Coming to you this month from above the clouds. I’ve been given a very unique privilege of traveling to an island I’ve never heard of to represent one of my nations of citizenship in an international soccer tournament. For the past two weeks, people keep asking me, “are you excited?” To which I think- this is an amazing experience! So why does excitement feel like it’s at the bottom of the string of emotions I’m feeling?

Sometimes travel can feel more stressful than pleasurable. This blog post is for those times. For you- and a little for me, too.

Do the Prep Work

Depending on how long you’ll be gone, there is more or less work (in whatever form that may be) you’ll be missing. For you lucky ones, maybe you get to truly have a break from all your typical responsibilities. For many others, including me, it just means the same amount of work in a smaller amount of time. When I’m on vacation, my preference is to truly be on vacation.

To me, that means doing as little work as possible while I’m there. Achieving this takes a lot of early preparation and work and it gets worse before it gets better; but it totally pays off in the end. By rescheduling appointments, putting in extra hours to meet deadlines ahead of time, and (if you’re like me) creating a list of things for your spouse to get done while you’re gone, you can make it that much easier for you to enjoy your trip. Work first, play later. This helps to not have those responsibilities rattling in the back of your mind while you’re away.

Recognize What Your Thinking is Doing for You

What if the plane crashes? What if I forgot something? What if all hell breaks loose while I’m gone? How often do you work yourself into a mini (or full-on) anxiety attack with all of the “what if’s” and hypothetical disasters that could happen over the duration of your trip? Now consider, where does that thinking get you? Sometimes these questions can be helpful. Maybe worrying about forgetting something helps you create a packing list to ensure you have the essentials. However, often this kind of thinking just makes us super anxious without getting any closer to a solution (if there even is one)!

This type of thinking has a name: catastrophizing and probability overestimation. Catastrophizing is making a situation bigger or more significant than it may actually be (i.e. the home and my family will be in shambles without me there). Probability overestimation is predicting that a very low-probability event is going to happen without good evidence to support it (i.e. my plane will crash). The odds of your plane crashing are as low as one in 20 million. Is the worry you’re experiencing worth those odds?

So if you recognize that you’re doing this, try to change your thinking to something that is a little more realistic or helpful for you. I worry that this new group of people will reject me or that I will get injured. Then I remind myself that I get along with most people and I don’t expect or need everyone to like me.  I tell myself that I am not an injury-prone person and, even if I get injured, I have the resources and support to recover. *Deep breath* Feeling better already.

Be Present

What all of that worrying does is take you out of the present and cloud your actual experience. What are your worries keeping you from? When you catch yourself worrying about the past or future, try reorienting to the present. This could include several different mindfulness techniques, such as focusing on your breath or what you can perceive with your senses (what can you see, smell, or hear in your immediate environment?). Other options include re-engaging with your values or the task at hand. For me, right now, that means smelling the peanuts of the person across the aisle from me, hearing the hum of the plane, feeling my fingers clicking against the keyboard, and putting my focus and energy into creating this entry. It will mean following my value of meaningful social connection when I meet the team for the first time instead of anxiously avoiding them in fear of rejection. And it will mean appreciating my body for what it is able to do on the soccer field, rather than getting frustrated at it for not being in the shape it once was.

I would love to hear what helps you more fully enjoy your travel in the comments below!

You are now free to walk about the cabin.