Love (But Fear) Traveling? Here's How To Cope With Hodophobia

An extreme fear of traveling, also known as hodophobia, can stop you from living life to the fullest and experiencing everything the world has to offer. Hodophobia doesn't just stop people from going on vacation, it makes them worry about all types of journeys, big and small. It can be different for each person experiencing it, too. 

Some people get freaked out when they're planning a trip or right before they leave. Other people don't feel any anxiety until the moment they step on the plane. Still, the symptoms hodophobia sufferers experience can be debilitating. Signs of travel anxiety range from shakes, sweats, and headaches to chest pain, shortness of breath, and confusion. But even though many people have a fear of traveling, those people often have a longing to get over the worries and get out into the world. Not to mention that there are lots of times throughout life when it's absolutely required to travel. As difficult as the anxiety disorder can be, it's totally possible to overcome a bout of hodophobia and start traveling without worry. Just follow these 13 tips for coping with a fear of traveling.

Travel with a friend

One of the easiest ways to beat traveling fears is to have a companion along with you. Think about it. Bringing along a friend or family member gives you someone to talk to if your nerves are getting the best of you and they can even help you figure things out if anything goes wrong. It's just so much less intimidating than traveling alone when you're already feeling uneasy. 

There are more benefits to traveling with a loved one than that, though. Traveling with a friend can help you two grow closer and help you build one-in-a-lifetime memories together. It's fun to hang out on the weekend and go to your usual bar, but going to another city or even another country is a transformative experience. On a logistical level, traveling with a friend can lower the costs of a trip by splitting them with another person. It's way more affordable to share rides and accommodations with another person than to take on every expense by yourself. There are lots of tempting reasons why to travel with friends, including that it may cure your travel fears for good. 

If you absolutely have to travel alone, enlist the help of a trusted loved one to be on call in case you need someone to talk to over the phone. If they can't be there in person, at least they can support you over the phone. In a moment of crisis, that could be equally as helpful. 

Be an avid planner

A big reason that overwhelming fears start brewing is a lack of preparation, especially with an endeavor like traveling. A lack of preparation can lead you to miss your flight, stay in a gross hotel, get lost in an unfamiliar place, or even end up in a dangerous situation. Those are very rational reasons to have anxiety! 

However, you can greatly reduce these travel anxieties by being a zealous planner. The more prepared you are, the lower your chances of running into anything unexpected. There are a few key steps you must take to be a well-prepared, anxiety-proof traveler. Firstly, learn a lot about your destination of choice, including the weather, travel advisories, and safety tips. Then, plan out your exact itinerary in detail. Figure out how you'll get from the airport to your hotel and what activities you want to do on each day you're there. The more clearly you can visualize your trip, day by day, the more the hodophobia will melt away into the background. 

Always carry distractions with you

Distraction is a powerful coping mechanism for travel anxiety. Distractions keep your brain from running wild with worry as you're getting through the more stressful parts of traveling, like flying on a plane or visiting a super busy tourist attraction. While many people think they're limited on distraction options when they're traveling, there are actually tons of ways to distract yourself from your fears while traveling. 

Drawing, reading, journaling, or playing a handheld video game can all be done from almost anywhere and they're extremely distracting activities. Books whisk you into a different world, drawing allows you to create a new one, and journalling helps you introspect and maybe even figure out why you're so afraid. If all that doesn't work, investing in a handheld video game might be the magic ticket to overcoming your hodophobia, at least momentarily. There is nothing more distracting than diving into a video game, they're practically manufactured distractions!

Be punctual

One of the most common stressors when traveling is being on time. Punctuality is more important than ever when you're traveling and running late can definitely make your heart skip a beat. Imagine getting to your flight's gate only a few moments after the gate closes or showing up for a reservation just a little bit too late and ruining the whole day. It's no wonder those things would make you worried. 

There are a few easy steps you can take to avoid any lateness anxiety.  The first thing you can do is write down all the steps of your travel day with the exact times of each stage. Write that you'll wake up at 6:30 a.m., be out of the shower by 7:15 a.m., and be in the car on your way to the airport by 7:45 a.m. at the very latest. You can even set alarm reminders for each step of the way, so it really sticks out to you when you're in the thick of the day. If you're driving, figure out what the traffic will look like at that time of day so there aren't any surprises. If you're taking a plane, arrive at the airport a tad earlier than recommended for your flight for a surplus of preparation. An extra bit of time can go a long way toward quelling your travel anxiety.

Learn breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques

A simple way to ease your anxiety in any situation is by using breathing exercises or other types of relaxation and meditation techniques. Breathing seems like an innate action that couldn't possibly help you in times of high stress, but it's surprisingly effective. When you're feeling the symptoms of hodophobia coming on, try alternate nose breathing. Use your fingers to cover the left nostril and breathe in with the right, then cover the right nostril to breathe out of the left, then repeat several times. This technique has been known to lower your heart rate, improve your heart's functioning, and bring on relaxation. 

If that doesn't work, give the Sitali breathing method a go to bring you back from the edge of travel anxiety. In this breathing exercise, you slightly put out your tongue and curl it or pucker your lips. Then, just take a deep inhale through your mouth and let it out through your nose. Supposedly, doing this will lower your body temperature and put your mind at ease. You can keep doing this for as long as it takes for the anxiety to be relieved. The best part about breathing and meditation exercises is that there are hundreds of them out there. If these two don't work for you, keep trying until you find one that settles your system. 

Pinpoint what exactly scares you about traveling

The first step of healing is always finding the cause of a problem. Even with things inside your head, like travel phobia. If you're feeling overwhelmed by fear when it comes to traveling, do some introspection work to figure out what exactly is freaking you out about it. There are a few basic steps to decipher the reasoning behind your worry by tracing your thoughts back to the origin of those feelings. 

First, determine what your anxiety symptoms are and how you know you're starting to experience them. Do you sweat? Does your heart start to pound harder? List out all your feelings and then move on to the reasons behind those feelings. Are you worried about leaving your home behind or are you afraid of being in an unfamiliar place? Do you think something bad will happen if you travel? Are you concerned that you'll get lost or have your belongings stolen

Pinpointing why you're afraid, without judging yourself for having those feelings, is the key to overcoming those fears. Now that you know your triggers and how you react to them, keep this stuff in mind while you're traveling. You may be surprised to find how comforting it is knowing the origin point of your worries. It puts you back in control. 

Write your feelings out in a journal during your trip

Thinking about your worries can just make them worse, but getting them out of your brain and written down on paper can actually help. It sounds counterintuitive, but writing things down opens up the well of worry, so you don't have to carry it anymore. Keeping a journal has been found to lessen anxiety and help you manage your stress more effectively. 

The simplest way to use an anxiety journal is simply to write out your fears or reasons for hesitancy in a stream-of-consciousness style. Just set a timer for anywhere from five to 25 minutes and let your thoughts flow out. Don't think, just write. 

If that doesn't seem like it will work for you, there are plenty of other journaling techniques that you can use to cope with travel anxiety, too. You can answer journal prompts about your worries to try and work through them or you can list out things you love about yourself. Alternatively, you can map out plans to make yourself feel better or more prepared. Journaling is an excellent way to manage hodophobia over time because it helps you keep track of your thinking patterns and keep track of what is and isn't working for you.

Drink plenty of water

When you say, "I feel bad," nine times out of ten, someone will tell you to drink water. The piece of advice might feel a little repetitive, but it's 100% true. Most of the time, negative feelings can be alleviated with a big glug of water. It's particularly helpful for people who experience anxiety about traveling. 

One of the most common causes of panic attacks is dehydration. Many people start to feel the physical symptoms of dehydration, like headaches and weakness, and panic because they think something more serious is wrong. These worries can quickly lead to a panic attack. When you're traveling, especially in a very warm place, it's easy for these types of experiences to lead to full-blown hodophobia. Dehydration can also increase your chances of suffering from anxiety and depression. 

Almost half of Americans aren't drinking enough water. So, if you experience any of this stuff, the culprit might be dehydration. For all you know, drinking the recommended amount of water per day (2 liters for women and 3 liters for men) might be the cure for your travel anxiety. Plus, it has a laundry list of other benefits too, like encouraging weight loss and giving you more energy. 

Get travel insurance

Most people who fear traveling think that something bad is going to happen. Maybe their bag will get lost, or their flight will get canceled, or they'll get hurt in a faraway country. Unfortunately, these things can happen and it's possible it might happen to you on a trip. While you can't control the future and bad things do happen in the world, you can protect yourself by getting travel insurance before you jet off on your vacation. 

Travel insurance is just like the health or car insurance you use back home. It protects you in case anything unexpected pops up. If you feel like traveling is a risky endeavor, equipping yourself with travel insurance lessens the gamble significantly. It will save you from going broke or getting stuck in a sticky situation if you get injured or sick, lose your luggage, miss your flight, or have to cancel your trip altogether. Knowing that you're protected in case of a medical emergency, lost baggage, or even a canceled trip can take a huge weight off your shoulders when you're feeling anxious about traveling.

Have a stash of sour candy on hand

A tasty way of stopping your travel anxiety in its tracks is carrying some sour candy with you at all times. It sounds random, but it's true! Whenever you start to feel the bubble of anxiety, pop one in your mouth. Tasting the zing of something sour shocks your system and diverts your attention away from worries. 

Instead of focusing on how scared you are or worrying that you're going to have a panic attack before traveling, all your focus will be on the sour taste in your mouth. If you can distract yourself by bombarding your sense of taste for just a little while, it can completely change your mood. Sour candies could be exactly what you need to get over any bumps of anxiety along your travels. Anything from Extreme Sour Belts to Warheads can do the trick. If you really can't handle sour flavors, you can try a snack with another strong flavor instead, like something super spicy or salty. Anything that makes your brain stop and say, "What is going on?" long enough to get over the anxiety. 

Work up to big adventures

When you're learning how to swim, you don't just drop into the ocean and hope you figure out how to kick. First, you wear your floaties and swim in calmer waters before working your way up to the big one. The same goes for traveling. Instead of diving into the deep end right away, wade around in the shallow side until you're comfortable.

If you're afraid of traveling, you don't need to go on an international vacation all by yourself for your first trip. Opt for something easier and less intimidating, like a weekend getaway or even a quick day trip with a friend. Build from there until you feel comfortable enough to go on a full-blown vacation somewhere away from home. When you're ready, there are tons of starter travel destinations to explore for beginners. The Cayman Islands, Iceland, Canada, and Ireland are all considered relatively safe and easy places to travel, even for nervous newbies. 

Watch videos of people traveling to hype yourself up

Even though traveling can be very nerve-wracking, it can also be unbelievably fun. One way to get over the hump of hodophobia is to replace that travel anxiety with excitement. There is a fine line between being afraid and being enthusiastic. You're the one in control of which side you land on!

If you want to move over to the excitement camp and away from anxiety, then start by watching videos of other people traveling and doing fun stuff to get yourself hyped up to do the same thing. No matter where you're traveling in the world, there are videos of people going there on YouTube already.  There are tons of cool, informative travel channels on YouTube to check out online, like Drew Binsky, Tourist2Townie, Monkey Abroad, and Expert Vagabond. Learn from them and use their experiences to fuel your own enthusiasm for travel. 

Accept that sometimes things don't go as planned and that's okay

At their core, most cases of hodophobia come about after a prior negative travel experience, making you feel like you need to control the future and stop it from happening again. It's an understandable response, but it may not be the healthiest. Traveling, and life for that matter, doesn't always go exactly as planned. You can't control everything and that's okay! Sometimes, the unexpected bits of life end up being the best parts. 

Take stock of the things you can control and put all your energy into working on those to be prepared. Then, just let the rest go and surrender to whatever may be. You may be surprised how much lighter you feel when you stop worrying about things that you can't change. You may even feel light enough to go out into the world and travel without anxiety holding you back.