I remember how scared and anxious I was when I wanted to go travelling for the first time like it was yesterday. It took me years to get the courage to do it. It wasn’t easy like some travel bloggers make it seem (which annoys the tits off me, to be frank).
It was one of the scariest moments of my life but definitely the most rewarding and changed my life forever. I don’t mean that in a cheesy way either. Like, going to Asia and “finding yourself”. Nothing like that.
I knew who I was but I needed something to show the world what I was capable of. Having anxiety restricted things I wanted to do or say and places I wanted to go. Not anymore.
I still have anxiety and just because I’m a “travel blogger” now, doesn’t mean my anxiety has gone away. I still have panic attacks and can’t sleep with worry the night before. I cried at the airport on my last trip for crying out loud. I threw up and even wanted to turn around and go back to the safety of my bed.
SAFE. Safe is your anxiety word. It’s the word I think about every time, I book a trip, plan a trip, go on a trip or whilst I’m on a trip. Will I be safe?
The thing with anxiety is, we worry all the time. Not just about major things but little things and even the most ridiculous of things. I worry about what I’m going to eat? If it’ll give me the shits and ruin my whole trip? How to wear my hair that day and if people will judge me for it?
Once I lost my shit over how I folded a form and if they would take it folded like that? Seriously.
So I created my travel steps.
Remember that episode of “Friends” where Chandler is freaking out about getting married. Ross tells him to do “one little thing at a time” and they slowly get ready to walk him down the aisle.
Travelling is a commitment too. Like marriage, which is why it freaks me out so much and every time.
So here’s my 5 steps and stages to travelling and how to get through those steps, with a bonus download for you to keep. Get ready to put that tux on my little Chandlers!
Picking your trip | “Where’s your dream destination?”
I always say, when picking your first trip it should be somewhere you really want to go. Somewhere you’ve dreamed off for years and fantasized about.
I had 3 different types of “first trips”. My first trip was working abroad with Camp America then travelling with friends I met after. My first proper adventure was a cross country trip with TrekAmerica. My first solo trip was to Barcelona. Very different trips and equally scary to start with but all rewarding.
Remember, this is the fun part! Get online and look for travel inspiration. Check out Instagram, look at brochures or speak to your local travel agent for ideas.
Where do you see your self on your first trip?
Booking your trip | “Pressing the book button”
This is the HARDEST part! Making the commitment and pressing the “BOOK” button still fills me with dread. I wish the easiest part of the process wasn’t followed by the hardest.
Why? I come up with so many questions in my head and sometimes it takes several attempts before I hit that button. Questions like, have I got the dates right? What if something goes wrong? Have I found the best price? Is this what I really want to do?
My best advice is to book through a travel agent or a tour operator. As someone who used to work for several tour operators, I know they have all answers to your questions. They can offer great advice and know these destinations like the back of their hands.
Before you book, ensure you check the terms and conditions to see if you can make changes to your booking. This way, you know just in case you spot something wrong later down the line you can fix it later.
Most trips are changeable outside 3 months to departure or even 30 days out for hotels. If in doubt, ask your travel agent, tour operator or the company you booked with via social media/email.
After you hit that “Book button”, instance happiness and excitement. You can now start counting down the days till you big adventure!
Planning your dream trip | “Start packing!”
Some people like to just go and see where the trip takes them. If you’re an anxious or first-time traveller, then you may want a little structure or plan in place so you know what to expect. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
My best tip is to put any important booking information or directions on your phone or in a plastic wallet. Plastic wallets are great and I use them for every trip. I can keep everything I need in one place and can add bits into it that I collect from the trip (stamps, tickets, etc).
Make a Packing List. Make it asap. Why? Because there will be things you suddenly think of and you can keep adding to it. If you’re going on a group tour, I have a camping packing list and a hotel packing list on the blog.
Once you have packed, take everything out and remove some things. Don’t forget to weigh it before you leave. You might have to take more out if you’re a proper over-packer like me.
Don’t plan everything! Leave room for a bit of spontaneity. Remember some of the best adventures just happen and aren’t made from plans.
Getting you on the plane | “Now Boarding”
During my travel career, I’ve had phone calls from first time or anxious passengers who are at the airport. Some have been in tears and so scared to get on the plane due to anxiety or fear of the unknown. I get quite emotional because I remember how scared I was on that first trip so it’s like giving my past self a pep talk.
It’s normal to feel anxious before a big life event like travelling alone for the first time.
Airports can be a scary place. It’s busy, it’s chaotic and finding your way to the right gate/boarding area can be a bit confusing sometimes.
Best way to manage the airport scenario is to apply the “Get Chandler down the Aisle” Theory again. One step at a time. Check-in, Baggage, Security, cafe or restaurant, call family, board.
I also find selecting a movie onboard straight away to be really calming. It distracts me from the situation. Having a nap on the plane too is also good because you’ve used a lot of mental energy over the last few hours.
Staying on your trip | “The 10-day rule”
I can’t remember who taught me this, but I swear by “the 10-day rule“.
I first used “the 10-day rule” when I went to summer camp. I really struggled for the first few days. I was getting used to the new routine, culture shock, jet lag and my social anxiety.
The theory is that after 10 days you’ve adjusted to your new settings and absolutely loving your trip. It’s worked every time. Everyone will adjust at different rates. So don’t worry if there are people around you who love the trip straight away. Go at your own speed.
Ensure your trip also has things you’re looking forward to throughout the trip. Then when you have doubts, you can say “Oh, I can’t leave because I’ll miss X, Y, Z“.
That’s why I love doing group tours because there’s something to look forward to every day or every other day. They have action-packed itineraries so you’ll be constantly distracted by having fun daily.
If you don’t think you can do 10+ days, then try a 7-day trip. I’ve done some amazing group tours to Morocco, Egypt and Greece for just a week. Go small and try a longer itinerary later on.
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WHERE’S YOU FIRST DREAM DESTINATION? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS.