MY TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ABROAD WITH ANXIETY

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From being a teenager, I have found travelling abroad difficult. I dread the process of going through security. I worry about my luggage getting lost and fear I’ve been catfished by the dreamy hotel pictures I’d seen online.

Over the years, this anxiety tripled after a few unlucky scenarios while away, making the idea of travelling abroad feel impossible. But, I didn’t want this fear to get worse so I decided to face it head-on. I have just returned from a trip to Thailand, and although at times it was difficult and scary, I used these techniques to help get me through it…

RESEARCH AND PLAN AHEAD

To reduce my fears of being in a completely new country, I found it really helped to do as much research as possible. I envy the people that can spontaneously jet off on an adventure without any plans in place, but this just isn’t me.

I looked into the possible scams we might face, the rules on how to be respectful to locals, how to stay safe and researched what fun things we could do.

I made packing lists, to-do lists and filled a first aid kit with anything (within reason) I thought we might need. This all helped me feel ready, and take back some of the control of my fears.

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FOCUS ON ONE STEP AT A TIME

To stop myself from becoming completely overwhelmed, I had to break down each part of the journey bit by bit in my mind. I tried not to think too far ahead or let my thoughts run away from me. I took my time and reminded myself to just focus on what I was doing.

DEEP BREATHS AND REASSURANCE 

Although it’s a cliche, taking deep breaths always helps steady my thoughts and keep me calm, which is what I did whenever I approached a daunting part of the journey. I also reminded myself that I wasn’t trapped, nobody was making me be there. I was there because I wanted to go on this trip, and after the journey was over, an amazing holiday was waiting for me. I reminded myself that I had done everything I possibly could. Whatever happened to my luggage, or whatever my hotel would be like, was out of my hands.

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DISTRACT YOURSELF 

The actual flying part has never really been a part of my fear, so once I was in the air I just had to distract my mind to prevent anxious thoughts from seeping through.

I downloaded the Calm app and listened to the ‘calming flight anxiety’ playlist, took deep breaths and tried to focus on the moment. I also made sure I had plenty to keep me busy on the flight by bringing books and downloading Netflix episodes and podcasts that would keep my brain distracted.

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PREVENT ANXIETY FROM RUINING YOUR TRIP

Once I had my luggage, got in the taxi and made it to the hotel I managed to relax and enjoy my holiday. Every now and then an anxious thought popped into my head but I was able to push it to the back of my mind.

I know this isn’t always an easy task but I found being as prepared as possible, reassuring myself, taking each step at a time and trying to stay present was enough to prevent anxiety from ruining my holiday, and I hope it works for you too.

I know that my travel anxiety probably won’t ever completely go away. But, I can always refer to this experience and be reminded that I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Now I’m actually excited to book new trips instead of being afraid of ever going abroad. Try not to let any bad past experiences from stopping you replace them with good memories. Facing your fears is the only way to reduce them (even if it’s just a little bit).

MY EXPERIENCE IN BANGKOK

Before visiting Bangkok I had no idea what to expect. All I had to compare it to was The Hangover Part 2, where monkeys smoked on the streets and people woke up from the night before with awful facial tattoos. Although it’s fair to say the Bangkok I experienced was not the same as this wildly exaggerated cinematic version, it was definitely nothing like I’d seen before and would love to go again.

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Temples

If you’re going to Bangkok, it’s a no-brainer that you should visit some of the famous temples. Although we couldn’t visit all of them in the short space of two days, we did visit The Grand Palace and Wat Pho (known as the temple of the Reclining Buddha). Both were extremely beautiful and mind-blowing. However, if I’d known how busy and hot it would be in the middle of the day (amateur mistake) I definitely would’ve gone bright and early in the morning.


Keep in mind that you’ll need to be fairly covered up when visiting temples and religious landmarks (a maxi skirt and t-shirt seemed suitable). Otherwise, you’ll have to either buy a T-shirt sold at the temple or borrow shawls if they have any to offer. You’ll also need to take off your shoes before entering temples, so make sure you wear some that are easy to remove and put back on, because it’ll get annoying very quickly if you don’t.

Jim Thompson House 

The Jim Thompson House is a museum that houses the art collection of the architect and former owner, Jim Thompson himself who established the Thai silk industry after World War 2. This was probably my favourite part of my trip to Bangkok. His life was so fascinating and the house is beautiful.


Parks

The Lumphini park is a lovely place to visit if you want a peaceful retreat away from the busyness. There are many incredible views to photograph. But, don’t be startled if you see several komodo dragons lurking by the water along your walk. I’m pretty sure they don’t harm humans, but I kept my distance just in case!

Food

The food in Thailand is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Chinatown was an unforgettable experience, I have never seen anything quite as manic before. Having dinner next to heaps of traffic wasn’t ideal but the food was delicious!

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I ate lots of noodle dishes while in Bangkok as well as the traditional mango and sticky rice. I even tried… scorpion (so gross!!).

I really wish we had time to go to the weekend or night markets but unfortunately it didn’t fit into our schedule. It’s something I would love to go back and do another time.

Things to be wary of

The tourist industry in Thailand is HUGE. And it soon became very clear that it was extremely obvious that we were tourists. We were constantly approached by people selling things and persistent taxi and tuk tuk drivers.

I would avoid using tuk tuks as they are quite overpriced, and didn’t have any seat belts so they probably wouldn’t be the safest form of transportation. Taxis weren’t that expensive but make sure you ask them to put the meter on otherwise you will be charged triple!

Although most people we came across were perfectly nice, be aware of smartly-dressed, friendly locals who try to sell you something, without you even realising it. We came very close to letting this happen to us, until we realised what was going on. Even if what they’re selling is legit, you’ll most likely be massively over-charged.

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Even though we only visited Bangkok for a few days before flying to Phuket, we managed to see quite a lot. But, if I go back I’d love to experience the nightlife and try more of the food. I also wouldn’t go in April because it was overbearingly hot and humid, which isn’t ideal when exploring a city.

CAN YOU BRING YOUR HOLIDAY ALTER EGO HOME WITH YOU?

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It’s now been over a week since I returned from my trip to Thailand and I have eased myself back into my routine of working, exercising and housework. But, I still feel like a portion of ‘holiday Chrissie’ still lingers in my mind. Going on holiday is a great time for reflection and at the time it feels like anything can be possible, which I love. But, after returning home to rainy England, where my previous problems remain, that feeling has started to flicker, and from my previous experience, it eventually disappears all together. This got me thinking, is it possible for my holiday alter ego and regular-self to co-exist?

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I always find that going away enables me to take a step back from my problems and to put everything into perspective. This diminishes any stress still niggling at my mind, and helps me feel calm and positive. But, in the past it’s been too easy to slip back into old habits after returning home and to get easily irritated, moan or engage in negative gossip. Although it’s already proving to be a challenge, I really do want to see things in a different way so I’ve decided to take up meditation to try and keep a piece of holiday-Chrissie alive.

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When I go on holiday, I love to read, try new things, and get a bit more cultured. However, when I’m at home it’s so easy to just re-watch my favourite TV series, visit my go-to cafe for brunch every Saturday and stay within my comfort zone, which is what I usually do.

But, since I’ve been home, I’ve made a list of everywhere in the city I live that I would love to try, to encourage myself to try new things. Now whenever I’ve arranged to go for dinner or breakfast, I can just pick something new from my list and hopefully discover something amazing.

When it comes to books, I’ve definitely read more this year than I have in a long time, but it can still be a challenge to continue with this good habit when I’m home. But, my bookcase is now filled with exciting new reads I can’t wait to get through, and I’ve set myself a challenge of reading at least one book a month which has helped me so far to stay motivated.

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SKIRT, JACKET – URBAN OUTFITTERS, SHOES – CONVERSE, EARRINGS, BAG – TOPSHOP, TOP – MISS SELFRIDGE

I have never been an early bird but while recovering from jet-lag I found myself getting up at 7am and going to bed at 10pm, which I really enjoyed. It felt amazing to get so much done before midday and to get an early night. But, this really isn’t natural for me so I’ve been setting alarms in the morning to try and keep it up. I have a feeling this routine will eventually slide…

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It almost feels inevitable that my holiday-self will eventually fade away and my bad habits will return, like it has previously. But, this doesn’t always have to be the case. This time round, I know it takes work to make these changes permanent, so I’m putting in a little bit more effort in the hopes it makes a difference.