Let me start by saying that I don’t have a ton of experience with travel (yet). I went on one big trip, spending close to 8 months travelling and working in New Zealand with my best friend. Taking this trip was a huge step for me, especially as I have a history of dealing with anxiety and depression and all of these things that make me want to just stay at home because it’s not as scary.
I’ve been thinking about all of this and I decided that maybe this is something I should write about. So I’ve come up with a list of NUMBER tips that helped me get through such a long backpacking trip.
Before we start, please keep in mind that I am not a professional and these are not going to be for everyone but for me, this is what helped me get through it.
1.Take little pieces of home with you. Whatever that may be. Even just little things that make you smile and remind you of being in a safe place. For me, that came in the form of a Lululemon scarf that I wear all the time. It’s a huge scarf and it has snaps along the side so you can open it up and wrap it around yourself like a blanket. I didn’t have space to bring my own pillows and blankets so the scarf had to do. I was also more dependent on my laptop than I would like to admit. But it was a piece of home that sort of brought my attention back to what was in front of me when I felt myself spinning.
2.Speaking of my laptop, one lesson I had to learn was to take time for myself. We lived in a hostel, surrounded by people. We worked and lived in a huge hostel and our room housed up to 12 people at any given time. Now, I love these people and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. However, I’ve always had a habit of trying to push myself when I couldn’t handle it. Everyone is going out to the club and I’m on the verge of a panic attack but I go anyway because I don’t want to be the Debbie Downer. But what ends up happening? I have a panic attack and I’m miserable. So I had to learn my limits and stick to them. There is no shame at all in saying, you know what…I don’t have it in me today. I needed to take my laptop and crawl into my bed and watch a show or a movie on Netflix. I needed to be by myself with a cup of tea and shut everyone else out because I needed to bring myself back down to earth. That has to be one of the biggest things I could ever tell you. There is NO SHAME in needing to distance yourself from something when it gets to be too much.
3.Travelling with a friend helped more than I could ever express. My best friend, Erin, was such a source of comfort for me. She always has been. I don’t know if she knows that but I guess she does now! There is something to be said for travelling alone and I think that I could handle short trips by myself but for something long like this, 8 months away from everything I knew, having her by my side was huge. Whenever it felt like too much or I felt like I couldn’t handle it or I was sure that I had made a mistake, I could look at her and it was like bringing my focus back in. If we were out and I saw that she was laughing, I knew that everything was cool. If we were in a new place and I knew that she was sleeping soundly, I knew that we were going to be alright. I’ve always found comfort in my best friend but having her with me on this adventure made it all so much better.
4.Learning to being open to meeting new people was big, too. It’s easy to be scared of meeting others. It can be overwhelming and exhausting and too much. However, opening myself up to these new people made the trip for me. I think back on my experience in New Zealand and I think of the wonderful people that I met. Being around those new friends reminded me why I was there in the first place.
5.I had to remind myself why I was there sometimes. So do that. Whatever works for you. I would get a coffee and walk in the park or go through my photos or flip through my Lonely Planet book. I reminded myself why I had taken that time to visit the other side of the globe and in the end, I knew that I was doing it for a reason. I knew that I wasn’t just wasting time. I knew that I was growing and learning and that all of it was going to be worth it in the end. New Zealand was a beautiful country and I reminded myself to stay in the moment and enjoy it all, because it was worth it.
I would hate to miss out on something like this because of my anxiety and I would hate to see others missing out on something that makes them happy out of fear. Don’t let it hold you back. Don’t let it stop you from things. Because it’s worth it and life can be pretty incredible.