Travel can be stressful, especially if you are heading off on a long term gap year or backpacking trip, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are my top tips for staying stress free on your next trip, most of which have been learned the hard way!
Travel isn’t always as easy or glamorous as a lot of people make out. It isn’t always as simple as hopping on a plane and living it up on a bunch of tropical islands, and there are times when travelling the world can be downright stressful.
All that pre trip planning, worrying if you have packed enough, getting through the nightmare of airport check in and security, delays at the airport, and that’s before you even board your flight! Never mind all the logistics that you have to deal with on the road. I get it. It’s enough to make anyone’s head explode in a vein popping release of blood pressure. Well don’t worry, over the past 15 years of travelling the world I’ve made all the mistakes and felt all that stress myself, and here are my top tips to get rid of the stress on your next trip.
Sort your travel insurance in advance.
Peace of mind is worth its weight in gold on the road, and as romantic and care free a laissez faire attitude is to just getting on your flight and winging it, it is not good for the stress levels when something goes wrong and you realise you are stuck without any back up. Travel insurance is essential. Just get it.
Travel with carry on only.
Travelling with carry on only is just a no brainer really. Avoiding the onerous chore of waiting at that blood pressure building conveyor belt is a huge stress buster. Waiting for three hours whilst the baggage handlers are having their second break in ten minutes and praying to the travel gods that your pack has managed to find it’s way into the same country you did is never a fun time. So ditch it. Grab your carry on from the plane, breeze through the airport and get on with enjoying your trip instead!
This isn’t just about packing light to keep within the carry on limits, although carrying a light pack as you arrive in a new place and start looking for places to stay in is infinitely preferable to lugging a heavy, spine busting backpack around and arriving at your hostel or guesthouse a sweaty mess. If you keep your kit organised and easily manageable by using a range of waterproof stuff sacks (brightly coloured ones really help with organisation), you will save all that stress and worry of having to root through your entire pack looking for something, but you should also be able to put your hands on anything you might need in a hurry without having to think about it. This is especially useful at airport security when you can whip out your documents and any technology they want to see, then replace them quickly without holding everyone up. When everything has its place, you’ll never worry about where it is.
Packing cubes, stuff sacks, whatever particular style of organiser you use, these are an absolute godsend when organising your kit and being able to find things when you need them.
Do your research.
Know before you go, this is key to having a stress free trip. If you do your research beforehand, understand a little of the culture you are visiting and have a rough idea of where everything you might need is instead of trying to figure it all out when you are there, you will stand a much better chance of not stressing out.
If your plans are so rigid that the slightest change will throw everything off, your blood pressure will explode quicker than Old Faithful in Yellowstone. The nature of travel means that things won’t go to plan and you will discover new activities and locations you want to explore along the way. If you aren’t flexible, you won’t be able to do that and you’ll get stressed. Be flexible, go where the road takes you and you’ll have a much nicer, calmer time.
Leave some free time.
I understand that you want to fill your dream trip with as much awesomeness as possible but there is nothing worse than cramming your itinerary so tight that you have every second of your trip accounted for and you are rushing off somewhere new every day. You’ll be exhausted in no time and that will just get you cranky and stressed. Leave gaps of free time in your plans so that you can rest, recuperate or even just take advantage of the new opportunities that come along from being flexible.
Have a duvet day.
I am a huge, huge believer in doing this in my normal life at home, never mind when I am travelling, and if there is one piece of advice I can give to anyone it is this. If you are tired, rest! It really is that simple. A gap year is not an SAS endurance test for crying out loud! Just because you are travelling that does not mean that you have to fill every single day with activities. Get a private room, rest. Relax. Sit on your own by the pool and read a book or sit in your undies in your room and binge watch Netflix on your tablet! This is the perfect way to physically and mentally rejuvenate yourself and reduce that build up of stress (and that goes for any walk of life, not just travelling)!
Upgrade from time to time.
Backpacking around the world is awesome and doing it on a budget is great fun. It is. I love hostels and street food as much as the next backpacker. But let’s be honest, there are occasions where you just want a bit of time to yourself, a bit of luxury, a bit of peace and quiet, and in those times there is nothing better than to upgrade to flashpacker status for a night or two. It does wonders for your stress levels, believe me!
Know in advance that things will go wrong.
Everyone worries about everything going wrong when they travel, but they really shouldn’t. Not so much anyway. Life isn’t perfect, things rarely go completely to plan all of the time and it is no different when you travel. It is how you deal with these things that matter
Look at me, I’ve nearly drowned, twice, been stranded in the desert, had to defend myself a couple of times, been caught up in the Arab Spring and had plenty more mishaps around the world, but you know what? All of these and more have made up some of my best travel stories! Did I ever tell you about the time a cat saved my life in Cairo?
Things won’t necessarily be this dramatic for you of course, but things will go wrong. Your train will be late, your plane will be delayed, you will lose something along the way. These things aren’t the end of the world and there is no point in getting stressed. It doesn’t really matter in the long run. That is why it is so important to follow the above tips of being flexible, not having a too tight schedule and being as prepared as you can be before you leave. That way you can take things in your stride and simply get on with enjoying your trip.
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