Psychology of Travel

Travel Stress Mess
Travel Stress Mess

OMG, yesterday was the one-month countdown to our trip and excitement isn’t what we’re feeling right now!

All of a sudden the reality of a year away is sinking in and we’re feeling stressed, a high level of anxiety, we’re short tempered and mix that with a little excitement we’re powder kegs of emotions- not how we thought we’d be feeling.  My brain doesn’t focus either. Yesterday I went to the bank to make a deposit, got a receipt and walked away.  I got to my truck and just happened to take another look at my wallet, something was missing.  Shit, I left my debit card in the machine.  I ran back to the ATM and it was still open- ‘would you like to make another transaction?’  Thank god I didn’t drive off, someone could have cleaned out my account.

The other day I caught Janet sitting on the patio with the dogs and tears streaming down her cheeks, I asked if it was because she was going to miss the puppies and she burst into tears.  Then we started talking about missing the kids, family, friends, Christmastime and the both of us were in tears.  These days we even get teary-eyed watching ‘So you think you can Dance’- well those kids are so darn talented!  Is there a travel psychologist in the house?

So I looked it up and apparently travel anxiety is common and most often people don’t even know they are experiencing it.  I know I usually get anxious prior to traveling from past vacations; will the weather be okay, is it safe where were going, are the accommodations going to be suitable, will we like the resort, will everything go okay…..I think a year amplifies it; will the kids be okay, will the dogs be okay, will they burn the house down, will something happen at home, will we be overcome with homesickness, will our money run out….?

One expert said the causes of travel anxiety can be a number of factors such as;

The Fear of Flying; I’m a nervous flyer and thoughts of “what would the kids do if something happened to us” always goes through my mind but I get over it once we take off, it comes back though when we approach landing. On our last trip to Europe Janet had an outright panic attack before boarding, caused apparently by my changing our seats to the back of the plane which I never knew was an issue until then!

Horror Stories; as the author points out most people are influenced by the ‘worst case scenario’ stories they hear on the news subconsciously.  We’ve done a lot of research on the places we plan to go and of coarse you hear stories of rampant pick pockets, crooked cabbies, muggings and other horror stories which the news loves to proliferate.  Further reading often tells you to ignore the nay-sayers, that its safe and don’t worry but the ‘what if’ is still in the back of your head.  These worries were punctuated this week with news of the earthquake that hit central Italy and the sudden tragic loss of life.  Your heart goes out to these people because you know that other tourists lost their lives and it could easily be you in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We had and still have plans to visit these areas.

Home Comfort; home is a sanctuary, a source of comfort and stress relief, a safe haven.  I’m already lamenting missing my bed, you can deal with crappy beds and not sleeping for short periods but a whole year?  Like we said we’ll miss the kids, the dogs, a cup of coffee on our patio, Christmas with the family, dinner with friends…

Post Trip Worries; well as a type A planner this is my number one source of anxiety, as I write this I think I might throw up!  Did I get all the tasks I needed to get done executed; setup auto pay bills, show the kids everything that needs to get done around the house, cancel my gym membership, cancel my cell phone, renew my drivers license, book accommodations, arrange flights, figure out ways to communicate with home, how will they reach us in emergencies, call the vet….OMG, I need a Tylenol, a Valium and a beer stat!  Speaking of beer, did I turn off the beer fridge so it doesn’t freeze in the winter, do I have all my meds, do I have enough contact lenses for a year….  See, are you feeling our stress yet?

How to Overcome your Stress; The article I read states that knowing about your issues is the first step, then don’t avoid your fears, figure out the causes, write things down and make lists, plan the best you can and have someone to call at home.

Another author says that extended foreign travel takes people outside their comfort zones.  You have to adapt to new people and new cultural practices, different food, language and outlooks on life.  The more you travel the more open you become, it gives perspective on life and makes you less emotionally reactive to the day to day changes which increases emotional stability.

Well I think we are dealing okay and I feel better now after acknowledging my panic.  I’m sure as we get closer to departure we’ll get more excited and less fearful.  I think once we’re sitting in an ancient Italian piazza having a cappuccino I won’t be missing my morning coffee on the patio so much, when we’re wandering a Christmas market in Milan we won’t be missing throwing dinner for 20 people so much, when we’re partying in Venice for Carnevale I don’t thing we’ll be missing our beds so much.  We’ll deal, we’ll get over it and yes we’ll still be a little homesick!

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