For many first time travellers, the thought of packing up your life into one small backpack and hitting the road induces a lot of anxiety and stress. Whether you are heading out on a week long vacation to a resort, or a six month trek through the jungles of a faraway country, travelling can bring on a rollercoaster of emotions. Even for seasoned travellers and backpackers, the beginning of a new journey can signify a time of stress and a lot of unanswered questions. While travelling can be stressful and exhausting, the journey is meant to be enjoyed, and it is important to remember just that.
Here are ten tips on how to make travelling a less stressful and more enjoyable experience.
#1 – Research your first destination
If you have a lot of stress about the unknown, do your research and educate yourself. Whether you are concerned about the language, customs, or culture of a new country, or you simply want to know how to get around using public transportation, researching can only help to minimize stress. While not all information you find online or in books is relevant or current, it helps to do some research in order to have a better understanding of a place. Remember that what you see on the news and in the media is not always true of a country. While your biggest learning experiences will take place once you arrive in a foreign land, you can prepare yourself somewhat for this moment. Research and understand a new country’s customs, culture, and way of life. Research helpful pieces of information like safe neighbourhoods for tourists to stay when visiting big cities, how to get around using public transportation, what type of money the country uses, if you can withdraw from banks, and if you can drink safely from the tap. Cover your bases in terms of basic necessities: a roof over your head, having money, and eating and drinking. The more you know, the more powerful and at rest you will feel.
#2 – Get immunized before travelling
Many travellers are concerned with new diseases and forms of bacteria they will encounter when travelling to a new place. While there are many unavoidable bugs and bacterias, you can set your mind at ease before you leave by updating all of your immunizations. Research the region that you are going to, and visit your doctor to find out if you should get particular shots or not. Depending on your health and travel insurance, some of these immunizations may be covered. While some doctors and health professionals tend to over recommend some vaccines, do your research and get the ones you feel are necessary. In addition, find out if there are any pills you can take with you on your travels like antibiotics, in case of a stomach bug, altitude sickness pills, and malaria medications. A few immunizations are absolutely crucial in every country abroad including hepatitis A & B shots and typhoid. Depending on the region of the world you are visiting, other immunizations may be mandatory, including yellow fever for South America.
#3 – Pack light
The easiest way to reduce stress while travelling is to have less physical baggage. Packing light can be difficult, but it is always worth having less, which can reduce your stress load both physically and mentally. If you are heading out on a long trip, keep in mind there will be times when you have to carry your bag or suitcase for long periods of time. The lighter the bag, the easier this task will be. Not only does packing light take less time and less energy, it also ensures you can live with the absolute necessities, and not worry or stress so much about material possessions. There will be times when you will lose, misplace, or have items stolen, so bring things that don’t have a lot of meaning to you. Leave expensive jewelry and important sentimental memories at home, where you can return to them once you are back from your trip.
#4 – Check visas and regulations
Before going to another country, check if you need a visa before arrival. Do this before you book a flight because some countries require a months notice or more to apply and receive a visa. An airline company won’t refund your money because you weren’t prepared enough to check which types of documents and regulations another country has. Always make sure your passport has more than 6 months left before it expires, and carry a few extra photos with you in case you need to pick up visas along the way. Check that you always have the right documentation, and remember that it differs in countries across the world. Another important thing is to check the regulations of a country, and of the airlines that you are flying. Some airlines will not let you fly unless you have an exit flight from the country you are going to. Although this can damage your plan of “going with the flow”, it’s better to be prepared in order to reduce your stress levels.
#5 – Don’t plan too much
If you try to stick to a rigid plan, chances are you are going to feel stressed and enjoy your trip less. While it’s important to research and know as much as possible, don’t plan your trip day for day or hour for hour. While it may put your mind at ease to know where you are going to sleep each night, leave hours open in the day for spontaneous activities and adventures. While having a plan seems like the best way to reduce stress, it can often cause more stress. Have a short term plan, but keep it open because you never know what will happen, or who you will meet.
#6 – Keep an open mind
It is important to keep an open mind when travelling, because the customs, culture, and way of life is completely different in another country, and your stress will be greatly reduced if you are flexible and easily adaptable. Keeping an open mind will help you relax and go with the flow more, where you will attract positive and helpful people, and have wonderful experiences. Sometimes you will find yourself in situations that may not feel right. Remember, if something doesn’t feel right, trust yourself above all else. If you are not comfortable doing something, don’t feel like you have to do it. Just because you are travelling, does not mean you have to pretend to be someone else, someone braver or less fearless. Remain true to yourself, and you will be able to manage any stressful situations that arise. If you ever feel stressed, remember that you still have friends and family who are only a call away, or bring a possession from home that helps you to calm down.
#7 – Socialize
While socializing can be a scary thing, whether you are travelling or in your hometown, the act of meeting new people will greatly reduce your stress. Other travellers are often very willing to socialize, share tips and tricks, and help out others who appear to be in need. Socializing can reduce stress because you will find that a lot of other travellers worry about the same things. Through communicating, you can set your mind at ease, help each other, and learn about amazing places, people, or food you will discover along the way.
#8 – Remember, if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it elsewhere
While many people would never break the law at home, it is surprising how many people will go abroad and do something they would never do at home. As mentioned before, be true to yourself, and behave in someone else’s country the way you would in yours. Do your research and know the dangers of any situations you put yourself in. Laws and regulations change drastically around the world, and you wouldn’t want to have to deal with any stressful repercussions of your actions. Simply thinking rationally and using your intelligence, can greatly reduce stress, no matter where you are in the world. To put it simply, don,’t do something abroad that you wouldn’t do at home. Even if you would do it at home, know what the consequences could be, if it seems risky or dangerous.
#9 – Learn to relax and enjoy the journey
Stress can arise in any situation, and this is often amplified by the notion of worrying. Try not to worry about problems that could arise, until they actually do. If you are prepared and have done your research, you should be able to minimize your worry, and in turn your stress. Learning how to relax might seem like the impossible, however, you have to remember that you are travelling to enjoy yourself and to enjoy the journey.
#10 – Don’t forget why you are doing it
When you travel, you don’t leave your emotional and mental baggage at home, you simply bring it with you and manifest it into new, or the same ways, in your new lifestyle. People travel the world for many different reasons, however many travellers can agree that seeing the world is a great way to meet people, heal yourself, discover yourself, and discover the world around you. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, or you are disappointed that old feelings or thoughts are creeping into your daily life, try and remember why you are doing what you are doing. Many times, a stressful situation can be minimized by being positive, and remembering why you are exactly where you are. Sometimes problems arise and it’s difficult to deal with them in a foreign country, but it’s important to remember that problems and challenges will always arise in your life, no matter where you are. Always remind yourself of why you packed that bag, no matter how long you plan on going for.
Travelling doesn’t need to be stressful, or cause you to be anxious. If you do your research, show up prepared, and trust yourself, you will be able to easily and quickly minimize your stress load. Learning how to deal with stress along the way gets easier and easier each day, so stay positive about your experiences and know that everything will work out!