The Travel Bug

For me, The Travel Bug goes by another name and that name is anxiety.

When The Travel Bug (TTB) bites it leaves behind a virus which lays dormant until anytime between 6 weeks and 4 days before your trip. Often, if you’ve been bitten in the past, you will have built up some immunity to the full effects of the virus. Patients experiencing the results of TTB, classification Anxiety, often report the following symptoms: feeling woozy, stomach aches which increase in severity the closer they are to the departure date, irregular bowl movements, jitters, a caffeine-like high, inability to sleep, a whirring sound in their ears, elation, and a sudden overwhelming knowledge that they’ve never wanted to go anywhere in the world except their own bedroom.

Often, even when I’ve been looking forward to a trip for months, when it finally comes time to check into my flights, pack my bag, and ready my house for the cat sitter, I feel dread. Right next to my excitement, my longing to get to this place, my joy, is a swirling pool of apprehension and fear. I know many fellow travelers experience some version of this bizarre (but very common!) combination of emotions. Mine usually plays out by cycling through excitement, ambiguous fretfulness with no identifiable root cause, dread, and then we round the corner with a good dollop of guilt for feeling anything other than happy and grateful for the opportunity to travel.

In therapy — for anxiety issues unrelated to travel — I’ve learned a lot of really helpful techniques. These work for me for my specific brand of generalized anxiety. As is tradition with all of my anxiety, as soon as The Thing happens, it’s actually fine. With travel, as soon as the plane lifts off – I love lift off – pretty much all of the residual tension and dread falls away with the receding tarmac. TTB’s virus runs its course: nausea is replaced with hunger, anxiety with excitement.

See, once I’m there I’m fine.

I recently realized that, for years, I pretended travel didn’t stress me out or make me anxious. Definitely, I felt guilty because I didn’t want people to think I was complaining, but also, I was embarrassed. If I admitted that Travel made me Anxious, it kind of made it seem like I wasn’t Cool Enough to be traveling. There are times when I still feel like a fraud because how can I relate to being bit by the travel bug if I also feel queasy at the thought of going away from home?

Whether it’s getting inside the tin-can and shooting through the air at hundreds of miles an hour or not knowing the language of the country you’re visiting or worries over a dubious AirBnb, whatever is causing your particular brand of travel anxiety, you are not alone.

Everyone gets bitten by The Travel Bug.

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