“New year, new me” is easier said then done. I learned quickly you can’t escape yourself, no matter how far you travel.
Luckily for me, I do not let my travel anxiety hold me back from pursing my dreams of traveling the world. But for many, it’s a much harder challenge. Many people are afraid of traveling, and that anxiety or fear makes it much harder to travel for work or pleasure. Although my anxiety is not extreme and I can push through it, it is something that I am afraid will grow to prohibit me from amazing life experiences in the future.
My first big trip abroad was a family cruise to the Bahamas. Although it was an amazing trip with my family, my grandmother was very sick and died of lung cancer on our final night of our Royal Caribbean cruise. Crazy time. The weeks following the untimely death, my family and I surrounded each other for comfort and support as we mourned the death of the women who started it all. The untimely death on my first traveling experience set in stone an irrational fear thereafter, which caused my anxiety to be comforted by the affirmation of my family’s close contact and health.
My second big trip was to England and France with my mother, cousin, and boyfriend at the time. For my sixteenth birthday, we explored Paris, London, and Dover with unwavering curiosity and content. Then, my third big trip was to Sri Lanka with my amazing Aunt Jill, where we emerged a new person after being submitted to lives drastically different than our own for ten days.
I am extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to travel to countries besides the U.S. at such a young age. But the fact I was with family and was excited to go home and share my experience with my friends and family, kept me sane and enthusiastic for the next trip.
When I was sixteen, I started experiencing anxiety attacks. My mind would race, I’d sweat, sob uncontrollably, feel every pump of blood in my body, and tingles everywhere. Although I’ve learned to control my anxiety through personal practices and medication, I still experience the terrors and habits of anxiety every so often. And more particularly, when I am preparing to travel for extended periods of time.
I decided to attend San Diego State University in April of my senior year of high school. I was pumped to have a fresh start away from the confines of my hometown and daily routine. I was nothing but optimistic and couldn’t wait to start my new adventure. I thought I would have no problem living so far from home. I’d traveled across the world, met so many new people, heard of so many success stories of students traveling cross country for college, and did not see one scenario where I was unhappy.
I wish I knew there was no escaping myself. Before I left for school, I was combatting my anxiety all by myself. I was on no medication, my friends and family did not quite understand, and my freak outs were frequent and powerful. My hope of a new life kept my mind preoccupied from the daily tolls I put myself through. However, when the rolls reversed and I was no longer hoping but living the life I was so excited for and my crazy mind was still there, I did not know how to handled myself. I collapsed and counted the days until I could go home at the end of the semester. I wrote a more vivid article on my experience for The Odyssey, check it out.
Since my time in San Diego, my travel anxiety has been stronger than ever. I carry guilt and embarrassment that I could not successfully live so far away from home and have the college experience I idolized. I’m scared the next time I travel for an extended period of time or if I ever am offered an opportunity to live away from home, if my anxiety will spiral like how it did in the past. My anxiety over my own reaction is prohibiting me from being more excited about traveling.
With EF College Break, I am traveling through Europe for a month long with a group of strangers. Then I plan on studying abroad in Australia in the fall if I get accepted into the program. I am nervous I will have a relapse similar to that of my experience in San Diego, but I am not going to let that hold me back from my dreams. My dreams of seeing the world and being emersed in different cultures. I refuse to let myself to be victim to my anxiety.