Pre-Travel Anxiety

Prepping for travel makes me nervous. No matter how many times I’ve gone on a work trip or even long-distance solo drive, I question if I’m really “ready.” I feel nervous and uneasy…. it’s like I’ve forgotten that I do this ALL THE TIME.

I told Bret I think I have pre-travel anxiety. It bugs me for a couple of days before the trip. While I’m sorting out all my work outfits, packing my suitcase, and filing away my boarding passes, I FEEL a twinge of, well, panic. My thoughts swirl around in my mind until they’re tangled together in a whole string of crazy: Am I forgetting something important? Where is my badge? Did I pack the right shoes? Do I have bandaids in case my shoes give me blisters? Do I have my phone charger? Ohmygosh Sadie destroyed my iPod headphones…HOW AM I GOING TO FLY WITHOUT MY IPOD?! Those are normal(ish) concerns, I think.

But that’s just the start of it.

velveeta-5I also worry… Is my poor precious perfect little cat going to be okay while I’m gone? Sadie, too? Have I neglected the cats today? Should I buy the cats some new treats before I leave? What about Bret? Should we go grocery shopping together before I leave? Should I make him some pasta salad? Does Bret even like pasta salad? Do I have enough outfits? Did I pack the right shoes? What if I get a headache this week? Do I have migraine medicine? What about granola bars for me to eat during breaks? OH NO WE ARE OUT OF GRANOLA BARS…

…as if granola bars are some scare necessity that aren’t available at every airport, drug store, and probably even in my hotel…

What is this craziness?!

I know some people have racing worried thoughts every day, but I don’t except for right before I travel. I think, to a degree, these kinds of travel-related worries are normal. I wish I didn’t feel this way, though. Lately, I’m wondering if I’m REALLY worried about Bret and the cats and granola bars or if I’m displacing my worries. Is there something else about being away from home that makes me uneasy?

I’ve tried to figure out the source of my travel anxiety.

planeThe first time I ever flew alone was in 2010. I was visiting my [then] boyfriend in Boston, and I flew home to Richmond by myself. I had a direct flight with JetBlue. I had my own little TV to watch. I was served complimentary soda and cookies. Best of all, when I landed in Richmond, my mom was waiting for me. Sounds easy enough, right?

I smile when I consider how terrified nervous I was about this experience.

I was anxious about going through security. I was questioning my ability to find the right gate. I wondered who I’d be sitting next to for two hours. I was scared, and I was filled with relief and pride with each little milestone: I boarded the plane, I found my seat, I buckled my seat belt. I may have relaxed for a while up in the air, but believe it or not, my body filled with nerves again when I landed in Richmond and didn’t know where to go. “Follow the signs to baggage claim” my mom told me when I called her.

If you’ve never done it, traveling alone sounds scary, but now I’m a pro, and this first flight was a big confidence booster.

…And thank goodness!

I never would have guessed it, but one year after that first solo flight, I’d be living by myself in Washington, D.C., taking the metro to work every day, and flying all over the country for work. Alone. I was pretty nervous about my first work trip to Denver, but I made it through. I didn’t need to call my mom for directions when I landed. Instead, I hailed my own cab, checked into my own hotel, and found my way downtown on foot to the conference. A couple months later, I was flying up to Boston for work. Then to Clearwater for work. Flying alone wasn’t a big deal anymore because my boyfriend [now husband] was living in Florida, and I flew down to see him every few weekends.

IMAG3761Flying doesn’t intimidate me anymore, but the pre-travel anxiety is as real as ever.

Today, I’m flying to D.C. for a work retreat. Like, right now! (I wrote this post on Saturday and scheduled it to post on Monday while I’m up in the air). By the time you’re reading this, I’m well on my way. After I land, I’m taking a metro over to my hotel where I’ll be staying on my own for a few days and commuting to the office for a week. I’m looking forward to being in the office and catching up with friends and colleagues. Next week, I’m going to California to give a presentation. Then, in a few more weeks, I’ll be flying to Chicago for our Annual Meeting. It’s old hat now, I guess.

Still, as I’m writing this on Saturday, I’ll tell you that I’m feeling uneasy about the experience. I’m not nervous about the flight, or the public transportation, or the hotels, or anything specific really. For the most part, I relax on the plane (unless it’s unusually bumpy – then I grip tight on the armrests). I’m confident in my ability to find a cab, read signs, and/or ask for directions when necessary. And even though I miss Bret, I sleep like a baby in my own hotel room. I try to remind myself of these things and assure myself I’ll be okay.

But why? Where do these fears come from? I don’t know, but I’ve decided that something about the idea of leaving home alone bothers me. The idea of it. And then I’m fine. Honestly, once I’m on my way, I’m good. I’m okay.

Here’s how I manage:

  1. ONE WEEK BEFORE I LEAVE For now, try to keep my pre-travel anxieties under control by making excessive packing lists and writing out my schedule so I don’t wind up wondering if I should go back to the grocery store for granola bars the night before my flight.
  2. A COUPLE DAYS OUT I over-prepare. I write down the hotel address on a piece of paper and make sure it’s with me the day of in case my phone dies and I can’t find an outlet. And I write and journal and try to remind myself that I feel this way often, but the trips are worth it, and everything always turns out great.
  3. WHEN I FEEL ANXIOUS This usually hits the hardest about 48 hours out. I keep calm by chunking everything into manageable steps and talking myself through the scenarios: Can I manage the ride to the airport? Sure. Can I stand in line to go through security? Yeah. Can I find my seat on the plane? Of course. And if there are things I’m not comfortable with, like whether I should take a cab or public transit to my hotel, I check out the options before.

And this is perhaps the most helpful step for some reason: I FOCUS ON LIFE POST-TRAVEL. When I keep thinking about leaving, I’ve also found that it helps to think about coming home and all the post-trip things to look forward to. After these three trips, it will be my FAVORITE time of the year and I can look forward to:

  • Pumpkin carving, apple cider, and Hocus Pocus coming on TV
  • Food & Wine Festival at Epcot
  • Writing in my Grateful Jar every day
  • The 2014 Jingle Bell Run (this year we’re calling it the Jingle Bell Stroll)
  • My sister is coming to visit meeee we’re going to drive around and look at Christmas liiiights
  • Seeing all my cousins and grandparents at Christmas Eve

I feel better already 🙂 …Although, still not 100% better. Thanks for reading my pre-travel anxiety inter-monologue. If you have any other recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

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