You’ve done it yourself or you’ve heard someone say it: “I’m so stressed! I have so much to do before I fly out next week!” Or you’re abroad in a beautiful place, stressing over a delayed plane or a rotten traffic jam.
Traveling somewhere new or taking a well-earned vacation is supposed to be fun. So why do so many of us turn it into such a stressful experience?
Part of that is just human nature — we’re not all that good at letting go and relaxing, even at the best of times — but part of it is probably because we forget how lucky we are. In reality, it’s just a small proportion of the world’s people who are able to travel abroad or take holidays a flight away from home. By rights, we probably shouldn’t be allowed to complain at all and we should definitely not feel stressed.
Here are a few tips to help you stress less both before and during your travels — because if there’s a time you deserve to be unstressed, it’s when you’re traveling.
Do the Right Amount of Preparation for You
Some people are non-planners and are more than happy to land somewhere then figure out accommodation and sightseeing from there. Others would be stressed just by reading that sentence.
Figure out what kind of person you are when it comes to traveling and planning ahead, then make enough bookings and gather enough information so that you’re not stressed about it. This can be either extreme from booking everything and having maps and opening times for everywhere you want to go, or having nothing more than a plane ticket, but I think a happy medium somewhere in between will keep most travelers relatively relaxed.
Packing is something that stresses many people at the last minute – I must admit I’ve been guilty of frantically looking for my passport just hours before take-off — and yes, I was a little stressed! Writing a packing list at least a week or so ahead of time (longer if you think you’ll need to buy things like clothing for a particular climate) will help you slowly gather the things you need and ensure you don’t forget anything important.
I also find it handy to have a bit of a system for my packing — for example, always put your phone in one particular pocket — so that you spend less time looking for things you need (and feeling stressed because you can’t find them).
Don’t Make Your Travel Plans Too Ambitious
Delays happen. You can never control them. You can, however, plan a bit of extra time into your schedule so that if your plane or train is delayed, you minimize the times you find yourself stuck with missed connections or stressfully tight transfers.
Some people are so keen to make the most out of their travel time that they schedule flights, tours or other events so close together that one small glitch can create a domino toppling of stressful cancellations or postponements. Then they’re not really making the most out of their travel time at all.
Similarly, ditch the idea of seeing everything on a long wish list. Sprinting to the third museum of the day just to get there before closing time is not going to make you happy. And stressed-out museum-goers are unlikely to enjoy even the most captivating of exhibitions. Remember that less can be more.
Tough Love: Relax, You’re on Vacation!
We are so privileged to be able to travel that letting ourselves get stressed by trivial inconveniences is just not right.
Many of us are used to feeling stressed out by work, family or other everyday life “stuff” back home. It’s easy to fall into the habit of feeling stressed when something small goes wrong on the road, too.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, whatever goes wrong is not that bad. Sure, you might not get the swish hotel room you’d hoped for, or you’re finding that trying to communicate in a language you’ve only been learning for a few months is proving very stressful. But whenever these moments strike, think of the alternative — you could be back home, very likely stuck at work, just like so many people you know are. Keep things in perspective: we are so privileged to be able to travel that letting ourselves get stressed by trivial inconveniences is just not right.
Look After Yourself And Your Body
It probably goes without saying that when you’re at home, you try to eat reasonably healthy food, exercise and get enough sleep. But for many of us (and I include myself here!), this standard life philosophy often goes out the window when we travel.
Suddenly the “I’m on holidays” mantra makes any kind and amount of food and drink perfectly alright, exercise is something that only happens incidentally, and staying up late despite an early morning flight the next day seems perfectly reasonable.
I’m sure you’ll see where I’m going here: just because you’re traveling, doesn’t mean you can ignore all these things. If you don’t eat well or don’t sleep enough, your body is likely to get rundown and you’re going to feel stressed, or even get ill.
Not every part of your daily routine can be thrown away just because you’re on vacation, but if you remember this and look after yourself a bit (allowing a suitable number of holiday indulgences, of course!) then you’re more likely to feel happy and relaxed on your travels.