Imagine being in a place where you can’t understand written words or language, you don’t know the layout of the city, and you are all alone. Sounds enough to give anyone anxiety right?
I think I painted that picture a little dramatically, but still, that’s basically what I’m experiencing.
I’m on my first solo travel trip in Europe and my current location is A Coruna, Spain. Where I’m living is actually a suburb outside of A Coruna, Spain in a more rural area where I’m even more isolated from basic services like tourist centers and restaurants. Very few people speak English here so communication is scarce. I’m also directionally challenged. On top of that, public transportation stresses me out but I have to bite that bullet if I want to enter the city since it’s not possible to walk there.
Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety in general situations, this type of situation might really stress you out. I already have anxiety about silly things like picking out which restaurant to eat at or hopping on a bus. I have been learning how to deal.
1. Channel your creativity
Creativity is a strong therapy. Channeling your inner artist means channeling your deepest feelings, fears, and hopes. Creating is a process that calls for focus, which helps keep anxiety at bay.
Take a sketchpad and draw while in the city. Carry around a travel journal or create a blog to write poems, lyrics, and travel stories. Take photos of interesting things. Use your creativity to help you understand your trip better and gain a focus!
2. Take long walks
Not only have walks been proven to increase health and decrease anxiety but also taking walks in unknown territory allows you to see a new place with your own eyes on your own terms.
The more I walk around the more familiar I become with the area making me feel comfortable. The sights are beautiful and I see something new every time. Take that walk and breathe in that fresh air!
3. Find a routine
Some people hate routine and some people need it. I’m kind of in-between. If I’m thrown off my routine too much I feel completely out of control, giving me anxiety. Therefore, I set my alarm at the same time every morning and that allows my brain to be oriented around my work schedule.
You can find routine in a daily walk, meditation before bed, or lunch at 2:30. If all you need is something to rely on to feel better then do so!
4. Look at a map
I hate maps because I never understand directions. However, knowing your general location in a new place provides orientation so it’s good to have an understanding of location. Look for a few main highway names. This helps if you become lost. Believe me…I would know.
5. Hit up a few of the same bars and restaurants
I have three bars that I continually go to. They are my escape from work when I’m at the house feeling cooped up. Not only do I have Wi-Fi at each bar but I also am a familiar face to the workers. They smile and say hello and know what I want to drink when I arrive. It’s nice to see familiar faces. And you never know whom you will meet! I have already made a few local friends at these bars, which helps me feel less alone in a new city.
Tell yourself, "today I am going to this cafe to get a cup of tea"
or beer in my case and if that's all you can manage that day then that's OK!
6. Find a community
Seek and become active in a community that can help you when you need it. I’m in a community called Girls Love Travel. It’s full of amazing women who are supportive and helpful. I know I can turn to them if I have any questions about travel even if it’s dealing with anxiety. Support systems are important to have!
7. Carry a book around
I carry a book around at all times for my source of entertainment. It allows me to escape in another world if I’m feeling anxious or alone. I can go to a local park, bar, or even on transportation and read my book. It’s also a great way to sit and people watch when in a new place.
8. Attend a festival or social event
It’s okay to go to festivals and social events alone! It’s a great way to meet other people and get a taste for the culture of the city you’re in. Taking that big step and attending an event alone is courageous and so worth it!
9. Set goals
These goals do not have to be huge. Last week the weather was beautiful in Oleiros-Perrillo, Spain and I knew I needed to see more. I did something new every day! I went to the beach, visited a Cathedral, went to a new bar (and made friends), and re-designed my website. I felt like I achieved so much that I may not have done otherwise.
Make goals to go to that museum, try a new market, take a walk in a different part of town, or write in your travel journal or blog. You won’t have anyone to distract you or urge you to see these places so you are accountable for yourself!