my phone on wifi, and I didn’t really want to pay to start roaming now.
Anyways, I took some deep breaths and spoke some common sense to my inner voice. It’s not like I’m in a race. A later train will be fine.
I found someone who understood and spoke some English. With their help, I managed to find the correct platform, and get on the next train.
As I sat on the train, I faced a new predicament. When do we get to my final stop? I have no idea where we are now or what’s next because the train doesn’t announce where it is when it stops. So I get up and go to the door and, now getting quite ok with asking random strangers questions, I find out this is Sestri Levante. Aaaahhhh!!! My final destination!! Oh, I am so glad I asked.
Now that I was in the right city, I needed to next out how to get to the hotel. There wasn’t any wifi in the train station, so I stuck with my new default and asked the man behind the little market stand. He said it was about a 10 minute walk and I got directions. As I wandered towards the hotel, I kept asking other random people to confirm that I was headed in the right direction. I kept walking and realized that the hotel is on a hill… a very large hill. But you can’t give up that close to the finish line, so eventually I arrived, covered in sweat and utterly exhausted. But that’s ok. The point is that I arrived!
On that trip, the thing that I was most scared could happen, did happen. But I survived. It wasn’t awful. Sometimes we need to move into our fears to realize they aren’t all as bad as we think.
Some of my greatest experiences and moments of growth have happened when I moved towards that things that terrify me. So don’t run away from adventures. Don’t run from things that you think might be hard. You are stronger than you think, and trying something new is how you will learn and grow.
If you suffer from travel anxiety like I do, here are three things I do to help deal with the stress.
- Compile all your information ahead of time and be prepared. Know what terminals your airline uses. Know your flight information and how to get ahold of the airline if something goes wrong. Know your hotel name, address and contact information. Know your train schedule and stops. Keep it all in a central note in your phone to access anytime. If you’re really nervous, also print a hard copy and slip it into your purse. A friend taught me to check how long the train journey should be between my start and destination and set a timer on my phone, so that I know when I “should” be arriving even when I can’t understand the language. Another friend always downloads the Google map for her destination before leaving home, so that it can be accessed even without cell service or wifi.
- Play through some worst case scenarios in your head and create a game plan for how you would deal with each scenario. Not like, “a random stranger could kidnap me and murder me” type scenarios, but ones that could actually happen. Missing a plane/train, getting off at the wrong stop, and things along those lines. You’ll be much better equipped to deal with these situations should they actually happen, if you have already created a game plan in your mind.
- Breathe. Yoga has taught me a lot about breathing and connecting to my centre. Slow, deliberate, deep breaths that ground you and focus you. I really feel like it’s impossible to be stressed while you are deep breathing.
Do you have any other tips that help make travel easier for you?