Belize Mental Health Mexico

Anxiety and Being Alone Abroad For the First Time

I’m ready for my next adventure. I packed my carry-on suitcase with all my essential travel items. Tomorrow, I will catch a 4:00 am bus to Logan airport. I’ll check in at the Jetblue counter, breeze through security, and saddle up on the floor by a window to gaze at the planes coming and going. I’ll do all this, just as I have for the last thirteen years.

This particular trip is different, though.

I will be alone in another country for the first time.

Tomorrow I will board a flight to Florida, then another to Cancun. A  few hours later, I will find my way to an overnight bus that will bring me to Belize City. Once there, I have a small window of time to get myself to the airport to catch a 1-hr flight to Punta Gorda, Belize where my friend will meet me at the airport, which she says is only a three-minute walk away from her house.  

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Sure, I’m only alone for the first 24 hours or so until I meet my friend, but I planned for two-ish additional solo days in Playa Del Carmen on my way home. To make sure I feel sufficiently out of my comfort zone.

This will be my first time out of the country in nearly a decade. It’s also my first time leaving the country since the incident that caused my PTSD. I’ve only just begun to truly heal and I wonder if I’m ready for this. Anxiety and depression, symptoms of PTSD that plague me, can make the most basic things difficult. Like sleep for instance – I haven’t had a restful night of sleep in days because of the anxious thoughts I’ve been having about this trip.

I feel nervous and excited, and a little nauseated. As I described my trip to friends and coworkers today, I definitely put on a confident front. The only sign of insecurity was my heart pounding against my chest so powerfully that I’m convinced other people heard it.  I feel empowered and uncertain simultaneously, and I feel a little silly for feeling all these things, too. There are so many women around the globe right now already doing what I’m about to do, but they’re doing far more, for much longer, and much farther away from home.

I’m only dipping my big toe into the pool of solo travel.

I’ve done similar bus-flight-bus-flight itineraries before (sometimes with taxis, ferries, and rides in 18-wheelers thrown in for variety), but only in the United States. Plus, a lot of these adventures around the U.S. have only been partially independent. The majority of my trips are planned around visiting friends either where they live or we’ll meet up in a new city. I’m only on my own in transit.  

This trip to Belize is exactly the same, and a big reason why I planned a couple days to be on my own in Playa Del Carmen. Like I mentioned above, I WANT to be and need to be, out of my comfort zone. I know that it is the only way to quiet my obsessive thoughts about all the things that could possibly go wrong.

I thought, maybe, this would help me fall asleep.

I now have about two hours before I have to leave my house to catch the first bus of my journey to Belize. I suspect I will not be getting any shut eye for awhile, though. Here are a handful of thoughts that kept me awake last night, too.

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This was conveniently found on my Facebook news feed today. There’s plenty more here.

1) I don’t speak any Spanish. What if I can’t communicate with even one single person? Although, I’ve impressed myself in the past by quickly picking up French while in Montreal. I should not be impressed by this, by the way, because I took years of high school classes and my father taught me when I was young. I also picked up Italian pretty quickly while in Florence. I can hope for another lingual surprise, right?

2) I’m worried that I won’t leave my hotel room once I get to Playa Del Carmen. Sometimes it’s too easy for me to nest myself up wherever I am and bask in the glorious solitude. I’ll even skip meals if I let myself get too comfortable. To motivate me to not be a slug in my hotel room, I’ve made tentative plans with a person I’ve followed on Snapchat for a little while. I hate not doing something that I say I’m going to do, so I think this will work.

3) But, I also fear getting lost without access to a map on my phone. Maybe I should just stay put.

4) Here’s a weird one. I’m afraid of getting sick, but more so I’m afraid of other people getting sick near or on me. I’m petrified of this happening. It’s a (somewhat debilitating) phobia developed when I was just a kid – it’s called Emetophobia. It’s one of the big reasons why I had to stop working with toddlers on a regular basis. Their bodily functions are just too unpredictable.

5) I’m ALWAYS nervous about running out of money. Even if I have thousands of dollars in my bank account.

6) What if I get on the wrong damn bus?

This list could go on for close to forever, but I won’t make anyone reading this endure any more of my twitchy and nervous psyche. These are the big, worrying thoughts I have before I travel, even on local trips sometimes. I realize some of them probably seem nonsensical. They don’t make much sense to me either. As soon as I’m there, all of these worries will disappear.

…Right?? =/


Do you ever feel nervous before you travel or have anxiety that causes you to have similar thoughts? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below if you do.

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Anxiety and Being Alone Abroad


10 Comments

  • Reply
    Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel)
    November 29, 2015 at 8:02 PM

    Kudos to you for being so brave after what sounds like a terrifying experience on your previous travels. You don’t have to worry about Playa del Carmen, as there are lots of people around and most speak English. So you won’t have too much culture shock. The beach is so lovely you definitely should plan to go for long walks every day. Best wishes on your journey.

    • Reply
      Brittany Quaglieri
      November 30, 2015 at 8:53 PM

      Thank you, Michele. My trip was great! Everything was fine and nothing horrible happened to me, like I imagined. Honestly, I have more anxiety in my everyday life than when I travel, sometimes it just overflows the night before! Traveling comes with its own challenges, but those are the challenges that teach me how to handle the everyday stress and help me grow.

  • Reply
    Velysia Zhang
    November 30, 2015 at 2:56 AM

    You must be very excited for your first big trip, and alone! It’s normal to get nervous, but don’t worry, you’ll sort everything out. Make sure you’re on internet so you can browse online, and don’t be scared to ask people. Take care, safe travel!
    Velysia Zhang recently posted…There’s More Than One Place I Called HomeMy Profile

    • Reply
      Brittany Quaglieri
      November 30, 2015 at 9:02 PM

      Thank you for the kind words. You’re right, Velysia! Everything worked out pretty much perfectly — it was all in my head, of course. It was all much easier than I thought it would be.

  • Reply
    Brittany
    December 1, 2015 at 10:24 PM

    Good for you, stepping out of your comfort zone! I hope you found it to be enjoyable and rewarding…I have loved traveling solo so much that I don’t even worry about it anymore. It definitely teaches you independence and makes you realize your strengths!
    Brittany recently posted…12 Must-See Spots in Panama CityMy Profile

    • Reply
      Brittany Quaglieri
      December 4, 2015 at 9:25 AM

      Thanks, Brittany! It definitely was rewarding, I knew it would be. I plan to do much more independent traveling abroad in the future!

  • Reply
    Local Nomads
    December 7, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    Great Post! I’m amazed how well you were able to communicate your anxieties in words. I do the same thing with being comfortable in the solitude, there’s something so freeing about not HAVING to do anything, so you just don’t do anything at all. Thanks for posting!

    • Reply
      Brittany Quaglieri
      December 7, 2015 at 9:01 PM

      Thank you! I’m happy to report that I DID NOT stay in my hotel room the whole time even though I wasn’t feeling well and had a fever!

  • Reply
    Ceri
    December 8, 2015 at 12:25 AM

    This is so real. I love this. You’re definitely a brave one. And I’m not going to lie – being alone abroad for the first time is absolutely terrifying. But you definitely get over it and start to enjoy it really fast. 🙂 (I know you probably already know this because I’m commenting too late.) I definitely think we need to push ourselves to do those scary things every now and again.
    Ceri recently posted…35My Profile

    • Reply
      Brittany Quaglieri
      December 8, 2015 at 8:36 AM

      I appreciate that, Ceri. It definitely wasn’t as horrible as I imagined it would be. In fact, I think I’ll do it again!

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