I was lucky enough to share a taxi ride recently with L who is a friend, former colleague and a tour participant on several of our tours. The ride was way too short (when do you ever say that!?) because our conversation was so fascinating. Though we hadn’t seen each other in person for years, we immediately fell into an in-depth conversation that’s stayed with me.
The gist of it was about the stress of getting ready for a trip. I thought I was the only one with the dreaded pre-trip panic that sets in just prior to departure. Apparently I’m not alone. According to L, she said she nearly had a couple of panic attacks before leaving for this trip.
My panic/stress tends to show up as moody bouts where I just need to be left alone. If Jon’s lucky, he’s out of town the day or two before I’m packing up to leave. This relieves him from being on the receiving end of my outbursts over the tiniest of things. It also allows me to spread out my soon-to-be-packed clothes and accessories on the floor, bed, couch and any–and every–where else as I get “organized.”
No matter the destination or length of time away, I also usually have some small sense of dread. I don’t want to pack. I don’t want to get organized. I’m distracted and can’t focus on work tasks that need to be done before I leave. For sure, everything does get completed but in the day and hours leading up to departure, I do have the fleeting thought of, “Why am I doing this? Again!”
L’s sense of panic sounded quite different than mine but it made me realize that some form of this is probably a common feeling that people just don’t talk about. L’s was more like a panic attack that came from a fear of what she would do without her (relatively new) husband whom she sees as a bit of a safety net. My panic is more of an overwhelming feeling of how-can-I-possibly-get-everything-done-that-I-think-needs-to-get-done-before-I-leave?
Both L and I came to the conclusion that our feelings of panic dissipated once we were on our way. But the time leading up to a trip is stressful. I know some people have such a strong sense of this that they are afraid to travel at all.
Before every trip I tell myself I’m going to be better organized so as to avoid this stress but no matter how far in advance I pack or clean the house, I somehow am able to fill the time with must-do last-minute things that then add to my problem.
Causes of and how to manage pre-trip anxiety:
1. Trying to do too much prior to leaving. This might include everything from completing work tasks to ensuring the house is ready for departure.
But most trips are planned well in advance, giving you weeks, if not months, to get yourself together before departure. It’s in our nature, however, to wait until the last minute to do things that must be done. If you can retrain yourself to get organized ahead of time, you’ll cut WAY down on the amount of stress you incur prior to leaving on a trip. Easier said than done, I realize. But here’s a post about how to get your house ready before a trip.
2. Wrapping up things with work. Unless you have the luxury of being retired, you’ll likely feel a lot of pressure to get all of your work done before you leave. I’ve learned this is simply impossible because there will always be more work. The trick is to prioritize and get done what really needs to be addressed while you’re out of the office.
With few exceptions, you’ll likely have a phone and access to email so if there is a work emergency (emphasis on emergency), someone can contact you if they absolutely must.
3. Making sure everything you need is packed. Being a big advocate of only bringing a carry-on bag, this is always a struggle for me and likely the biggest cause for my anxiety. I want to make sure I have packed every conceivable item I *might* need while I’m on the road. 🙂
The reality is there are only a few things you MUST take with you on a trip. Things you really cannot do without. This includes your ID such as a passport or drivers license, medication and prescription glasses. Other than that, with few exceptions, you can buy or replace anything you’ve forgotten. So why stress? Relax knowing that if you do forget something, it will give you the opportunity to replace it, perhaps with something better or more interesting from your destination!
4. Believing you’ll be all alone and won’t meet others. After all, guidebooks can tell you where to stay and where to eat but they can’t tell you who you’ll meet along the way.
My most memorable travel experiences involve the people I’ve met along the way. These characters are like the accessories to a nice outfit. They are the finishing touch. They’re what make or break a trip. Whether it’s an excellent guide or someone I’ve met on a long bus ride–always it’s about the people. Trust the universe to deliver the right characters to your experience.
In a pinch, you can stay in touch with family and friends if you’re feeling a bit lonely.
5. Concern over safety. Depending on your destination, you may be worried about whether you’ll be safe during your trip. Perhaps you have a fear of flying or a concern about staying someplace on your own.
While these might be valid concerns, don’t let them debilitate you into not taking a trip or getting so stressed out that preparing for a journey is unpleasant. Take steps to ensure your safety at your hotel and also keeping your money safe while you travel. Take a course in self-defense, build up your confidence and, most importantly, act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t! Would-be thieves are looking for people who look lost. Don’t let that be you.
If you can address these common causes of pre-trip anxiety, it’s likely that your next trip will go much more smoothly with less stress in those days and hours before you walk out the door.
Did I miss something? What causes you stress before you walk out the door on a trip?
Taxi – Moyan Brenn
Luggage – Beth Whitman