As my departure date has got closer and closer, I’ve been feeling many mixed emotions. Excitement, panic, stress, sadness, and denial.
Every single day for weeks going travelling has occupied my thought processes in some capacity. Either I’m researching trips, itineraries and hostels, or i’m in the GP getting jabbed with needles, or I’m sweating the small stuff, or i’m crying in the car on the way to the gym when an acoustic version of My Hero by the Foo Fighters comes on the radio. Yes, the last one seems extreme, but it’s true. Because planning something which is so huge, so life changing, so unlike anything you’ve ever done before is emotional, as is saying goodbye to family and friends, unsure of when you will see them again. It’s a weird situation to be in. Your brain goes through all sorts of weird emotions that can leave you feeling drained or anxious.However, I’ve also been in denial. While I’ve been able to explain to anyone whose asked me my exact plans and how I’m feeling and what I have left to do, as if I am reciting a script from the top of my head, I hadn’t really been processing in my brain that yes, I actually was leaving. It was just something in the future, something to not panic about now.
But now it is the future. Now it is 6 days before I leave. This time in a week I will be in a strange and foreign land, alone. And that is daunting. Last week, I had the odd panic but managed to overcome it. But after the weekend just gone, everything changed. Saying goodbye to friends and someone I love for a while was so difficult. I cried and cried on Sunday, and on Monday. I was an emotional wreck. I was panicky, anxious and unsure. I was scared and conflicted. The enormity of what I was about to embark on had set in and I wondered if I was really making the right decision, or if this would be the most expensive mistake of my life.
After a good nights sleep, I felt a lot better. I realised that yes, this is what I want to do. This is what I have always dreamed of and if things are meant to be a certain way, they will find a way of working. However, while the emotional wreck version of me departed, the stressy version of me entered. SHIT. I had got nothing done!! I still needed to buy stuff! I needed to pack!! I need to sort my money out! I need to see people! I have no time and time is going quicker and quicker. I was freaking so much.
Of course, this solves nothing. While a little bit of panic and fear can give you a totally necessary kick up the arse, completely stressing won’t fix things. It won’t reverse time or slow it down. It can just make you ill, tired and depressed. The only thing that will solve things is to stop, breathe, relax, and reflect on what can be done. I now realise what is needed to combat pre-travel worries, whether those worries are natural yet irrational nerves and cold feet, or practical worries of shit you need to get done:
1. Remember you always have a choice
When I was panicking, I think a major issue for me was the fact I wasn’t going to see certain people for a long time and that it was so different and new and scary. But then I remembered that this is my choice. No one is forcing anything, and IF I get out there and I do truly hate it, I can always come home. I’m sure it won’t come to that, but a quiet reminder that I do have that option to fly home is comforting. If I fail, I fail, but at least I would of tried.
2. Lists, lists, and more lists.
I bloody love lists. That’s probably evident by the fact I’m writing a list right now. Lists help me realise what I need to get done and when I need to do it. After my total stress episode I wrote a small list in my moleskin of all the things I need to get done over the next few days and when to fit them in. I still need to pack, so I’m going to write a massive list of everything I need to pack, grab the bits I don’t yet have, and tick everything off as I go. Writing things down on a piece of paper really helps. It makes the things seem real, rather than just floating stress clouds inside of your head.
3. Live life like a video game.
Last night, when I was upset, I realised I needed to get some perspective. I needed to talk to someone other than my family, so I called a close friend. She gave me some brilliant advice which she is applying to her own life at the moment, as she has also undergone a pretty big change by moving and getting a new job: live life like a video game – just concentrate on completing each level.
It’s the same principle, really, as taking everything in baby steps. I was getting so bogged down by looking at the bigger picture: the overwhelming things like, where would I be in a year? What if it goes tits up? etc. Instead, I just need to focus on each level. At the moment it’s the stuff I need to sort out before I leave. And when I do leave? It’s the same, just focus on the things that need to happen at that moment. After all, the entire reason for this trip is so I enjoy myself. I won’t be able to enjoy myself if I’m fretting about the ‘what-if?’s.
Btw, said friend sent me a text this morning to remind me that level one is to actually get out of bed. Sometimes when I am going through a tough time I struggle with this one, so I was glad for this. It’s important to actually get the body moving and start the day.
4. Do what is best for you.
I find writing cathartic. This post is designed to help but it’s also selfish. Writing this helped me. I also find yoga and meditation and breathing techniques, as well as a good sweat session cathartic. This is the case with anything – whatever is making you stressed or sad. So don’t underestimate the power of self help when you are totally overwhelmed by travelling. You might have a million and one things to do, but just for a moment, breathe, and relax.