When my boyfriend and I decided to go to Australia and New Zealand, I was pretty pumped. This was my dream vacation—traveling to Australia, the country across the world, the city that bore my name.
I could not wait. And yet… I was a mess.
Once we agreed on the location, I was all in. But as we started looking into logistics, my anxiety worked to get the best of me.
One of the biggest triggers of my anxiety is worrying about how I will feel during an experience. I worry that my stomach will hurt or that I’ll be too hungover or dizzy to do a certain activity or that I’ll just be too tired to go on.
So when I started looking at flights from D.C. to Melbourne, I felt my old friend anxiety creeping into my brain. We would fly from Dulles International to LAX (a five-hour-and-30-minute flight), chill through a three-hour layover, then board our flight from LAX to Melbourne—a mere 15-hour-and-45-minute flight.
I had survived long flights before, sure. But nothing like this. The longest was probably about eight hours, and I remember feeling jetlagged as hell at the end of it.
I went ahead and booked the flights cause I knew I wasn’t going to let myself miss out on this amazing experience. Then, I sat back as the anxiety slowly began to drag me down each day.
At work someone would ask about my trip, and as I was telling them where we planned to go, ideas about jetlag and exhaustion and sitting for 15 hours swam under the surface.
Rationally, I knew this wasn’t something to worry about. As far as I know, no one has died from jetlag. And people travel across the world everyday. But as much as I tried to adjust my thoughts, it just wasn’t working.
So, I did what I knew would get me through it—regardless of how crazy it seemed. I equipped myself with the best tools I could find to help me cope and continued to tell myself that anxiety wasn’t going to stop me from living my best life.
I spent hours researching how to avoid jetlag and adjust my internal clock while my stomach turned. I read articles about how to prevent blood clots on long flights as my heart beat faster. I took slow, deep breaths at Target while I filled my cart with Dramamine, vitamins, Pepto-Bismol tabs, Gin-Gin ginger candies, and whatever else I thought might help.
When the day came, I was as ready as I could be. Sure, I was still nervous about how I would feel when I arrived and how the first day would go. But I had everything I could ever need to deal with it, a supportive boyfriend by my side, and a dream vacation to look forward to during my almost 30 hours of travel.
The trip to LAX was a piece of cake. We watched TV and talked through our excitement. Our layover was a little difficult at first—LAX is a hard airport to navigate—but eventually we got some food and found our way to the gate.
Then came the hard part. I fell asleep before our flight to Australia took off. Of course when I woke up a couple hours later and found myself in a crowded airplane chair, I had a little bit of a panic attack. My mind raced as I came to terms with the fact that I was in a tube miles in the air with no way out for another 13 hours.
But, as I’ve learned to do, I rode out the attack. I sat in my seat, quietly breathing. I got up to walk around a bit. I went to the bathroom and did a few squats to make sure my legs didn’t turn to Jell-O. I returned to my seat, held on to the small pillow they give you and put a funny show on the little screen in front of me.
And eventually, we landed.
Throughout our first day, I felt surprisingly awake. We got food. We explored the market. We even went on a free walking tour. I may have gotten a little dizzy around 4 p.m., but I got a snack and some water and powered through.
In the end, I survived. I had an amazing vacation across the world, and it didn’t kill me! Because as much as it sucks (and it really, really sucks), anxiety can’t kill you. It can’t stop you from doing all the things you want to do and going all the places you want to go – unless you let it.
So how do you pursue your dream vacation (or start a new company or move to a new city or make a new friend or just get out of bed) with anxiety?
You figure out what brings you the most peace of mind and you just do it. You find a friend to support you. You do breathing exercises. You suck on ginger treats. You research what scares you. And you power through.
You are stronger than anxiety. Even if it doesn’t always feel that way, you are. Remember that. Go out into the world. Pursue your dreams.
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