InThe Small Things

Getting Mentally & Emotionally Ready to Travel

Getting Mentally & Emotionally Prepared to Travel

To those of us who internally freak out right before a trip — so, basically almost everyone — this is for you.

As I was preparing for Burning Man, I realized this week that you can find lots of resources on what to pack or how to plan a trip, but not so much about getting in the right emotional and mental state. The truth is, I always get so nervous/excited/scared right before a trip, and I hate feeling on edge when traveling. I would so much rather be a relaxed traveler, no matter where I wander — wouldn’t you?

It might sound a little crazy, but ideally, getting ready for a trip should also include a bit of work to calm your nerves. Mental preparation doesn’t take much, and it can greatly (read: positively) affect how you experience and enjoy your trip. Here’s what to keep in mind:

1. Research, research, research. 

Have a cultural understanding of where you’re going — what sort of traditions do the people have, what type of clothing is okay to wear, what do they value, etc. etc. etc.? For New Year’s in Iceland, everyone and their grandmas sit down to watch a tv show, which I found out through sleuthing on Pinterest. I made a point to view it since I knew it was an important part of the culture there. I didn’t understand a word because it was all in Icelandic, but hey, how often will I get to watch an Icelandic holiday show?

2. Expectations = bad. 

Don’t let your happiness depend on checking tourist destinations off a list. Enjoy the freaking journey.

3. Open mind, open heart.

Yeah, yeah, I know, so granola. But you’ll be surprised at some of the cool stuff you’ll find and awesome people you’ll meet if you open up. Decide before your trip what your boundaries will be, and hopefully you push yourself a little bit beyond your normal day-to-day. My first year at Burning Man I went up in an airplane and watched skydivers jump out onto Black Rock City. It was by far one of the coolest things I did that year, and it all happened because I started talking to someone behind me in line at the post office.

4. Travel is not always postcard-worthy.

Some days will be better than others. We tend to think of vacations as 100% perfect all the time, and that’s just not the case. Things won’t always go as planned and you can either adapt or have a breakdown. The former is preferable. Once you resign yourself to the fact that there will be bumps in the road, you won’t feel the pressure to make this the best trip of your life.

What’s your advice to get in the right headspace before traveling? What things do you do or remember so you don’t stress the entire time leading up to and during your trip?

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