How to Manage Traveler’s Anxiety

Ever find yourself standing at a train platform, heart pounding and head spinning because if the bus is more than 2 minutes behind schedule, you’ll miss the 8:17 train, then you’re never gonna make it through security on time to board your departure flight, then you’ll miss your connecting flight and oh my god what am I going to do?

You’re not alone. Lots of travelers deal with Traveler’s Anxiety. It comes in many forms, but it hits me when dealing with transport timetables – probably do to a lack of control, a therapist might say.

When I need to make it to Point X by Time Y, I need to go, go, go until I get there. And lo and behold, I usually arrive plenty ahead of schedule, and I end up needing to figure out ways to kill time. Many of those ways are not productive and usually involve trying to convince my beating heart to be still and stop making that thump-thump-thump noise.

I don’t think my Traveler’s Anxiety will ever fully go away, but I’ve come up with a few good ways to deal with it.

Accept That You’re Not the Driver nor the Schedule-Maker

When you’re waiting for a bus, plane or train, try to keep in mind that nothing you do can make your transport arrive or depart any sooner. Stay comfortable and keep yourself occupied with a book or by meeting fellow travelers. In the case of air delays, always look for some kind of concessions from your carrier in the form of a lunch voucher or frequent flier miles. Be polite, but assertive and many times they’ll accomodate you. Or be a jerk and get seated next to the crying baby and no peanuts for you. Either way.

Give Yourself Time

Try not to put yourself in the position to be late. Allow for the possibilities of delay in your transportation schedule, and you’ll be less anxious about it when it happens. A 3-hour layover is a much more comfortable window than a 1-hour chance to swap planes. Getting out the door earlier means you don’t have to rush to get to the station or airport.

Map Out a Route

If I’m going somewhere I’ve never been, I like to get familiar with a map of the route first. I’ll try to memorize a few landmarks and get a general feel for where I’m headed before I’m ever there. This is really helpful once I’m on the move, because if I do have to reference a paper map while moving around, it’s only for a quick glance because the big picture is already stored away in my noggin. Less staring at a map on a street corner = less looking like an obvious, hopeless tourist and more looking like a traveler. Not to disparage tourists. If it wasn’t for them, who would buy the country’s supply of fanny packs?

Go to Africa (Or any part of the Developing World)

I’m only half-joking with this one. The whole continent runs on AMT – African Maybe Time. Maybe the bus will leave at 1pm, maybe it’ll leave at 3pm. In Africa, you can kill time when waiting for a bus to leave by setting up a betting pool on your departure time. This place will teach you a whole new level of patience that you can take with you wherever you may travel.

Ghanaian Tro-Tro

I made some serious Cedi betting on Ghanian Tro-Tros

Written while listening to: One Armed Scissor – At the Drive-In, Relationship of Command

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About Alex Fitzpatrick

Alex Fitzpatrick is Homepage Editor for Time.com, also covering technology, policy and cybersecurity. He previously covered politics and policy for Mashable. Fitzpatrick has a degree in International Relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he also served as News Director and Station Manager for the campus radio station, 89.3 WGSU. Follow Fitzpatrick on Twitter at @AlexJamesFitz or email him at alex.fitzpatrick@timeinc.com.
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