Anxiety about adventure travel is normal. So start small and plan carefully. Your comfort zone will expand. You will open to a world of possibilities.
There’s no doubt we are living in a stressful world: 24-hour news saturates the airwaves with doom and gloom stories from around the world. Social media amplifies even the smallest crisis. It is analyzed, shared and played over and over before your eyes.
It’s no wonder people suffer from travel anxiety and have second thoughts when stepping on an airplane.
Dave and I started traveling in earnest in 2000. It was a different time indeed. Most of the places we visited were unknown to our friends and family. They may have heard of the names of the countries we visited, but knew nothing about their political situation, religious beliefs or culture.
Today, people have formed an opinion of everywhere we go. Unlike years ago, today it’s common to hear “I would never go there.”
And yet, every time we go to a place that someone has warned us about, we have the most amazing, heartwarming experience and come back with a renewed faith in humankind. That’s not to say, we jump into a war zone or face hurricanes. It just means that we do our research before traveling and stay informed about the places we visit.
DON’T LET ANXIETY STOP YOU FROM LIVING YOUR DREAM
Too many people let anxiety build to the point of being paralyzed and let fear take over, stopping them from reaching their full potential. I know firsthand how easily this can happen. I suffer from anxiety and often have fears about most of the adventures we take. I play out the worst-case scenario in my mind and worry about the “what ifs.”
But then, I take a deep breath and remind myself that each time I push myself beyond my fear, I come out better. I have an extraordinary life experience that opens my eyes to new possibilities. It opens up new opportunities in my life and makes my life richer.
I didn’t get to this place instantly, I worked my way up to it and I am going to tell you how I did it.
9 Tips to plan for adventure travel
1. BABY STEPS
When people ask Dave and me how to become adventure travellers like us, we always say, “We took our time to build up to our adventures.”
We didn’t instantly decide to cycle the continent of Africa without any travel experience. We started small. Our first trips were across the border to the United States. We then graduated to the Caribbean and then we took a 5-week trip to Thailand in 2000 where we tried new adventures like sea kayaking, jungle hiking, and rock climbing.
Each trip we took after that, we tried a new adventure and the next thing
we knew, within a few years we had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, cycled a continent, hiked to the top of an active volcano, and gone scuba diving around Central America.
We didn’t do all these adventures at once. It was a gradual progression over seven years. Soon the anxiety I felt over little things like my first walk on a jungle path, or my first bartering experience in an Asian public market, fell away. It now takes a lot more for me to have travel anxiety.
I still have it but I have learned to evaluate if my anxiety is justified.
2. PREPARE AND PLAN BEFORE YOUR TRIP
When suffering from travel anxiety, whether from going abroad for the first time or being fearful of the unknown, it’s important to be prepared and informed.
When Dave and I first started traveling, we learned as much as we could about the destination we visited. We looked up government websites for travel advisories and warnings.
3. TRAVEL ADVISORIES
In today’s world, nearly everywhere has a travel advisory. Even Toronto has faced mass attacks with vans mowing people down in the street and a shooter walking through a quiet neighbourhood randomly targeting
No matter where we go (or don’t go) there is a chance something could happen.
When we look at travel advisories, we take everything into consideration.
When we were in China, the Canadian Government stated: “Exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
We know that China and Canada are going through a Huawei problem right now. And while Canadians have been detained, we know that we are not high-ranking businessmen or a teacher with the wrong visa and we are certainly not drug smugglers. (These are the three situations where Canadians have been detained.)
Our time in China was wonderful and we knew that the personal risk was low. We made the decision to go. That is not to say others should take that risk if they don’t feel comfortable, but we have been to China several times and knew that being bloggers promoting a destination would be a good thing, not something to worry about.
4. WEATHER ADVISORIES
It’s always a good idea to check the weather. We have been in countries during typhoon and flooding season because we didn’t check the weather. Storm seasons are different around the world and just because we think it is a good time to visit one place, it doesn’t mean it’s good for another.
Being informed about the weather has definitely eased our minds in the past. When we’ve been stuck on a beach in a constant downpour, we’ve kicked ourselves. But when we have looked into all possibilities before our trip and booked according to the best time to visit, we’ve had an amazing stress-free vacation.
5. PLAN YOUR ROUTE
A lot of veteran travellers will tell you to be flexible and “go with the flow” to make the most of your travels.
However, we have found that when we are feeling anxious about our travels, it is better to have everything planned for at least the first few days of the trip.
I feel most anxious once the plane lands, the train comes into the station, or the bus stops at the depot. On one hand, I can’t wait to get off my mode of transportation, but on the other, I hate leaving the safety and comfort of
If I know that someone with my name on a card is going to be there to meet me and take me to my hotel that is already booked, I feel a lot better.
It’s easy to book an airport transfer through companies like Viator or Get Your Guide and it’s easy to choose our first couple nights of accommodation from all the “where to stay” articles out there. You can also jump on a group tour to alleviate any travel anxiety.
We do like to be flexible and open to changes in our itinerary, but we always have a solid plan for the start of our trip.
I have always said to Dave that I feel overwhelmed on the first day or two of a trip because I worry I won’t see everything that I want to see.
By planning a walking tour or city tour, having a hotel booked ahead of time, and saving precious travel time with a fast airport transfer, I get my bucket list items done quickly. Then I can then have the freedom to explore out-of- the-way places and happen upon hidden gems.
6. PROTECTING OURSELVES FROM THE UNEXPECTED
Travel anxiety can come in many forms, from losing luggage to having a travel emergency. To ease our minds, we always purchase travel insurance. If we had to worry about getting sick or injured while wondering how we would pay for medical stays or flights home, it would put a damper on our entire trip.
I remember years ago, we didn’t buy enough insurance to last the length of our trip. We miscalculated and had two days at the end of our travels without insurance. Those two days were the most stressful days ever. We felt nervous about something going wrong and couldn’t wait to get back on Canadian soil. We put ourselves through unneeded stress by not carefully looking into our departure dates.
Recently, while in China my luggage was delayed. Communication with the airlines and airport staff was terrible, so I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get my bags. When I called my insurance company to see if I was covered, my mind was put at ease. I found out I had content replacement insurance and I even had delayed baggage insurance, so I could go shopping for clothes, and toiletries.
We always phone before making any purchase to open a claim and to be sure we are covered before we start spending any money. It was a good chunk of money, so I could replace what I lost if the bag never showed up.
Luckily, my bag arrived the next day and I didn’t need to buy anything, but it certainly put my mind at ease to know that I could if I needed to.
7. GET SOME HELP
When we have stress or fear over an adventure, we make sure to hire a professional. I would have never trekked through the Arctic watershed on my own in the dead of winter, but having professionals lead the way relieved a lot of anxiety.
I was terrified of trekking over frozen lakes and rivers, but our guide Dave Marrone took the time to chip through a metre of ice at the beginning of the trip to show me how thick and safe it was.
He explained that the sound of heaving ice was perfectly normal, and he kept Dave and me in the middle of the group with a guide at the front and back, so that if anything happened we were safe.
Hiring professionals has really helped us push beyond the limits of what we thought we were capable of. We never did anything that was unsafe, because the professional guides made sure everything would be okay. They had the expertise.
It helped us push our own boundaries, so what made us anxious and worried a few years ago has melted away and now seems unimportant.
Overcoming our fears in a safe way has enriched our lives and made us less anxious of things.
8. FORGIVE YOURSELF IF YOU CAN’T DO IT
One thing I have learned is that I would never have overcome my anxiety if I jumped blindly into something. There have been times when I saw others have an amazing time doing something that terrifies me, so I felt I needed to take part.
I cannot bring myself to go bungee jumping, but when in New Zealand,
I felt inadequate not jumping. I kept trying to talk myself into it, but my brain wouldn’t let me. I watched Dave jump and love every minute of it.
When in New Zealand, I met people who always seemed to ask if I did the Nevis Bungee or the Queenstown jump. When I said no, I felt weak and embarrassed. But then, I thought about all the things I have done in my life and realized that not jumping off a platform into a gorge doesn’t define who I am.
Once I embraced the fact that I didn’t want to ever do a bungee jump in my life, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I could proudly proclaim, “When in New Zealand—the adventure capital of the world—I, Debra Corbeil, never did a bungee jump!”
9. ENVISION THE FUTURE
We know firsthand that facing our fears and anxieties has led us to a more fulfilled life. If we sat afraid at home, we never would have fulfilled our dream of making a living together doing what we love. We never would have seen 110 countries and checked off every item on our bucket list.
We never dreamed we would be where we are today.
But then we took those first baby steps. We took an open-water scuba diving course in Barrie Ontario, bought our first mountain bike, and stepped on
a plane for the first time on a trip that wasn’t an organized package tour. We opened up the world to new possibilities.
Have we felt anxiety in our travels? Sure, we still do, but with proper preparation, information and taking the time to plan, we end up having an extraordinary experience that always makes our lives richer and better.
I would hate to let fear and anxiety keep me from my full potential. And we have found that when we do face those fears, we realize that they weren’t so bad after all.
More Insights: Check out this cool article on travel etiquette mistakes to avoid.
Authors: Dave and Deb (Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbeil) are an adventure travel couple who run the popular travel site ThePlanetD.com. They were named one of the Top 10 Travel Influencers in the world by Forbes and have won many blogging and photography awards. They have been featured by the likes of BBC, Martha Stewart, Red Bull and Lonely Planet.