Writing and photographs by Freya Bennett
Travelling is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences a person can have. At 27, I have travelled a fair bit, but still have much more I want to do.
I am currently travelling through America for a month with my (now) fiancé. This is a trip we have thought about, romanticised about, and anticipated for many months. And though we are having an amazing time, I still have my same anxieties and worries that I have back home. I get distracted and stimulated more easily with the new surroundings, but ultimately I am still Freya and my worries, anxieties, and personality hasn’t changed!
I wanted to write a few articles whilst travelling instead of after, because my memories of experiences are rose-coloured as compared to how I felt when I actually was travelling. I want to address anxiety, depression, and expectations while travelling.
At home, I am a generally anxious person. I worry everyday about terrible things happening to me and the people I love, I over analyze interactions with people, and I judge myself way too harshly. I am very sensitive to my surrounds and hear every little noise made by neighbours, or people nearby. I am extremely sensitive to smells and hate when I can smell cigarette smoke. And I find sleeping a very difficult task. This all interferes with my everyday enjoyment of life, even though I do consider myself a generally positive person.
I LOVE the idea and the thought of travelling. When I look back at all my trips, I only remember the positive; I romanticise all the trips I have taken. But the truth is, there were so many ups and downs during all my trips! I have definitely felt depressed upon arriving in a new country and the culture shock can really make me feel insecure about my abilities. I have experienced a lot of anxiety about getting lost, finding a toilet, getting sick, and not being good company for my travel buddy. I still love travel and consider it one of my favourite things in life, but it’s good to remember that it’s not always going to be a party.
I think there is a problem with the fallacy that we will become completely different people when we travel, because when we arrive and feel like the same anxious/depressed/grumpy person as at home, we think something is wrong with us. But the reality is, just changing country or continent doesn’t mean our personality will change.
Effective strategies to cope with this will be different for everyone, but here are a few things that really make me feel a lot better.
– Talking or journaling your feelings. Don’t try and block out these feelings, just feel them and talk about them or write about them.
– Go to a place that makes you feel happy– for me, it’s a gallery or a library. I love being able to stay as long as I want, the security of knowing there are people there, there are bathrooms there, and I can sit when I want to be slow and quiet.
– Listen to music that makes you feel calm or happy.
– Immerse yourself in the new place in a way you feel comfortable. This doesn’t mean you have to enjoy big crowds or touristy destinations. Choose activities that you relate to and see if you can find similar things where you are!
– For me, I need time alone, so even if you’re travelling with someone, book in time to be by yourself. For me, the few times I caught the subway alone have been some of the calmest moments I have experienced! As an only child, I crave time by myself, and this is the time I feel most confident in my abilities. Being able to find your way around a new city is so rewarding and confidence-building!
– Remind yourself to just breathe and be present. Notice small things like the colour of a building, the wind on your skin, the feeling of your feet on the ground. Take time to just be.
My experience of New York has been amazing; the people are so friendly and make you feel at home instantly. Locals are ready to share the amazing city that is New York. I really feel like different cities have different personalities, and to me, New York feels like a buzzing, alive, inclusive, creative community. It feels like you can fit in no matter who you are and what you enjoy. It is wonderful and weird and beautiful and grungy. New York has a special place in my heart and I feel like New York will always be a place I can feel at home.