Fear of travelling is spreading as fast as coronavirus.
Does the thought of leaving the house fill you with dread? Are you afraid to travel further than a few miles? Do you invent excuses to keep you at home?
What are you frightened of? Do you know what it is…or is it a vague feeling of unease which builds up to terror?
Today’s roads are harder to negotiate with so much traffic. And they are so much faster than they were a decade ago. A level of caution is understandable. But how did that suddenly become a debilitating fear of travelling?
Coronavirus and the various lockdowns have played a massive part in the lives of everyone on the planet. An unseen enemy has jolted us out of our communal sense of stability. An enemy which crept into our lives, changing them beyond our control.
Why has travel anxiety become so common?
Who could have imagined being forced to remain in our houses! Prohibited from visiting even family! Or needing papers to allow us to travel to work without police action! Our sense of freedom and autonomy has been replaced by an underlying rumble of fear.
Our emotions have been strung so tightly that we are sensitive to each bump and dip in the road.
The uncertainty of the future was mirrored by changing advice, diktats and laws. Even our government clumsily stumbled its way through it all. Experts emerged, only to be accused of ignorance by others. Information and misinformation bombarded us – but which was which?
We will probably never fully know who was telling the truth. Chances are, they don’t know themselves! The enemy was not just the virus, it was the palpable sense of mistrust in those in authority and, worse, each other.
We became more isolated. Our contact with other humans was minimised. We spoke from behind a screen or mask. To leave the house was to risk infecting everyone within its walls. Murdering your own!
But the main reason that fear of travelling has become more common is that, unlike our usual worries of missing a connection or losing a passport, coronavirus is much more likely to happen. And instead of familiarity instilling routine and confidence, the more you travel the more danger you are in!
Van-lifers affected by lockdowns
Isolation for the lone van-dweller became less desirable after months of having to avoid contact with other people.
Living in a van meant that you either had to park up for the duration of lockdown, or move around. The former led to disputes with locals. The latter meant that van-lifers stood accused of spreading the virus from place to place and were questioned by police.
We’ve seen the disputes at one of our favourite places in Suffolk, where fencing and bollards were positioned to keep van-lifers out.
Even though the lockdowns are now over, the fencing remains in place. Perhaps it is a stark reminder that we will have to live with the after-effects of Covid for some time.
Travelling after the pandemic
The fact is that many people remain caged by travel anxiety despite the world opening again after the pandemic.
Public transport and air travel has become less friendly. Passengers stare past each other from behind misted up glasses and masks, afraid to make eye contact in case the virus transmits that way. The “mask exempt” are regarded with suspicion and avoided like..well…the plague!
Older people have been described as “vulnerable” for the past couple of years. Even those who were previously active have acquired that label irrespective of their levels of fitness and health. It tends to stick, worming its way into their self-identity.
Now these “vulnerable” people are being told it is safe to go out, even to take holidays. “But be careful though – don’t trust anyone.”
No wonder they remain behind the net curtains!
Younger people have had their social life removed from them. Their networks and support systems retreated to behind closed doors. The covid years stopped them from exploring their immediate world and gaining the confidence to look beyond it. Even those with the aspiration to travel abroad have been prevented from doing so.
Now, as airlines start to offer exotic destinations, there is a heightened sense of caution. Catching coronavirus is one fear, the nightly numbers of cases and deaths stop all but the determined traveller in their tracks. But more than that, anxiety hangs in the air. We breathe it in. Fear of being unwell is only one part of a general feeling of unease.
Travel has changed
Given all this, it is hardly surprising that people are finding it difficult to step back into their pre-covid habits. Travelling is not the simple pleasure it once was.
For some, the restrictions have become entrenched and seem normal – safe – now. For others, the long-term effects of lockdown have led to anxieties about the unknown and unseen. Being with other people, or outside the safety bubble of home, is suddenly the stuff of nightmares with danger lurking in the shadows.
My experience of travel anxiety
Working full-time through the first wave and into the second, I was one of the front-line. The human shield. Whilst others were complaining about not being allowed out, I was “out” more than ever. And “on-call” 24/7.
The stress and constant state of alertness of the job had nibbled at my emotional health for some time, but with the added pressure of covid, it slowly built up until I was jumping at my own shadow. There was something to be feared in every situation.
I left the job! I was burned out. (Read more about why I quit my job)
But the changes then bit. It went from ALL to NOTHING. Like so many others, I was nervous about the big bad world outside. So, finally having the time I had craved for several years, I found myself making silly excuses to keep me at home and safe.
The stress of motorhome breakdowns
Naturally, having the motorhome meant that I had a (mobile) home from the (brick) home. We had our own “facilities” and could isolate with ease. That calmed the coronavirus worries at least.
So, just as she had afforded me a peaceful space during times of stress, our VW Cree helped me through this and out the other side.
Then she broke down.
We had to be recovered from a busy filling station forecourt (which I spoke about in last month’s blog post). And the issue was not the quick fix we had hoped for.
At the time, it didn’t affect me. But after, when Gav suggested a day out in her, my confidence had gone. I started to think of reasons why we shouldn’t. Too expensive to run. Daft to collect her from storage only to have to take her back again later. Short journeys don’t do the vehicle any good. We may crash! You name it!.
Just as I thought I had come through the tunnel and out the other side, things went awry. Like the shock scene at the end of a horror movie when you think the monster has been killed. Retreating into my shell seemed the only way to cope. I’m sure that many others have felt the same!
Fear of travelling is not a new phenomenon
But it was not the first time I had felt nervous about stepping out of my safety zone. Fear of travelling is a phobia many suffer due to reasons unconnected to actual travel.
During my life, various times of stress have left me wanting to stay at home, safe within those familiar four walls. Financial concerns, fretting about the kids, leaking roof…the usual. None of those were about travelling but my fear focussed on the outside world. I worried that my children were in the car and we could crash. Or that a breakdown would leave us without a car and no money to buy another. I could not leave when I wanted to – that was up to the driver- so I felt trapped. Supposing something happened to the house whilst we were out?
Going on holiday brought with it a series of things that could go wrong. Best to remain at home – spend the money on something for the house!
I even learned to drive but stopped short of taking a test. Truth is, I could not have afforded to run a car for much of my life but that’s probably another excuse of course!
The fear of being a passenger
However, that has left me as a perpetual passenger. No control over my own speed or direction! Which is a major cause of stress of course!
Being a passenger puts you at the mercy of others. Placing trust in someone else as they propel you at speed is a big ask if you are already jumping at your own shadow!
I am not usually a nervous passenger, but I can remember a few years ago asking Gav to turn round as our old van, a VW Cree, faced a series of steep hills on our way to Dent in Cumbria. She is no climber! He carried on, finding my unease amusing. Particularly after she made it up each one just fine!
Talking about it later, Gav said he had faith in the van and her engine. And his driving skills. I accepted that he may have seen my nerves as disrespecting his driving prowess. But then I asked the million-dollar question. Would he have been as happy had I been driving?
It seems not.
Apparently, it is even harder for drivers to lose their usual levels of control. They are more likely to hang onto seat edges or door handles when they have not anticipated a sharp turn. Their self-confidence is not transferred to other drivers.
If this is you, keep reading!
How do I calm travel anxiety?
I am learning to take one step away from my feelings, to recognise the tightness in my chest or the heaviness settling on my limbs. I bring my attention to the immediate environment. To what is REALLY happening. It works provided I remember to do it quickly enough!
Yes, we could break down, have an accident, the sky could fall in – but we are more likely to have a lovely time. It is important to remember the GOOD times.
Taking small steps towards regaining confidence such as local drives without stopping can help. Building up to longer journeys and days out will gradually normalise travel. Sitting in a park or even your own garden with a book and a drink can remind you what life should be like.
Planning prior to travelling, making sure you have everything you need will help. But don’t go over it again and again. Too much time spent on preparation can make it worse! Try to remain calm and rested before you leave – have a gentle playlist on your device to listen to, develop a “safe space” in your mind. Count your breaths and slow them down if you need to.
However, it is not always that easy.
We have been fed a diet of fear for too long. And then there’s something else…
Motion sickness can ruin your days out. Travel sickness pills solve it. But fear of suffering travel sickness or sickness due to fear of travelling can be harder to prevent.
Shortly after a terrorist attack in London, my younger daughter and I were due to travel to the Tower of London on a coach. A travel sickness sufferer during her youth, I thought she had grown out of it. However, on the way to the coach, her nerves about going to the capital left her pale and on the verge of vomiting.
She wanted to return to the house.
I stood firm! Motion sickness does not start before you move!
Once en-route, she calmed down and it passed. We had a lovely day. BUT as we approached the coach for the return journey, the colour drained out of her face, and she started retching again. This was not motion sickness, it was fear of travelling.
Had I have allowed her to get off the bus, she may have developed a life-long anxiety surrounding travel. Quitting tends to hit your self-esteem and actually exacerbates the problem.
Fear is a hypnotic state
Everyone drifts in and out of hypnotic trances – zoning out. Some trances are like a gentle daydream, others grip your attention a little tighter.
Fear can push rationality out of the windscreen. It becomes a trance state, tunnel vision if you like. The fear is all there is, it is all you can think about. When this happens, we become stuck in old patterns of thought and behaviour. We match back to previous times when we felt this way and recall past calamities.
Fear of travelling is a seductive trance as excuses to stay at home are easy to find. Staying at home means the panic stops! But so does any enjoyment of life. It is so much better to deal with the anxieties and fears surrounding travelling.
So, if fear and anxiety are hypnotic trances, why not approach them with a dose of their own medicine?
If you suffer with travel anxiety, using hypnosis to combat your fears can make all the difference. Hypnosis can programme your mind with a new blueprint, rather like a new inner ‘travel map’, free of the fears and anxieties.
Then you can get back on the road with a sense of adventure and confidence, helping you to live your life.
There is a world out there waiting for you!
Click the links below to find out more about the Hypnosis Downloads we recommend…
N.B. These are affiliated links which means we will receive a small commission from any purchases – at no extra cost to yourself. Read our full disclosure notice.
If you want to know more about hypnosis, Gav’s professional site human-spirit.co.uk is full of information.
There are other anxiety-related hypnosis downloads on our dedicated page How Hypnosis Can Help With Travel Anxiety and Improve Your Wellbeing
Have you suffered from travel anxiety?
So, have your anxieties been heightened by the turmoil of the pandemic? Is fear of travelling part of your life now? Do you think we will return to “normal” soon or will the repercussions vibrate for years to come?
Leave your comments below. We’d love to read them.
Remember, each sunrise holds the promise of adventure. Stay safe out there, but more importantly, stay out there!