The first time I left the country, I was 19 and thinking I’d left it late. My sister and I went to Cambodia and Laos with my Dad as a joint birthday present. The year was 2013, I was studying tourism at the time. My teacher could hardly stop me from taking time off for essentially a practical assignment.
Our first stop was technically Kuala Lumpur, I had one of the best meals of my life there. Who knew meat and three veg wasn’t the only dinner option. The second day as we traveled to Siem Reap, I had a feeling that I was all too familiar with. It feels like travel sickness while you’re standing still. The anxiety of doing something unknown and being totally afraid made me physically sick.
I felt hot, guilty and confronted. I wanted to enjoy myself but I was just so wholly overwhelmed. Tips to make myself feel more at ease were lost. Unpacking my things did nothing. Calling home made me feel worse. What I can say is that sitting in my room wallowing neither helped nor let me see the beautiful country I was seeing for the first time.
My biggest tip for the anxious traveler is to open your eyes. This is a common technique for calming down when I’m stressed, to look around and say what I see and really describe it. The Angkor Wat temple complex is something that I’ll never forget seeing. More than just the setting for Tomb Raider, this ancient park really helps you get your metaphorical head out of your metaphorical butt.
With your eyes open you’ll be able to interact with the people around you better. Hotel staff are, in my experience, always friendly and helpful. And, I cannot stress this enough, you never know who you will meet when you’re travelling. The generosity of strangers who have less than you is an incomparable experience. The friendships you can make can stick with you for longer than you can imagine.
Be nice to you, it’s not easy visiting foreign places. The food, the climate, the setting is all different and if you need a break - take one. Keep a journal and write that you’re scared, but also write that you are brave and will soon have unique stories and adventures.