I have anxiety. I have anxiety about many different things.
Most recently, it’s manifested itself in fun, chaotic worryings about getting into grad school, making enough money to pay the rent, having enough time to do all the things I need to do…I’m getting a little winded just thinking about it all.
This is nothing new for me. It took a long time to accept that sometimes it takes me longer to feel alright about things that others deal with slowly and calmly-and that’s okay!
Before I actually made it to Germany, I tried to plan every detail of the actual travel part. There was so much to think about: flying over, getting from Frankfurt Airport to Cologne (where we met for orientation), getting from Cologne to Hannover with my two suitcases and backpack…and everyone kept telling me to simply “Take the trains!” as if there weren’t hundreds of possible nightmarish situations that could arise on the trains. What if I couldn’t find my assigned wagon/seat? What if I couldn’t understand the conductor? How much stuff could I feasibly bring? What if I had the wrong ticket? Blah blah blah, etc.
It all worked out just fine in the end, but that doesn’t mean that my anxiety disappeared. It was only by throwing myself off the theoretical cliff over and over again that I finally tamed the travel anxiety beast. But still, every now and then I find myself with a few leftover butterflies at the thought of organizing a trip.
The most pervasive issue I have is about knowing where I am and how I can get to where I need to be (i.e. hostel, train station, bus stop). Only recently have I begun to value the art of getting lost. Until that was something I could appreciate, I spent a LOT of time making screenshots of Google Maps and writing painstaking directions on post-its. Sometimes I used paper maps, but I really hated looking like the tool of a tourist that I was. Then I discovered the Most Useful App in the Universe: CityMaps2Go.
Thanks to my handy Kiwi friend Jodine, this little traveler’s secret saved my sanity when I had no internet connection from my cell phone and thus no Google Maps. Using CityMaps, you can download a map when you have Wi-Fi, and then open it again when you’re off the network. It will use your GPS to track your location and position on the map. It won’t narrate directions for you, but it makes figuring out where you are practically foolproof. Plus, you can add pins to save important locations, like the best café for waffles in Iceland (very important). Or the place where you’re staying. Equally important?
Another thing I worried about ALL THE TIME was losing my important documents: passport, Aufenhaltstitel (German ID), debit card. There’s a really easy solution to this that comforted me in times of PANIC.
Make copies. Leave them at home.
If you’re really neurotic, make PDFs and keep them somewhere really secure.
If you’re really, really neurotic, make PDFs, save them on your parents’ computer in New Jersey, save them on your laptop, and save them on your portable hard drive. Print out copies for your parents, your files, and for your second travel bag. This way, in case the Russian mafia in Hannover, Germany steals your passport and commits unspeakable crimes with your identity, you won’t be completely screwed at customs.
(I never actually lost anything) (nor did the Russian mafia ever sell me out)
One more thing that was a HUGE stressor: MAKING TRAINS/PLANES/CARSHARES ON TIME. I still haven’t figured out a great way to deal with this other than triple checking everything and showing up absurdly early. Help!?
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to experience anxiety over traveling. It can be a totally overwhelming experience filled with all sorts of stressful situations. But there are ways to deal with it so that the trip becomes worth having even though it takes a bit of work to get there.