Monday, October 29, 2018

Parenting Pointers: Family Travel for the Anxious Traveler

Whether it’s a fear of turbulence, the possibility of a crash, or just the experience of getting in a metal tube with 100 fellow passengers, a lot of people are afraid to fly. Beth Daigle, a longtime freelance writer and blogger is one of those people. On top of that, she suffers from anxiety about the whole process of travel, and in fact, would almost always rather stay at home.

When her husband suggested a two-week trip to her ancestral homes of Greece, Italy, and Turkey, Daigle was equal parts terrified and drawn to the idea. To add to her panic, nine of her relatives would be joining them on this trip.

What followed turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. Daigle and her family made their way through Rome, Sicily, Athens, Ephesus, the Greek Islands, and Naples. And though they had some humorous bumps along the way, she was irrevocably altered by the culture, character, and beauty of each place.

“I learned the value and importance of travel on this trip,” says Daigle. “I want people to know that even if they suffer from anxiety, they can have a positive mindset that allows them to travel with an open mind. To take the good with the bad and not get caught up in what might go wrong, but revel in everything that is going right.”

I had a chance to interview Daigle, author of the new book, Musing Mediterranean: Fun, Family, and Faraway Places Transform an Anxious Traveler.

Why is travel beneficial even if people are apprehensive about it?
The benefits of travel are many and meaningful. While the human reaction to that which causes stress is to avoid or retreat, travel is something we should actually move toward. The more you travel, the more you may find yourself comfortable and even excited about the prospect of seeing the world.

To live a life only in one place is limiting in terms of experience and personal growth. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine.

Experiencing new places, countries, cultures, lifestyles and people is enriching on many levels. People who travel enjoy a better and broader perspective on life. They not only come to appreciate what’s great about the destinations they are traveling to, but they may also develop a stronger appreciation for what they are missing back home.

Periodically traveling away from home is essential in maintaining a love for what you have. A break from the monotony of everyday life, no matter how big a homebody you might be, is a gift that will recharge you and prepare you to take on life as usual with a renewed energy and sense of self. A change of scenery is a healthy venture for anyone in need of a mental respite.

A textbook education is one thing, but there is nothing like seeing the world to broaden your horizons and allow you a true understanding of this planet and the people who occupy it. People who travel tend to be more articulate and informed about worldly matters and the human condition.

A well-traveled person can add so much to a conversation – to be that person is empowering.

Exposure to new foods, different habits, personalities, trends and even fashion is invaluable when striving to be a well-rounded, open-minded and tolerant individual. Travel encourages the discovery of the best version of you.

How can people deal with travel anxiety without medication?
There are many ways to diffuse travel anxiety without medication. Here are just a few –
  • Meditation – Meditation is a wonderful way to get control of your thoughts and redirect a negative mindset toward the positive. There are many self-guided meditation apps that are easy to download and follow. Over time, you may find that this practice can rewire your thinking, ridding you of travel anxiety all-together.
  • Exercise – Yoga, running, kickboxing or a good long walk – any of these can help reduce stress and get your mind off of what is worrying you. Allow the endorphins that your brain releases when you exercise to provide you the natural mental clarity and stress relief that contribute to a peaceful state of mind. 
  • Aromatherapy – calming scents like lavender, jasmine and pine can alter your mood and reduce anxiety. Lotions or oils are a nice way to reap the benefits of these soothing scents and can be purchased in travel sizes.
  • Breathing exercises – When we get nervous our heart’s race and our breath becomes short and unsteady. Controlling your breathing patterns during stressful times can help keep you calm. Finding a mindful rhythm in your breath will encourage a more relaxed state. Breathe in deeply through your nose and allow your belly to expand. Exhale slowly through your mouth and repeat.
  • Therapy – working with a licensed therapist to understand the source of your anxiety may help arm you with appropriate coping mechanisms to keep your travel anxieties at bay.

What are some things that Americans can discover about other countries?
As lucky as we are to live in America, there is always something to learn when visiting another country. Here are three things Americans may discover when traveling abroad that may just change their outlook on life.
  • Pace – There is no doubt that Americans are moving at record speeds. There is very little time devoted to rest and relaxation. We have a go-go-go mentality unlike many others. Learning to live life at a slower pace, like you will find folks in other countries doing, is one of the greatest gifts we could bring back home.
  • Food Integrity – Packaged/processed foods are not healthy no matter what the labels might say. Learning to eat more naturally and prepare our foods more purely is a lesson Americans can learn from many other countries. 
  • Less is more – Bigger is not always better. Other countries live life more minimally with smaller homes, compact cars and less stuff, in general. It’s a nice, more responsible way to live. 
How can parents minimize their fears about traveling with family?
Traveling with family can produce some of the greatest memories, yet it can also introduce stress and discord. Planning and setting expectations is one of the best ways to ensure that everyone is on the same page and prepared for what’s to come. That said, you must always be prepared for the unexpected and take responsibility for your actions and reactions. Take time in advance of your trip to think about how you want to handle difficult or awkward situations if they arise. Allow yourself the discipline to step back before responding. Whenever you can, let things go. It is vacation after all – no time to harbor anger or resentment.

Also, plan moments of downtime when you travel. No matter if you are traveling with young children, teenagers, siblings or older parents, no one is as their best when they are tired. Do not jam pack your agenda – make time for rest. 

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