Don’t read this if you’re super-confident.

This is a very personal post, and it’s oddly difficult to write, but I also think that it is an important topic, so I’m going to try.

It’s about anxiety. Nervousness. Uneasiness. Being a little high-strung.

Whatever you want to call it, I can throw down with the best of them.

I’ve been “randomly” pulled to the side of the airport security lane more times than I can count. Usually I was with my family. Before we got to the agent, Josh would try to be proactive. Calm down, he would tell me. You’re so tense that you’re vibrating. Relax.

But the truth was that I couldn’t.

There were too many transitions, both in the moment (taking off my shoes, pulling out my computer, making sure my kids were still with me), in the immediate future (getting to the gate on time, finding overhead space for my bag), and in the soon-to-happen future (renting a car, navigating to the hotel).

It just all seemed overwhelming. If I thought about it, it was almost too much. Too many little things. And I know that sounds crazy, because it was. It was crazy. I know.

I am a little high-strung.

When you are wired this way, it’s not easy to just calm down.

But you know what? I did.

Because something happened. Slowly, imperceptibly, with each trip I took, I became less and less anxious. Things that used to cause me to tense my shoulders and ball my hands into sweaty fists no longer phased me at all. I felt relaxed as I walked through the airport. Calm.

I’ve thought about this a lot, and I realize that all of the travel I’ve done in the past two years has been like exposure therapy. I did the same things so many times that they got easier and easier with each trip.

And the best thing is that this smooth feeling has flowed over all the other rough spots of my life as well. I’m less anxious in general. I can handle transitions better.

Traveling has made me into a calmer, happier person.

It’s been cheaper than therapy, and much more fun.

Anyone with me here? How has traveling helped you?



  1. Rebecca says:

    I remember one of my very first international trips years ago – it was to China. I read every book I could find, every map and set of directions, every “list” of what to bring. One such medical list I found, I purchased nearly every item on it and made my own traveling medical kit! I seem to recall some of those items being used by mtg participants so all was not in vain. Since then, I’ve collected quite a bit more stamps in my passport, and flown by the seat of my pants, pun intended :), without knowing exactly where I’m going, but knowing I’ll figure it out once I get there.

  2. I used to be paranoid about being robbed and scammed while traveling. I like going to exotic places where English is definitely not the primary language. Traveling to unsavory parts of the world (crime-wise), has cured me of that paranoia. It has taught me how to scan my environment quickly, and how to read people’s intentions clearly. I am now way more aware of my surroundings, and I’m also a much better negotiator for it.

    I also often see Traveler Paranoia in action. I live in probably the ritziest part of Vancouver, Canada, where the average 1 bedroom apartment is a million +. Sometimes I see tourists stroll by gripping their pac safe bags securely to their chest uncertain if someone might rob them. I think caution and safety tips are good, but sometimes we do get so blinded by them we forget to trust our own judgments and enjoy ourselves more.

  3. Thank you for this post. I think it’s important to realize that we all have aspects of ourselves that at times feel a certain “uncertainty” or nervousness about things that happen. They could be about approaching security or taking off from airplane, or just accepting change from a stranger.
    The thing is, no matter how “safe” or “how uneventful” the experience is, it’s all a matter of perspective. We all are indeed wired in very many different ways and it’s important to realize that while some things might seem “trivial” to some, it’s more than that to others.
    Thanks K

  4. Michelle says:

    Thank you for sharing this! My oldest son, 16, is very similar to you . We were just traveling this weekend and he’s old enough now to express that he just hates airports. He finds it an anxiety hell. I’m the opposite – I thrive on getting through security and everything that has to do with traveling. I keep hoping that some of my calmness will rub off but it still hasn’t. I hope in time he overcomes the anxiety like you have!

  5. My wife was much like you were. Finally, she got tired of saying “I’m a Virgo, its just my nature” and decided to take the SOAR course of Captain Tom Bunn. The course is really much more than a fear-of-flying course. It makes you aware of why you react the way you do to various stimuli and gives tools to change your responses. I have no traveling anxiety but I have gotten psychological insights from the SOAR material that made it beneficial for me also and helped me to help her. Thanks for sharing.

    • pinkisnice says:

      I took SOAR way back in 1995! Then took a refresher in like 2004. Captain Tom Bunn is amazing and he gives away so much for free on his site and through regular emails. And now there’s a free app too, that’s chock full of info – including all the transitions you mention, Pixie. So glad to see a reco for SOAR here. It changed my life — so that traveling could and make me a calmer, happier person too!

  6. Points Pixie says:

    Rebecca – Sounds like you are a pretty confident traveler now. That’s great. Isn’t it also rewarding to look back at where you started and realize how far you’ve come?

    Jess – Fantastic advice. And it sounds like you had a similar experience of “exposure therapy.” 🙂

    Freddy – Very well said.

    Michelle – The key to overcoming it (for me, at least) was to just keep doing it. That’s great that your son can identify what is happening and say it out loud!

    Bob – Ha ha, I’m a Virgo, too 😉 That was also my excuse for years. I’ve heard really good things about the SOAR course from a close friend, so thanks for the reminder.

  7. No Fly Zone says:

    The SECOND trip to/from any particular point is always much easier. If only remembering what it was like the first time, you’ve already got this one nailed. You are doing just fine…

  8. I don’t feel anxiety at the airport, just a weariness. Like you it’s 1. be sure you collect everything off the conveyor belt, and 2. for heaven’s sake don’t lose a grandkid. For me the vacation actually starts once I am through security. I rather like the flying part. Relax next to husband and chat a bit, read all I want without any interruptions.

    I do have one “pulled aside at the airport” story that has become a family favorite. We were asked to step aside as they opened and went through grandson’s luggage. He was ten at the time and we had taken him to Hawaii. We couldn’t figure out why he was suspicious. It turned out they wanted a closer look at a package in his suitcase. His mother had requested some sand from Waikiki and he had packaged up a baggies worth to bring home. Hubby remarked later that it did look like a package of C4. But we made it through and we still laugh at grandson and daughter-in-law almost getting us thrown in prison.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Anne – Interesting question: when does vacation start? For me, it’s when we leave the hotel room for the first time.

      Your grandson sounds very resourceful and responsible. I love that he packaged up a baggie of sand and packed it in his suitcase without your help. For my kids, this would become a major production. 😉

  9. You totally described me! haha.
    Though I still become an anxious mess, I have found that lounges seem to do the trick 😉

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