by Gilad Gamliel
I planned my first international trip when I was 23. I was living in Texas and just beginning to venture outside my comfort zone when I decided to say screw it and push the limits. Two years prior I had been diagnosed with OCD and Moderate Anxiety. I’d been relieved by the diagnosis, in all honesty, finally able to put a name to the face of my obsessive thoughts. The truth is I had been a nervous person my whole life. I remember growing up and dreading the summer, because I desperately didn’t want to go away for summer camp — terrified that being away from home would spell certain catastrophe. But this was different.
Armed with my diagnosis, I sought treatment. I started seeing a Cognitive Behavior Therapist who helped me engage with my obsessions in a healthy way. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t avoiding — I wasn’t running away from the things I was afraid of; I was beginning to conquer them.
That’s what led to Southeast Asia. Maybe it was the newfound confidence or maybe it was the domino effect from therapy, but I wanted to push my boundaries as far as they’d go. So one day I called my friend and said “let’s do it. Let’s plan a trip.”
What followed was that inevitable anxiety spiral that I’d known all too well. I pondered every what-if’ of my trip, absolutely certain of catastrophe.
- What if I get lost?
- What if I get hurt?
- What if I get mugged?
- What if I can’t speak the language?
But I persisted. I pushed through my worries. I prepared. I researched. I packed. And then I went. And when I went, I had an absolutely life changing time. All of a sudden, my day-to-day irrational fears didn’t have time to show up. My brain was too busy trying to figure out how I’d get to the next city, how I’d get to this waterfall I’d heard about, how I’d work up the nerve to go diving. I met people that I’d never thought I’d have the courage to talk to. I tried new and foreign foods. I pushed myself so far outside my comfort zone that my OCD didn’t have time to catch up.
And ever since that trip, I’ve made travel a priority. I wanted everyone to know that travel doesn’t have to be scary, it doesn’t have to be intimidating, and most importantly, it doesn’t have to be consumed by fear. When you have anxiety, catastrophizing is easy, but pushing yourself through it is invaluable and rewarding. My anxiety no longer runs my life and it certainly doesn’t push me back into my three-sizes-too-small comfort zone. I still go to therapy, and I still worry every day, but at least once a year I have my trip planned.
Gilad is a traveler in his twenties and is the author of Anxious & Abroad, a travel guide that aims to show nervous travelers and first timers that travel isn’t just for the carefree nomadic types, but can be fun and worthwhile for any kind of person — neurotic, meticulous, anxious or otherwise. He’s traveled to almost 20 countries in the past three years, all of which with anxiety and OCD. His site is full of tips, recommendations, advice and step-by-step guides he’s compiled from his travels, so that he can help people plan a trip from the beginning all the way up until you get on the plane. Click here to visit.
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