A Millennial’s Guide to Traveling with Anxiety

I grew up in Memphis, TN and attended a small private school. During high school, I experienced a lot of stress, but enjoyed time with my friends and family, golfed for the school team, and even had some time to watch Netflix.

However, during the peak stress periods of high school, standardized testing and preparing college applications, my stress level rose an unhealthy amount. Due to my small environment, my teachers, advisors, and school counselor were able to help me manage my fear and anxiety to perform, and I ultimately decided to attend the University of North Carolina on the Morehead Cain Scholarship. This scholarship provides me the opportunity to learn and challenge myself in a multitude of ways, but ultimately by pulling me out of my home community into a new environment, twelve hours away, I was forced to face my anxiety without short-term solutions.

My freshman year at UNC was very difficult. I enrolled in a physics class, thinking I would major in physics, but after a few class periods, I would find myself upset and practically brought to tears. When my parents visited over my first family weekend, I was sobbing recounting stories, and my mom believed this was more than just discomfort from physics.

I attempted to seek help from a therapist at the wellness center at UNC, but it took the therapist time to realize this was not just a one-time problem physics was causing, but a problem that I have grown up with throughout my life that had been managed with smaller solutions. For my best interest, she recommended that I start seeing a therapist regularly to talk through the feelings of anxiety, discomfort from transitions, and test stress.

I ultimately, started regularly seeing Betsy in November of my freshman year. I recall crying on her couch, explaining that I do not know what adult or mentor to turn to in this new environment. I do not know how to cope with the ambiguous instructions of physics lab and the professors ignoring my plea for help. We slowly broke down my word vomit and explored my past. We uncovered that much of my anxiety is performance based, and she helped me develop different strategies to cope.

Betsy has helped me grow from that hard day sitting on her couch. I do believe I was a strong woman entering college, but I did not know the skills I would need prior to attending. After working with Betsy, starting anxiety medication, and continuing our sessions, I am a braver and stronger young adult unafraid of the transitions that new opportunities bring.

I am also a huge advocate for mental health awareness because of my daily struggle with anxiety. I take anxiety medication and consider how to keep my anxiety level low when traveling, adjusting to new places, and just daily life. I hope that the stories I am able to share show that even if you live with anxiety, traveling and engaging with new cultures can still be an enlightening experience with a little planning.

I want to give everyone, people with and without anxiety the tips and tricks I have gained through working with Betsy and personal experience. After gaining the confidence and strategies from my sessions with Betsy, I decided to take the opportunity to begin exploring new cultures and ideas. This started the summer after my freshman year , and the yearn to do in depth travel, where I can set up a living space, has stuck with me until now. I have learned through experience, trial and error, and mistakes what are the most valuable things to bring, what to plan ahead, what apps to use in different locations, and many more hacks.

I have research interests from computer science education to crowdsourcing to biotechnology. I have traveled domestically around the country and internationally in Europe and Asia to explore these interests. Along the way, I have encountered many difficulties and have learned best practices when living in new cities and countries and want to share my experiences to anyone that might find it helpful.

I post every Monday and Thursday my personal travel stories and advice when exploring new countries. Please email me at ghstein123@gmail.com if you have any pertinent questions about traveling with anxiety or traveling in general. You can also find out more about me via my website.