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Travel anxiety is always difficult to deal with, and the COVID-19 pandemic will have greatly increased many people’s fears of experiencing a disastrous trip abroad. International travel may be opening up again, but countries are frequently being added and removed from the UK government’s ‘safe travel’ list – so it’s understandable that this uncertainty makes travellers anxious.
Preparing yourself for potential disaster abroad comes in two stages: the mental preparation stage to cope with any anxiety before you leave, and the more practical considerations – including the uniquely challenging COVID-19 precautions that currently need to be taken.
Travel anxiety is a serious problem for many people. It can be extremely debilitating and cause a range of distressing physical and mental symptoms. Some of the smaller-scale anxieties can be dealt with by having a plan of action in place if they were to occur. Some of these potential problems include:
- Lost luggage
- Falling ill while abroad
Having a good insurance policy in place is key for all of these problems. It’s worth taking the time to make sure your policy gives you all the coverage you need. Knowing that you’re prepared if any of the above smaller-scale disasters happen will go a long way to reducing anxiety and allowing you to enjoy your trip.
But more dramatic disasters, such as plane crashes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and so on, are less easy to mentally cope with. No plan of action can really deal with them, and so the anxiety is more difficult to shake.
Although these dramatic disasters always grab the headlines, it’s important to remember that they are rare. When looking at the numbers, the chances of being caught up in such a disaster are very small. Although an understanding of the numbers involved is likely to lessen anxiety levels, it’s understandable that some anxiety will still remain. Knowing that they are unlikely does not necessarily remove our fear – and it’s our powerlessness in the face of such seemingly random and unpredictable events that feeds our anxiety.
It’s also true that climate change is accelerating the frequency of these disasters, and that some countries are safer to visit than others – so it may help to ease your worries if you research their likelihood in your specific destination.
The COVID-19 risk
Finally, it must be recognised that falling ill with COVID-19 abroad is another potential disaster waiting to happen, so we need to do everything we can to minimise our infection risk while travelling abroad. These measures include:
- Wearing masks. In the UK, these are now mandatory in a range of indoor settings – such as public transport (including aeroplanes), shops, and supermarkets. It’s possible that your destination country will have further restrictions in place, so it’s worth doing your research before you go. If in doubt, wear a mask.
- Hand washing / sanitising. This is crucial for stopping the spread of the virus, and it’s particularly important before eating and after touching surfaces in public places.
- Social distancing. We’re all familiar with the social distancing rules by now: we should ideally keep two metres apart from those from other households, or one metre if other measures such as masks are in place.
- Disinfection wipes. If you’ve been out in public, touching your phone as well as other surfaces (for example), disinfecting your belongings is another way to reduce the spread of the virus.
- Minimising our time indoors as much as possible. This may be difficult depending on your destination, and the weather you experience while abroad, but minimising your time spent indoors (especially busy pubs, bars, and restaurants) is a key part of minimising your overall risk. The science is clear that there is a much higher risk of transmission inside compared to outside, so you should aim to sit outside wherever possible – and wear masks when visiting indoor spaces such as your hotel lobby, supermarkets, museums, and galleries.
Enjoy your trip without the worry
Preparing for disasters abroad is not the impossible task it may seem to be at first, and it’s important for both keeping you safe and reducing any travel anxiety – allowing you to truly enjoy your trip abroad. Travelling can also be beneficial for our mental health, and most of us are in need of a little pick-me-up after such a difficult year.
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