Choose a destination that suits you. What do you like? If you like large cities then visiting Alaska may not be your thing. Likewise, if you like the countryside then going to Mumbai may increase your anxiety levels. If you are a first-time independent traveller then you may not know what you like, so choose a destination with a little bit of everything you think you may like (wildlife parks, soft cheese, etc).
Choose a destination that isn’t too challenging. How ‘easy’ a destination is will depend on your background and experience, such as which languages you speak fluently. If you’re from Mumbai then visiting Sikkim isn’t a big challenge. But going to Sikkim as your first independent travel destination if you’re from Scotland is a big jump. Try British Columbia first instead. As with most things, the more you do something, the better you get at it. With travel it’s good to find your feet in one or two easy destinations then spread your wings.
Don’t worry too much about what to pack. Should I bring this or that? Should I take a jacket in case it’s cold at night? Inevitably these questions lead to a sore back and/or unnecessary tension. Whenever I feel these questions bothering me I bring everything back to the only three things I really need to pack (if I’m not flying straight to the South Pole):
- Passport (with appropriate visas sorted out)
- Money supply (ATM card, credit card)
- Primary transport documents (flight ticket, train ticket, etc.)
If you’re going abroad then these three things are sine qua non. Everything else you take is either a bonus or (more likely) a hindrance. So the nights are cold at the destination…buy a local jacket and have a great souvenir of your trip.
Travel with someone else. Anxiety hates company, so travel with a friend or family member. Obviously, make sure they will be good travelling companions. Travelling can test any solid relationship, so go with people who are good communicators, who really want to visit your destinations (not just tagging along), and aren’t more anxious than yourself.
Book ahead. Use the web to book things you know you need before you go, like hotels/hostels for your first few days. Lonely Planet even has a load of hotels and hostels you can book here.
Pace yourself. Don’t make your itinerary too busy. Rushing from city to national park to town can be nerve-racking. You can always add extra sights when you’re on the road. Being flexible is the greatest gift you can give yourself. The beauty of travel is the sense of freedom it gives. Tying yourself in ‘itinerary knots’ may enable you to see more of a destination, but you’ll almost certainly experience it less.
Do your research. Read up on the destination from other travellers on Thorn Tree or your trusty Lonely Planet guidebook. Particularly helpful on Thorn Tree are finding out about the usual scams at the destination.