Overcoming Travel Anxiety: First Time Destinations
A lot of people, specifically family and friends, disagree with me. After all, I ran off a mountain to face my fear of flying. In addition, I managed to stay positive in face of uncertainty when I lost my first “real” teaching job. Plus traveling solo, especially as a *gasp* woman, requires an ounce or two of courage, I guess. Running to new countries all by yourself isn’t a common hobby to have.
Still, I’m a work in progress when it comes to addressing my anxiety issues. Let me count the ways…
Flying makes me break out in hives. Hospitals make me believe I have a rare and incurable cancer. My car’s engine sputtering a random noise makes me run to the nearest Honda Dealership. Plus, the thought of suffering bizarre foodborne illnesses – while overseas and far away – makes me too scared to visit certain countries (I’m determined to conquer this phobia).
Do I need to continue? Haha. I’m not making fun of myself, but I have no problems addressing my issues in the hopes that I’ll beat them to smithereens one day soon. Hope is out there!
I’m downright safe compared to some adventurous travel bloggers on the internet since I’m still overcoming travel anxiety. And it’s okay. We’re all different. Differences make the world a beautiful place, right? Furthermore, travel isn’t only reserved for in-shape and good-looking daredevils. Travel is for anyone at any time. Period, no exception. You can do what I do, I promise.
Before going to Scotland, I never believed I could travel alone halfway across the world. Solo travel was for charismatic and beautiful and fit people; definitely not a lazy underpaid graduate student who’s most exciting hobby was wasting time on youtube and Sephora.com. Erm. Yeeeah.
But, listen, I want you to stamp the myth of “travel = domain of the brave and beautiful” out of your brain right now. As I’ve already said travel is for anyone, at anytime and any place, and anxiety or not, you too can travel the world if you want to.
Are You Overcoming Travel Anxiety? Do These Destinations!
Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive. I’ve only traveled around North America and Europe. I can’t speak for other continents since I haven’t personally visited them (yet). So I highly encourage you to leave other suggestions in the comments. The more, the merrier! The world is a big place and anxious people should see all of it.
Who could say “no” the Emerald Isle? Not me! Ireland is an excellent location for anyone who is overcoming travel anxiety. Dare I say that Ireland is even perfect for accomplishing this task. If you’re eager to visit Europe yet feel anxious about your first trip, then Ireland is an outstanding choice for you!
Why? With its friendly locals, gorgeous landscape, fairytale castles, and lots of literary fun, Ireland is a top travel destination for many great reasons. For such a small country, there are tons of attractions and charming cities and towns for you to occupy your time. Trust me, you could spend weeks here and not feel bored for a moment. Ireland packs a metaphorical punch.
Additionally, if you despise flying, like me, Ireland is one of the closest European countries to North America. A 6 and a half hour flight from New York may sound like a long time, but comparatively, it’s quite reasonable. For example, it took me 6 hours to reach San Francisco. Why not stay on board another half hour and wind up in a completely different country? Something to think about.
A word of warning. Ireland is not the best country if you want to take public transportation. The trains aren’t as speedy or frequent as other European destinations. You’ll need to drive and drive on the left. Gulp. Want to take a tour rather than drive yourself? No problem. Shamrocker Adventures is a budget-travel company that I’ve used myself to explore Ireland. You meet plenty of friends which is a big bonus. If you’re older and hostels don’t appeal to you, then give CIE Tours a shot. They have over 80 years of experience in Ireland. My mom went on one of their tours in the past, and she had an amazing time!
Still scared? Check out my tips for anxious solo travelers!
Ah, yes, Sound of Music country. Austria’s stunning baroque cities, mountain ranges, and coffee house culture provides excellent and posh experiences for the nervous and sophisticated traveler. I love this freakin’ country to pieces. So book a ticket for the opera or orchestra show, and relaxation will flow through your body, I mean it!
Unlike Ireland, Austria’s public transportation here is top-notch so trekking across the country is a piece of sachertorte – I mean, cake! In my experience, the trains and subways are clean and always on time.
Worried about a lack of English?
People here speak better English than I do, especially in Vienna and Salzburg’s tourist centers; although, I always recommend learning a few slices of the local language to be polite to the locals.
Worried about crime?
HA! Not here, my friends! Austria is extremely safe. For example, in Vienna, I never felt like I had to clutch my purse or cross the street to avoid sketchy people. Pickpockets were far from my mind. Heck, in Grunau, a tiny town in the Austrian countryside, you could probably sleep on the side of the road and no one would bother you.
I visited Austria in the summer, but I’ve heard this country is magical year round. Since I returned home, I have this fantasy of me, curled in a cozy and ritzy cafe, sipping coffee and watching snow flakes cover the cobblestone streets. I need to take a winter trip to capture the full Austrian experience.
Just keep in mind, although I love Vienna, the capital city’s prices can be hard on your wallet. The cakes and coffees alone blew through my euros so I hope you have less of a sweet tooth than I do. Regardless, take the time to plan your budget accordingly.
3. The United States
Yup! My home country: ‘Merica!
I’m not an overzealous patriot, I promise, but decided to mention the United States particularly for anxious travelers who are located in my neck of the woods. Yes, fellow yankees, I’m talking to you so listen and listen closely.
Many Americans are nervous about visiting other countries for whatever reason. 90% of my family doesn’t even own a passport. I’m not here to judge them or blame them. Our media does a fantastic job instilling fear of foreign nations into the populace. It’s sad, actually.
Why do you think concerned folks comment on the films “Taken” or “Hostel” so much? And our news? Terrorism and death everywhere! Let’s not even mention how much of a hot mess our nation is when it comes to vacation time… which is not even mandatory for most jobs. I know a lot of people who haven’t taken a vacation in ten years. I’ll save that rant for another post. It’s a sore spot of mine.
So I get Americans who are overcoming travel anxiety and may prefer to stay at home, safe and sound.
If you are still in the process of overcoming travel anxiety and still don’t feel fully prepared to leave the USA, then do a few trips here to gain some confidence! The United States certainly has plenty – from cities to epic landscapes to beaches – to offer travelers.
As for first time visitors, I can certainly understand why our bigger cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, would overwhelm a nervous traveler. If your heart is set on the United States, then focus on a particular region such as the Northeast or take a guided tour around the country. GAdventures offers some pretty awesome camping tours, which hit our famous national parks and cosmopolitan cities. Get out there and explore our nation! It can be pretty cool. And beautiful. Oh so beautiful.
I’ve heard a few people claim Canada and the United States share the exact same culture, which is very offensive to both countries. Canada is quite different from its neighbor and so lovely to explore – especially as a solo travel. Seriously, I want to return to Vancouver so much it kills me.
If you’re nervous about venturing from North America and still have the desire to do an international trip, Canada is a great option for you. I’ve only traveled to western Canada and Montreal so far, but, like the United States, this country is so massive and diverse that you can’t go wrong. For example, if you’re a Francophile and don’t feel too keen on flying to France, then hop over the border to Quebec.
Like Austria, Canada has plenty to offer visitors in the summer and winter months; it all depends on your personal interests. Want to ski? Go in winter. Want to go whitewater rafting? Go in summer. And if you like hockey? Go to Montreal, haha.
As for the local people, they’re amazing at quelling any unsettled nerves, because they are so nice. Seriously, even the drivers are super polite, which was a shock to my system, considering I’m from New Jersey, home of Road Rage.
I know, I know. “Nice Canadians” = stereotype, but literally every human who crossed my path in Alberta and British Columbia was an absolute doll. They were thrilled that I was visiting their country and rattled off tons of places I could visit for my next trip. I couldn’t believe their kindness.
So have no fears about reaching out to strangers for directions or restaurant recommendations. Canadians are fantastic! Fantaaaaastic.
Slovenia is a small European country wedged between Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary. This beautiful alpine jewel isn’t necessarily the first place that springs to mind when planning an epic trip across Europe. But, trust me, if you’re someone who is overcoming travel anxiety, then you definitely want to add Slovenia to your itinerary and soon.
English is spoken throughout the country so don’t stress about the language barrier very much. In the tourism industry, people are helpful and kind, and willing to show you the best of their country. During my all-too-brief stint in Lake Bled, I stayed at Hostel Jazz Bled, and experienced such a warm welcome that made me feel 110% at home. I didn’t want to leave.
Seriously, Slovenia is a gem in Central Europe, and I want to return right now. This country’s atmosphere had a calming effect on me that I wish I could stuff in a bottle and bring back to New Jersey.
As for activities, Slovenia is what you make of it. If you want to hike, there are stunning walks throughout the country especially in the Julian Alps region. If you want to relax, enjoy a piece of cremeschnitte and read next to Lake Bled’s turquoise waters. Piran has a touch of “Croatia” – being a resort town on the Adriatic coast – if a summery vacation is more of your style. Ljubljana is a unique and fun capital city with its dragon bridge.
Like Ireland, Slovenia is a small place that packs a punch, and you won’t run out of things to do and enjoy.
You can easily link Slovenia to other central European countries, yet don’t expect to directly fly to Ljubljana from the United States. And … that’s literally the only drawback.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Are you ready for overcoming travel anxiety? Where do you recommend anxious travelers go? Any favorite destinations that you wish to share in the comments?