I'm not sure what it is, during the run-up to a big trip, that makes your brain turn to mush.
Perhaps it's the sense of a deadline, and the thought of the days or weeks where you won't have phone signal (BILLS, TAXES, SPONTANEOUS EMAIL THAT MUST BE REPLIED TO IMMEDIATELY).
Or maybe it's the annoying purchases that are so boring you pretty much forget about them until the week before you leave, when you realise that they are absolutely essential (I simply MUST have 3 different types of aftersun and itch cream).
And of course once you're swimming in that cesspool of worry, the atomic bomb of anxiety hits - what about all the things that could go wrong?! (this list is infinite).
Joking aside, pre-travel anxiety is real, and can leave you spinning out to such a degree that you completely lose control and end up questioning why you booked the trip in the first place. You shouldn't have to tolerate this sort of uncontrollable worry.
I remember before travelling to Iceland (where I stayed for just over 2 months) I had never travelled alone before, and whilst I didn't consciously feel too worried about this (since Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world to travel around), the anxiety started to seep out in worried thoughts that I now recognise are completely irrational. It was obviously buried in some unconscious place, ready to come to the surface when I was caught off guard.
For example, in the week before leaving, I panicked over any tiny sign of possible illness, and started to worry that I'd get sick and be unable to travel - that I'd end up missing out on an opportunity that I'd spent months building up to. I don't usually have any sort of health anxiety or hypochondria, so this way of thinking was very unlike me - I barely recognised myself.
As a person who’s long dealt with persistent anxiety, I’ve realised that I’m always looking for reassurance - for outside opinions that validate my warped inner thinking. I want guidance, reassurance, a solid plan, but of course adventurous travel is the complete antithesis of all these things.
Of course this leads to me seeking out stories and personal accounts on why solo travel as a woman is a bad idea, just for the sense of having someone to relate to. I start to question my ability to get by on my own, and unconsciously absorb other peoples’ apprehension. I start to feel guilty, naive and nihilistic for wanting to visit countries that the Western world considers dangerous.
To the outsider it may seem that the whole idea of travelling isn’t worth my emotional stress. I even question it myself sometimes, when the anxiety is at its worst, but then that feeling in my gut always comes back - the sense that I was born to explore and have daring adventures and if I don’t at least try then the sense of ‘what if?’ might just kill me.
I worry sometimes that travel is at risk of becoming an exclusively male pursuit.
If women stop travelling alone, because they accept that it’s simply too dangerous, they never get the pay off.
The joy of realising that despite what they believed their whole life, they can navigate unexpected crises on their own. The crackling excitement of stepping into a territory where only ancient civilisations remain. The sheer sense of power you can only get from being completely alone and with only yourself to rely on.
When I first firmed up my plans to travel to Panama, I was told by a few people I hardly even knew that Central America is an extremely dangerous place for women. Quite simply, I decided immediately that wasn’t going to let this perception in.
I feel as though I owe it to adventurous women everywhere, and to my future daughters should I ever have any, to throw myself into experiences that pull me in, for reasons I can’t quite explain, as these are the experiences that will shape my very being for years to come.
If you’re at that point of overwhelming anxiety before a trip, try to step out of fear and into courage. As your trip draws closer, you need to start building a forcefield to block out the opinions and negative energy of others. It may seem harsh, but simply refuse to engage with people who only have negative opinions, or make comments that make you feel apprehensive rather than excited.
Trust that the universe has your back.
That people are out there to help you, not hurt you.
Remember that you’re an intelligent woman who knows what she’s doing, and that you’ve probably done way more stupid and dangerous things in your home town (getting so drunk you black out, walking home with complete strangers - we’ve all done it) than you would ever dream of doing half way around the world.
You’ve got a pretty small window to travel, before life gets complicated or you become physically unable.
So throw yourself into the wild, and discover the woman you were always meant to be.