DEAR KELLY: My school has a summer trip to France that three of my friends are going on. I want to go and my dad has offered to pay for it, but I’m so afraid to go and I don’t know what to do. At first I was so excited. My friends and I planned it out and we all talked to our parents. It would be perfect because the four of us can room together. There is no drama ever with us.
So I feel really bad if I flake now, but I’m so afraid of flying and I’m nervous about being in a another country without either of my parents. But I really want to go and I’ve taken French 2 in school (or I will have by the end of the year), so it would be perfect. I know I would love being with my friends for two weeks and I would probably feel sad when they were gone and I saw pics of them all over Instagram saying what a great trip it was.
But what if I freak out the day we have to fly? I’m so afraid of embarrassing myself if I get nervous. We have to put our deposit in soon and I’m stressing big time. What if I’m in France, get really nervous and no one can help me?
Fearful Of France
DEAR FEARFUL: Most people would agree that the things they regret the most are the chances they had to do something they wanted, but fear prevented them from taking the chance. Why not put down the deposit for the trip so you don’t lose your spot, then work up the courage to go as the time to leave draws closer? Or if it feels like more than you can handle, you can always back out and just lose your deposit.
Avoiding your fears can be a trap. You don’t want to get stuck living your life trying to avoid anything that stresses you out. Facing your fears can be empowering. You don’t want to get in the habit of letting your fears direct your life.
Having anxiety about a trip is normal. It’s normal to be nervous about traveling to a different country and being without your parents. Travel anxiety is common. The more anxiety you experience in your daily life, the more likely you’ll experience travel anxiety.
Many people have anxiety when they are far from home because home represents a place of comfort and stress relief. The idea of leaving home feels so stressful that people avoid that feeling at all costs – including missing out on trips or experiences they would enjoy. This is where the trap lies: Your anxiety and fears can get to the point of being paralyzing and leave you stuck in a place where your focus is always on the worst possible outcome instead of seizing the opportunity to have new experiences and see new places.
You gave great reasons for wanting to go on the trip. Your friends are going, you can all room together, you have been studying French in school and can put your studies to use. You also said you want to go and think you would be sad knowing they were having a ball while you stayed home. When you think about the trip, picture yourself in the place you want to visit most. Think of how you will feel seeing this place. What will happen if you don’t go? Will you have regrets?
Quick question: Can either of your parents go as a chaperone? If one of your parents is open to the idea, it might be a great way for you to test the waters but still feel safe knowing one of your parents was close if you need them.
Acknowledge your anxiety with your friends. See if any of them feels the same. Let your friends know what scares you and see if they can help if you need it. Facing the truth can be empowering because once you name the fear, you can go about solving it. If you go on the trip, they can help comfort you or support you if you get nervous and upset.
Ask your parents to see a counselor so you can work on some tools you can use on the trip if you start to feel overwhelmed. Maybe you make a playlist of music that calms you down or schedule regular phone/Skype calls with your parents so you feel connected to them. Some people like to bring transitional objects like a blanket, special picture or stuffed animal that can bring comfort when you feel stressed.
Put the deposit down, then get help facing your nerves. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling anxious. Practice self-compassion and self-love. Be careful of living your life on the sidelines because you were too afraid to take a chance and enjoy the experience. Chose a life of “I can” or “here goes” rather than a life of “what if” or “could have been.”