If you had of said to me a few years ago that I would get on a long haul flight by myself I would have laughed. For years I let anxiety hold me back from going on adventures and exploring. Last year I took baby steps and flew by myself to London. Wanting to keep pushing myself I took the plunge and went long haul solo. In fact, I wrote this post whilst on my flight to New York.
I think everyone should at least take one trip on their own at some stage in their life. When I was younger I would have laughed at the thought but as you get older you become more comfortable in your own company and enjoy meeting new people. Also as you get older friends settle down and don’t always share them same passions as you but don’t let that be an excuse to not travel solo.
Now I know people reading this with anxiety are thinking “ I could never do that”, I was and still am that person. I have a few little tips that help me get out there and I will share them today.
The flight itself
I would class myself as a nervous traveller, Everything from security to boarding gives me the sweaty palms. All of the loud noises of the airport can put me on edge and heck,! even the safety announcement gives me that final kick of adrenaline before the flight takes off. I hate to take off, I love landing as I know my feet will be back on the soil, but, I still get on that plane as the fear of regret of not living my life and exploring new places is bigger than the fear of travelling.
How I ease myself through travel
Prep Prep Prep. You’ve probably heard me talk about prep when it comes to my DIY posts but it also applies to real life. I prep well in advance, I make sure I am packed and have a little checklist of things I need. I highly recommend a checklist for solo travellers as for when flying wth a group or partner you can rely on them. Don’t worry if you forget something as you can purchase it in the airport or when you arrive but make sure you have the essentials, Money, passport, phone, chargers.
Prep when it comes to planning your trip. I like to plan out my trip so I make sure I have my lift to the airport arranged, then I also make sure I have arrangements for when I land, whether it is a taxi or shuttle or even a train I have it planned out and being organised makes me feel less anxious about getting lost. Being super organised might sound boring to most but when you have anxiety I think it is key to feeling less anxious as you have some sort of control.
Security! Okay hands up who gets a little flustered going through airport security, I know I do. So my biggest tip is to go organised. I have my liquids separated before I arrive. When I arrive at the airport and before I enter security I remove my laptop and liquids. Have my boarding pass to hand and I go through. That way you are not flustered trying to sort through your liquids and getting called back for not removing your laptop ( yes I have forgotten to take my laptop out and nearly got interrogated in Gatwick airport, Lesson learnt lol. ) It all comes with experience and practise but I find through experience I am less flustered once I am organised.
Distraction. My next tip is a distraction, I am not a word puzzle person, however, I did see a little girl on my flight with a Where’s Wally book and I got super jealous. If you can do something that engrosses you to take your mind of flight time and the anxiety then do it. Word search, sudoku, a good book, Movies. Download a movie or series to your laptop. For example, I am writing this blog post on my flight to New York to help distract me.For shorter flights to London, I love a good craft magazine and earwigging on the business men’s conversations.
Now I don’t encourage you to be eating sweets all of the time but when you have anxiety and panic attack your blood sugar can get low and you can feel weak and shaky from all of that adrenaline. I keep a little tin of sweets with me. I suck a giant apple flavoured sweet when I take off, it helps with the ears popping and gives you a bit of sugar to balance out the adrenaline from the nerves. Make sure you eat, when anxious you can feel sick but even then have a banana or something wholesome as this will stop you feeling weak, have your sucky sweets as a standby, but, don’t be relying on them, If you feel real week and feel like fainting than a fizzy 7up will help stop that feeling.
When I get to Dublin Airport I always get a little almond croissant as it is light enough but I have something in my belly. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated, Not being properly hydrated can make you feel dizzy and us anxious people all know that sends us into an even bigger panic, ( I say this as I am drinking wine on the plane but I also have my bottle of water beside me ). I also pack some rescue remedy in my purse too and I pop some into my bottle of water. I don’t know if it works but every little helps.
Look around your flight. Tonnes of people travel solo. In fact, I notice more people solo than I do people travelling together. I remember being on a flight to LA when I was 20. There was a girl travelling by herself to travel on her own and I remember being so in awe of her. I remember thinking I would love to do that. Well, it has taken me 9 years later to pluck up the courage and be that girl.
Think of what lies ahead of you
Challenge them negative thoughts and start getting excited about what is at your feet when you land. Before a trip, I love scrolling through Instagram using locations and hashtags to get excited about my trip and find pretty places to visit. Start turning the “ What if’s” into “ Who cares”. Of all the anxious thoughts I have, they rarely happen. See your anxious thoughts as a bunch of wasted energy and try to turn the nervous thoughts into excited ones.
Don’t wait to feel confidence, do it and the confidence will come
For years I would always say “ I will do that when I feel less anxious” and do you know what “ I never did it”. I remember seeing a really good quote and it said to just do it and don’t wait until you feel ready. Now I am not saying book yourself onto a long haul flight when you have never flown before but take baby steps. I started by taking a few small trips to London by myself and gradually built it up. I always feel anxious but I still do it. I just use my coping techniques to get me through.
Be kind to yourself
If you need to cry, panic or simply have a little meltdown before you leave the house then that is okay! Get it all out. The build up to doing anything is always worse than actually doing it. The thoughts of the airport give me more anxiety than when I am actually there.
This is hard to do but if you stop trying not to be anxious and accept that you are feeling anxious and accept that the horrible symptoms are anxiety and stop wasting your energy tiring yourself out. Then you will start to feel better. Would a person with a broken arm try and fight it? No, they accept they have a broken arm and let it heal. The same should be for anxiety, accept it, breathe through it.
Just do it and stop making excuses
Now that is a harsh statement, but!, I would make countless excuses for myself to why I can’t do something, it was fear holding me back. I still make excuses for things, I question myself and I doubt my abilities but I look at myself and I try and figure out what it is that is holding me back and it is almost always fear.
A few people have asked me how I push myself and they say that they can never do that. The truth is we all have the power to do it we just need to kick fear in the bum. I get anxious all of the time but I still do it. I have good days and I have terrible days. I wasted a lot of time by not doing things and like I said at the start of this post. The fear of regret outweighs the fear of doing it.
I hope you found this post useful. Have you got any upcoming travel plans or have you any places you would love to visit but anxiety is getting in the way.
Let me know in the comments below.
You're a feckin inspiration so you are and this post will help so many people! 😘
Aww thanks pal! Thanks for reading it x Nervous poops all the way x
Oh so much of this resonated with me. I hate flying and get so anxious for a number of days before I go. I say goodbye to family like I'm never going to see them again! ��. However like you I don't want it to stop me exploring beautiful places in this world so yay to us for ploughing through that anxiety. You have gone one better though as I havent actually flown alone (and I'm a lot older than you) – maybe one day xx
Thanks so much for reading Tracey, The days before a flight are the worse. I do be having the aeroplane dreams and everything. Well done for not letting it get to you and keep going. If I can fly solo you can too x
This is an amazing post Catherine and it's really inspired me. I'm a really nervous flyer and the thought of being somewhere other than london on my own scares the life out of me but I'm going to take your advice and start with a small trip. Maybe to Paris or even over to Ireland and see how I go! Maybe I'll build up to New York too! Thanks for sharing this. It really helps to see other people feel the same and can conquer their anxiety and fears xx
Brilliant post girl!!! You're a great role model and have such a fantastic view on life.. grab life by the balls we only live it once!!
Thanks so much for reading Victoria, Definitely start with a small solo trip, it doesn't even have to be a flight, Why not take a train somewhere nice and have a staycation to start with x
Aww, Thank you tara, Definitely, we only live once so got to keep tackling them fears. x
That's such a lovely, genuine post. Thanks you!
I went to NYC three years ago. Many people tried to discourage me of doing it since I was traveling with my then 8 year old who had behavioral issues. I was scared of a fit at the custom to be honest. I don't have major anxiety, but my child does (we went by bus, 10h drive). Everything went fine. We had a wonderful time and just regret not being able to do it every year.
Thank you so much for reading Mary-Lou x
Aw wow, well done for doing it. Fair play on the 10 hr bus journey that must of been hard, I really admire you for doing it even when people said not too. Thank you for reading x
Amazing you.You did it!
I suffer with anxiety too and like you the WHOLE journey causes me anxiety from the build up of getting to the airport, to the security checks and right up until being on the plane when I can relax a little but not entirely at ease until I set foot in my accomodation.I actually got a more independant on my last holiday in October 2017 as my husband was unwell and spent a lot of time in our room. I took myself out for walks every day alone which I would never have done previously. I ate alone sometimes and I sat alone some evenings reading my book in the lounge area outdoors without feeling too self-conscious. I did see some people looking as I was by myself but I wasn't bothered by them.Another factor of my anxiety is I have returned to the same hotel 3 years in a row as it relieves my anxiety by knowing where I am going andwhat to expect. After reading your post and seeing your recent dubai trip I've realised I'm holding myself back by not trying new places and experiences x
For me, it’s my family that stops me, they dont want me travelling solo because they get anxious. I dont want them to be anxious so I just stay close by. I like my own company, am a competent traveller, but haven’t been abroad in 12 years.
Oh, I know this is an old post but I’m sitting here in bed in the middle of summer with strep throat and trying not to cough very much because my bladder muscles are exhausted after 3 days of coughing…. So, I’m reading your blog. I, too have anxiety about a lot of stuff, travel being one of them. I make checklists, long lists. I have a list for my purse, a backpack and checked luggage. I keep only the essentials on me when traveling, things I don’t want to lose or be without in case of ‘events’… wallet, keys, lip balm, anxiety rescue meds, regular prescription meds, phone, etc. My purse fits in my backpack but I keep them separate until I get through airport security. My backpack has a special compartment for my ipad, pen and a also has a battery backup charger. Headphones, wall chargers and the like go into my backpack. In my purse, I keep all my medications in a ziplock baggie so that if they need to pull them out of my purse, they are contained in a clear pouch for viewing the labels. Once I am through security, my purse goes inside my backpack so I only have one bag to keep up with while moving about airports and planes. Usually the week before I leave, I reconfirm all my reservations and if it’s a long term visit (more than 3 days), I book a grocery delivery order to be delivered 3-4 hours after I land (if for some reason I have flight delays, that gives me some time to move the delivery time). This saves me a lot of money while traveling, gets me a bit of healthy food that I know my tummy will appreciate after long travel times.
I am terrible with take offs, but have found that closing my eyes, relaxing and intentionally focusing on my breathing, counting very slow inhales/exhales, actually helps keep me calm. Every flight, I journal on my iPad and am often asked questions about digital journaling with Noteshelf and my Apple Pencil. That usually starts my evangelizing of how the iPad has helped me learn to control my anxiety through digital journaling. I show them how it works, let them play with it and write with my pen, teach them how to create notebooks/journals/diaries for anything they can think of and before I know it, the plane is landing.
I really enjoy your blog and YouTube videos. They have helped me look at my home and garden with a different view these past few months and I have lots of notes/plans for things I want to do. Right now, we’ll when I get over being sick, I will be finishing the interior painting in my home. Then the redecorating and sewing fun begins!