How to Travel the World When You’re Scared, Anxious and Slightly Obsessive

Motu Tahiti South Pacific

I’m not a perfect person, but none of us are. We all have our foibles and quirks, eccentricities that make us unique individuals. The trick is learning how to manage these traits and not let them negatively impact our lives. It’s not easy, believe me I understand, so today I thought I’d share some advice from the point of view of someone who at times has been scared, is almost always anxious and definitely obsessive. Instead of letting these characteristics limit what I do in life, I’ve learned how to both manage and even harness them. What are some of your own personality quirks?

Don’t Overplan

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that travel should be fun! I have been on hundreds of flights and yet each time I board a new plane I get excited. The night before a trip I still have trouble sleeping, like a kid on Christmas Eve. The basic joys of travel are still very real for me, and they are sensations that I covet above almost everything else. It’s not just the anticipation of course that’s fun, but almost every aspect of the travel experience, from new hotels to exploring beautiful cities – these are amongst the most joyful moments in my life. However, we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to enjoy the perfect vacation that we many times become our own worst enemies. Either we overplan to the point of exhaustion, or we stress about details we can’t change. Either way, it’s always refreshing for me to see people out there traveling and having a great time doing it. While sailing on a river cruise, there was an extended family onboard of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. They were all ages and when I first saw them I groaned because I thought the kids would get bored and start acting up within a couple of days. I was very wrong though and instead of ignoring their kids, the parents engaged them, had fun and by the end of the trip the entire family was about as content as any I have ever seen. It was great to see teens put down their phones to play Scrabble and for their parents to take time showing them around new cities. Travel is a gift, and that family knew how to deliver it – with a smile and a few laughs. When we travel it’s always meant to be fun, so open yourself up and allow for some opportunities to relax, go slow and enjoy the moment.

Matt Long LandLopers Toronto Edgewalk

Don’t Put it Off

The travel world can be a strange place, full of people desperate to add to their portfolio of unusual experiences and others who want to visit as many countries as they can, if only the airport, just for the bragging rights. None of that need bother the average traveler, except when these same people put pen to paper and offer travel advice. Sadly, they really can’t. They’re not average travelers, they’re some strange class of super-tourists and 99.9% of people just can’t relate to them. I heard a TV interview a few months ago and the travel “expert” on the panel recommended destinations so remote and unlikely, that it was actually laughable. It makes me sad though, I don’t think that there’s any real place for arrogance in travel and ultimately it doesn’t help anyone. No, instead what we need is a legion of humble travelers. We need more folks who instead of looking for the most difficult to reach places, visit places that are accessible and in the process help us better understand them and inspire us to also visit. None of this is new, TV programs and print magazines have followed this train of thought for a long time and it is just common sense. Most people travel to certain places, so let’s offer them advice on how to better visit these places. YES, there is a need to broaden people’s horizons, to teach them about destinations they may not have known about and encourage them to visit. But that must be done in moderation with everything else; it can’t be the only song in your playbook. So bloggers, take a cue from our friends the travel magazines and yes, travel to and write about fantastical spots, but also visit and write about more manageable destinations as well.

Be a Superhero

It’s ultimately up to us to decide our own fate, and that’s especially true in the travel context. Even the most independent traveler can be sucked into a travel bubble when we visit new places, on a predetermined route to see certain sights and to enjoy particular experiences. I’ve found though that the most memorable and fun experiences happen when we least expect them. Don’t be afraid to go off the path, to get lost and to try something new when you travel. Presumably, that’s why we travel in the first place, for the opportunities to do things that are unexpected or even unusual, so don’t waste the moment. This is particularly important when it comes to food. I rarely plan where I’m going to eat on a trip, instead I wander or ask people who live there for recommendations. I let my nose guide me through the streets and as a result I’ve almost always had great experiences. So get out of your comfort zone and experiment with the destination.

Accept Change

Travel is not a sterile, antiseptic experience. Travel is messy, sometimes difficult and often times really frustrating. I usually highlight the great benefits of travel, of which there are many, but there are pitfalls as well. Don’t be shocked, but things don’t always go as planned. Flights are missed, hotels lose reservations and theft does occur. This doesn’t mean though you should just stay home and be content watching reruns of House Hunters International to get your travel fix. But it does mean that you have to be smart when you travel and plan for the worst, although not expecting it. There are a million articles about how to protect yourself while on the road, but a little common sense goes a long way. And should the worst happen, deal with it but don’t let it define you. I’ve been robbed, nearly arrested and accosted more times than I’d like to admit, but I still pack up my suitcase and travel as often as I can. I realize that travel is one of the most ‘real’ life experiences anyone can have, and with that comes the bad and the good.

Jump Off of Things (Metaphorically and Literally)

One of my favorite movies is “Defending Your Life,” in which the recently deceased have to defend the actions of their lives. It’s a comedy, but the takeaway is that the only thing that matters in our lives, the one thing on which everything is based is how afraid we are during life. Think about it and you’ll soon realize it’s true. People are afraid to do all sorts of things: ask for a raise, apply for a job, ask someone out, be honest with themselves, confront the unknown and so on. But if we systematically confront these fears, our lives almost automatically become much more enjoyable.

Lighten Up

Believe me, it’s not that those of us who are sensitive or anxious don’t want to enjoy travel experiences as they happen, it’s just hard to shut off our brains sometimes and just absorb the situation. That’s why when I do find that special place or activity that gives me the chance to not get lost in my own thoughts, but rather get lost in the experience it suddenly becomes THE BEST THING EVER. We’re also somewhat prone to overstatement and make attachments quickly, so those nice places become life-changing, forever endearing destinations. I think that’s one reason why I seek out amazing experiences more than anything else. Walking around old buildings is fine, but I need to DO something, I need to concentrate on something other than my own inner-monologue in order to truly have a great time.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

One Response

  1. Robert

    Some great advice Matt and excellent inspiration for people to get out there and see the world! One of my favorite quotes is … “Don’t Think About What They Say … Go See!”

    Reply

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