Guilt, comfort zones, and buffer days: Dealing with vacation anxiety (yes, it’s a thing!)

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Dealing with vacation anxiety (yes, it's a thing!)
Is your “vacation mode” just full-on anxiety?
Vacation Mode tank top from Dovetail Vintage Shop

I’m going on vacation! I booked a real, non-weekend-only trip where I’ll fly outside of the United States for the first time in 16 years. I’m so excited and grateful for the opportunity provided by a two-for-one deal to France that I’m piggy-backing on with my mom to make it more affordable. Thanks, mom!

But on top of that gratefulness and excitement is a bit of anxiety. I know, I know, get over myself and embrace the vacay. I plan to, but I still need to deal with a few latent fears and anxieties that I know some of y’all are also feeling about vacation.

Here’s how I’ll be handling vacation anxiety…

Get ahead on work

As a freelancer, the amount of work I have to do is tangible. If I miss work time, there’s still the same amount of work to do. And as one of those dreaded Millennials who feels too guilty to take a vacation, it’s a double whammy. “I shouldn’t go! It’ll make me look bad! Also there’s still a lot of work to do!”

There’s probably no chance I’ll stop feeling guilty, but I can at least assuage it by making sure I’m ahead on work before I leave. Get to inbox zero (or at least inbox less), get your concrete deliverables done ahead of time, set up auto-reply vacation emails, and have someone watching your shit while you’re gone.

Talk to your boss about what you’ve accomplished so that you can feel good about leaving and safer in the knowledge that they know you kicked butt to make sure tasks got done.

Embrace the project-free life

A lot of us have trouble dealing with what seems like “useless” time. But you’re actually doing a lot: recharging in a way that will make you more productive later, learning, enriching your life experiences, and doing exactly what you deserve to do: taking time for yourself.

If you aren’t able to go totally dark with work, designate very specific times to check in so you’re not randomly looking all day. If you need to be “efficient” to feel calm (I get that), channel that efficiency desire into planning outings and experiences on the trip.

Dealing with vacation anxiety (yes, it's a thing!)
Travel Altar Anti-Anxiety Kit from Labradorite Lion

Prepare to leave your comfort zone

This is something Americans are definitely more prone to: not being prepared for lifestyle changes and variations in accommodations. Depending on where you’re traveling, you may be off your game based on where you’re staying and what’s different from your current day-to-day.

Do your research on your destination to make sure you’ve got a grasp on language, travel, and etiquette. Allow yourself time to adjust. Then be prepared to self-soothe in your downtime. Having to speak another language to get around, dealing with minor (or major) inconveniences, and generally being less calm can take its toll. Bring a favorite book, a letter from a friend, a face mask, or your favorite tea, masturbate, etc. to find your familiar and zen out. If you exercise on a normal day, plan for it on your trip, too.

Deal with flight anxiety

We heard from a real live pilot about how to deal with flying, specifically. It’s awesome:

As a pilot, the best thing I can suggest to deal with flight anxiety is to learn a bit more about aviation — air crash investigations do not count. Actually read about how planes fly, how they are built to withstand turbulence, the difference between what you and what your pilot actually thinks of as a life threatening situation, etc.

Lean on technology when you need it

Guilt, comfort zones, and Dealing with vacation anxiety (yes, it's a thing!)If you’re lonely, video chat with a friend on wifi. If you’re lost, load up your map app. If you’re struggling to communicate, open up Google Translate. Technology can totally be your pal on a vacation, despite what you’ll hear from old men yelling at clouds.

Just work out a plan with your phone company if you’re traveling internationally so that doesn’t become an added stress.

Plan for a buffer day after

I’m one of those that usually needs a buffer day after a vacation to get over jet lag, recenter, and not get pre-work anxiety going back. Plan for that ahead of time, whether it’s a day before to go over lists and/or a day or two after to just be at home and breathe.

More anxiety tips

Comments on Guilt, comfort zones, and buffer days: Dealing with vacation anxiety (yes, it’s a thing!)

  1. Oh man, buffer days are an absolute must! Get totally unpacked, do laundry, put EVERYthing away, and just settle back into your normal non-work-day routines. It helps so much.

  2. I am going to Cancun this summer and this will be the first time I don’t take a laptop with me on vacation in…15 years? Not even a *personal* laptop. And before anybody gets the idea I’m “unplugged” : I will still have my cell phone and iPad. So I will be checking email but that’s it. This is a HUGE step for me and I’m nervous as hell about it. I’m trying to focus on the benefits : no dragging a laptop through security, taking only my purse onto the plane ( WTF will that feel like?!? ) , no taking the laptop out and setting it up and putting it back and taking it out and putting it back and… you get the idea.
    What I’m worried about the most is some problem will crop up right BEFORE I leave.. and the temptation to just chuck the laptop in will be too great to resist.

  3. I’ve been travelling internationally around once a month after packing up and moving to Europe about two years ago. I’ve learnt that it is OK to balance out the hectic with slow days – as it is my first inclination to be out and about 24/7 when I arrive somewhere new to take it all in. I find that late afternoons are a good time to come back to my hotel/hostel for a few hours to give my mind some peace and quiet from the unfamiliar. Have fun!!

  4. I’ve struggled with travel anxiety so often, even though I LOVE traveling– but every part makes me anxious (did I pick a hotel in a good location? What if I get sick? What if the plane crashes? Do I know enough of the language? What if we get robbed? Did I get a good deal on those tickets? and so on)! I found the book “The Anxious Traveler” to be helpful (, as well as constantly reassuring myself “the pilot does not want to crash either, s/he will fly safely” and (if going to a first world country) “I can buy supplies if I forget anything and there is access to good medical care” (crashing in the plane and getting sick abroad are my biggest worries).

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