Thoughts On: Travel Anxiety

Europe travel photos

Tomorrow I leave home for three weeks. I'm meeting my parents in Dusseldorf, where we're staying in a castle. Then we head to Frankfurt and Rome—with a detour to Pompeii before the ruins crumple beyond recognition. I should be excited. Over the moon, even. Instead I've sat paralyzed in bed all day, answering emails and weathering the chest-crushing agony I've come to recognize as my physical experience of panic. You guys, I'm terrifed.    

Germany travel photos

At first I thought I was nervous about all the work I had to accomplish before I left. But the closer my departure date has drawn and the more I've squared away, the more the pain has mounted until each breath requires a focused, bracing effort. So what gives? The fact of the matter is that I'm about to step farther beyond my comfort zone than I have in a very long time. 

Europe vacation packing list

The travel I've done to date—domestic road trips, airline jaunts to other US cities for work—has been a valid and valued part of my experience. But from beneath the weight of my fear I recognize it's time to journey beyond the ubiquitous Starbucks and universal cell reception. So I'm packing light (I won't be adding much more to my luggage than the above) and leaving my expectations behind. I may not be mentally prepared for my trip, but I'm more than ready to have this tortuous anticipation over! 

P.S. I'd love tips from the seasoned travelers out there. And for crying out loud, I'm just going to Europe. I'd be cowering and quaking if a trip to Africa were in my immediate future! Baby steps, friends. Images: 1, 2, 4, 5. 3. Shopping Guide: 1. Railroad Stripe Overalls 2. Tieks Ballet Flats 3. Twyla Tharp The Creative Habit 4. Nautical Striped Scarf 5. materials + process backpack 6. James Perse T-Shirt 7. Blue and White Striped Shorts

  • Emily

    It sounds like you are about to have the time of your life – you just don’t know it yet. (Report back in 3 weeks!) I think everyone’s first major overseas trip is incredibly nerve racking, so take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
    I highly recommend dramamine for the plane ride (whether you experience motion sickness, or not – it’ll help you relax), adapting to the time change by staying awake until it’s actually bedtime in your new city & spending more time taking mental pictures of your surroundings & soaking it all in than you do taking actual pictures. The memories will last a lifetime.
    I can’t wait to hear all about it! Enjoy!

  • mary s

    Been there (the travel anxiety thing) — more times than I’d care to admit. SOooo from experience I will simply say, take lots of deep breaths and when you touch down tomorrow morning on “The Continent” the fun begins, the jitters will begin to dissolve away and soon (before you know it) you will be packing for your return…a much braver, bolder and more seasoned traveler … with a pocket full of lovely memories. So…
    sieze the day and ENJOY!! Bon voyage!!!

  • Rochelle

    You are going to love this trip — just relax and enjoy it — you will be fine and so inspired by all of it!

  • Rory

    I always make sure I’m all packed up
    the day before. If not, I get panicky and start shoving crazy things into my suitcase. which I’ll admit, I sometimes do anyways. Best for me to lock the suitcase in the trunk! Good luck and safe travels!

  • Kristen

    I totally understand being anxious about a trip like this, but don’t let it ruin the experience for you! It sounds like you’ll have family with you, which will make the experience great. Here are a few tips:
    – Take some beautiful photos, but don’t concern yourself with taking too many! You’ll never enjoy your trip if you only see things through the lens.
    – Don’t be afraid to wander a city you don’t know for a while. Visiting monuments and museums is great, but the places you’ll remember forever aren’t tourist attractions!
    – EAT! Savor the food, try new dishes, and be sure to duck into a grocery store and pick up some local items. Europe has such amazing food, and you’d be crazy not to get a little adventurous with what you eat!
    Enjoy your trip — it will be amazing!!

  • SeaStarArts

    oh yeah… and forget sleep! I never can sleep before a flight. My trick when I went over seas? pack as few clothes as possible and some familiar snacks. Strange, yes? but your tummy will love the foreign food for a while but will crave your favorite American treat, comfort food! Oh, and I bought books when I was at a special place. They look great on a shelf instead of that little plastic thingy that’s 4000 euros 😉 Cannot wait to see your photos!!!! xo-jeni

  • Courtney K

    Well medically you could take a beta blocker, but since you leave tomorrow that’s probably not possible :)
    I get (really not so great) anxiety too and what works for me (or at least kind of calms me down) is just to plan (a lot) and make sure to get to the airport super early. Not sure what it is, but once I’m at the gate, settled into those really uncomfortable chairs eating my favorite snacks, and wrapped up in a big scarf, my nerves calm down some.
    Oh. And I take motion sickness medicine because holy cow I get horrible motion sickness.
    Best not to stress about what you might have forgotten (just make sure you have some cash, passport, medicine/glasses/etc and ID- the rest you can technically buy there) and best not to stress about the future because you can’t control it. A friend once told me never to worry about tomorrow, because it’s already tomorrow in Australia. Kind of silly, but always makes me feel better.
    And if all else fails, feel free to text me when you think you’re going to go crazy :)

  • Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, Interiors

    I know this trip will be one of those moments you will always think about with a smile.
    Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
    Ox, MSS

  • Shamila

    There is always a layer of anxiety before any trip. Even if it is a trip you have done a bunch of times – it is just how it is.
    Europe is easy, once there and surrounded by new languages, ways of life, habits and beauty the anixous mind ceases to become the absorbing mind. You will have a beautiful scrap book of memories for us for sure. I’ve not been to any of the cities on your list or I would have sent you my favourites.
    Bon Voyage!

  • Annette

    First of all, you don’t need to take drugs of any kind to enjoy traveling on a plane. You wear something that makes you feel special and excited with anticipation, you pack light as no one cares but you what you are wearing and there’s no such thing as being lost. And for goodness sake, stay out of the friggin’ Starbucks — drink a decent cup of coffee with a decent piece of homemade pastry in a cafe that’s not a chain. That’s the point of travel! To see something unique to the location you’re visiting. I’ve traveled all over by myself, and there’s no better gift you can give yourself. Now, finish your work, get on that plane and relax — the pilot knows what to do.

  • Helen

    It sounds like you’re going to have an amazing adventure. Europe really isn’t that different, so just enjoy the little cultural differences, and don’t worry.
    Get the audio tour at Pompeii, it’s fascinating. And buy tickets for the Colosseum in Rome at the entrance to Palatine Hill, the line is so so much shorter and Palatine is pretty amazing too.
    Take nice treats for yourself for the plane, a good book and a new magazine, it’s by far the scariest part of the whole thing.
    Have a wonderful time, look forward to hearing about it.

  • Sara

    Make a list to check off while you’re packing to help ease the stress of forgetting something. And I second the suggestion of staying awake until bedtime once you arrive to adjust to the time. Travel anxiety is no fun (I almost didn’t leave on a trip in January because I couldn’t find the necklace I’ve worn on EVERY trip since 2000) – but it slips away once you’ve arrived. You’re going to be so inspired by those beautiful places!

  • Caitlin

    I always get nervous (and start second-guessing) before a trip – no matter how big or small :) I’ve learned to accept that it’s just part of the whole process.
    Can’t wait to hear about your amazing adventures!!

  • stephanie @Babasouk

    You’ll do just fine Miss Sage. All you need is a drink or two!! You’ll love it so much you might stay there! xx

  • Colleen

    If you’re going to be on your feet a lot, bring a second pair of shoes!

  • Nikki

    You’re long gone by now, but I hope you’re having tons of fun. Looking forward to seeing what you bring back with you!
    Lots of love,
    P.S. That Twyla Tharp book is one of my faves!

  • Elizabeth K

    have so much fun!!!! can’t wait to hear about it when you get back :)