Travelling is exciting, but it can also cause a lot of pre-trip apprehension about venturing into the unknown. Here’s 6 tips for dealing with the fear and getting over it so you enjoy your travels
It’s just a day now before I go to Myanmar, and I’m getting the fear – the familiar mix of excitement and apprehension that comes before every excursion into the unknown. Even though I’ve done a lot of travelling over the last 4 years, I get this before every trip I make, wherever it is – whether it’s somewhere in Thailand that will be relatively easy to deal with or whether it’s heading off into acountry that’s completely new to me.
Indeed, sometimes I get The Fear so bad it almost makes me want to cancel my plans and stay at home where everything is comfortable and familiar. I’ve never given into the feeling – not yet, anyway – but it’s definitely worth acknowledging and, more importantly, dealing with so you can get over it and enjoy your trip.
Anticipatory fear is nature’s own way of telling you to get organised so you don’t run into problems when you go travelling. Here’s 6 of the things I do to calm myself down when preparing for a trip to be prepared and remind myself that there’s really nothing to be worried about. I hope they’ll work for you if you also get The Fear before travelling, and if you have tips of your own, please let me know.
1) Find time to think it all through
Having a clear of what you want to do and where you want to go is perhaps the crucial thing to avoid stress. If you arrive in a place with no real idea of what you are doing there, it can be difficult to enjoy your time there. The main problem with holiday planning is actually finding the time to sit down and really think about what you’re doing before you go. When I think back to when I was planning my 6 month trip to Australia, I think I started making notes about what I might want to do about 6 months before I actually went there. That might be a little excessive, but you get my point.
Personally, I find I’m increasingly leaving trip planning to the last minute, which is bad, not just for making the trip easier on myself, but for enjoying the anticipation of where I’m going. Trip planning is fun, not a chore – it’s where you get to kick around all sorts of possibilities in your mind – so try to find the time to let yourself enjoy it.
2) Read your guidebook
This is a logical extension of point 1, but a lot of people seem to buy a guidebook and then never actually read it, perhaps hoping to acquire its info by a novel form of osmosis. I never read a guidebook cover to cover, but at least flicking through the bits of where I’m going to go and getting an idea of where the maps are located and the stuff I want to see helps alleviate stress when I get there, because I already know the map for where I am is on page X etc. It sounds silly, but this sort of familiarity with my guidebook before I get to your destination helps makes it much easier to find my way around. Once I’ve made an initial arrival somewhere and got to where I’m staying, then I feel a bit more relaxed and can start wandering about without necessarily following the book. But to get over the initial arrival hump, knowing the guidebook’s recommendations really helps.
3) Write The List of what to pack – and start it early
This one is my lifeline – I have a terrible memory and live my life in lists anyway, so having a packing list is essential for me. I always start this list at least a week before I go somewhere, because I know two days after I start it I will have a sit-bolt-upright-in-bed moment about some vital item I must take with me. If I wrote the list the day before, those things would never even occur to me – until I needed them in the middle of a place where those th ings are wholly unavailable.
4) Remember you’re not the first person to go where you’re going
This is perhaps the most important thing to remember. I always remind myself that wherever I’m going, even more remote places, there are hundreds if not thousands of people that have been there before. Fair enough, facilities may be primitive and there might not be many other people around when I pass through myself – but the locals will be probably be used to the presence of foriegners and have a good idea of what tourists want, even if there’s a language barrier.
Personally, I find reading the travel forums of the major sites like Lonely Planet is a fantastic way to not only get the latest bits of info about your destination but also a feel of good and bad guesthouses, travel agents, tour operators etc to try out. (You can try out Travelhappy’s Travel Forum Search, which searches the forums of 11 different travel sites for answers to your questions). You need to set aside a bit of time to trawl through all the different threads on the discussion forums.
5) 99 per cent of people are actually happy to help you
This is also very important to remember. Watch CNN on any given day and you would be forgiven for never wanting to leave your house, let alone go to a developing country for tourism (and most of the world is still developing). But while you have to obviously be careful on your travels, just like at home, it’s also worth remembering that most people are genuinely helpful. Treat them with respect, ask questions very politely and with a smile – and lots of gestures if required – and you’ll pretty much always get help. Naturally, you will run into people having a bad day, morons and the occasional downright shithead in any country in the world, but that’s just human nature. You’ll meet all of them on any given day in your home town too.
6) Have insurance and an emergency cash stash
Travel insurance is possibly the last thing you are thinking about when planning a trip, but it is an absolute necessity. Life is random, and if something should happen to you overseas, you need to make sure you have reasonable coverage to avoid debts of thousands of dollars. Similarly, make sure you have alll your jabs to avoid catching diseases. Most of all, make sure you have access to an emergency cash stash – a credit card is ideal, but do check it will work where you’re going. Otherwise a concealed wad of cash will do. Most problems can be solved when money is thrown at them – and if you hit a serious problem, you will need money to deal with it and resolve it much quicker than you could otherwise.