Bok! (Otherwise known as Hi in Croatian!)
This is a slightly different post today, as I want to talk about travelling, and specifically travelling with social anxiety.
I’m a lot better than I used to be, but a lot of the time, the decisions I make are affected by social anxiety. If you know me, you probably think I’m quite a chatty person which is very true! However, with new people, or even with people I already know, I frequently get an overwhelming fear that they are judging me for the way I am. I know it’s a process, and I deal with it a lot better now, especially after some good ‘ole CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). But it especially flares up when I’m travelling somewhere new.
So, (to actually get to the point of this post), a month or so ago, me and my partner got back from a wonderful 10 days in Croatia! We visited Split, and went on a few day trips around the nearby towns. Croatia is such an incredible country, and definitely one I would love to go back and visit again.
Whilst I had an excellent time, I definitely noticed myself being a bit more anxious on days we’d have to communicate with the locals. Obviously there’s always going to be a sense of nervousness around communicating in a language you don’t speak, but it’s definitely heightened when you have anxiety.
I didn’t want to be that person that doesn’t try and communicate with the locals. My anxiety likes to take over, and I really don’t want to be viewed as a lazy Brit who expects everyone to speak English to her. Among other things, that’s just dickish behaviour.
Before we left, I was gifted a culture guide of Croatia from Culture Smart! This guide is very different from other travel guides – it focuses on the culture and customs of each country in each guide.
I read the guide before we left and I found it really interesting. It’s not the kind of guide you would take with you to navigate yourself around, and it wasn’t specific to Split. But it did help me to understand the country a bit better, and allowed my anxiety to be eased slightly.
This type of guide would be perfect if you’re thinking of moving to a different country, as the sections about business etiquette, communication, family, etc were really interesting. I can imagine it would be so useful to get a grounding in the different culture of the country before you make the move permanently.
However, it was actually really helpful in terms of my anxiety. It gave me an understanding of how Croats are, and what I can do as a tourist to be the least annoying I possibly can, which tbh is all I ever want to do.
So, with the help of the Culture Smart! guide, and with my own brain (lol), here are a few things I did which I found really helped me to cope with my social anxiety and still have an excellent holiday:
🌻 Learn the basics 🌻
If you’re anxious about speaking to people who don’t have English as their first language, it can be really hard to overcome the fear of talking to people. I tried to learn hello/goodbye/thank you/sorry etc. before we left, so that they can at least see that I’m trying. And importantly, I know that I’m trying, too.
🌻 Do your research 🌻
If you’re like me, you may be anxious about the logistics of doing things – like general transactions in shops, whether a café is table service or not, or how the public transport system works. The easiest way I find to calm this anxiety is to do my research. For someone that doesn’t have social anxiety, these problems can seem very trivial, but they can completely take over my brain. Doing research allows me to be able to plan ahead.
For example, from reading the culture guide, I knew that exact change is very much appreciated on public transport, and so I always planned ahead to make sure we had the exact amount when we got the bus. I also would make sure I knew the name of our stop, and roughly where it is. That way, I could literally just track our progress from Google maps on my phone as we were sat on the bus, and I’d know when we needed to get off. It sounds simple and a bit much, but for me, it really helps.
🌻Talk to your AirBnb host 🌻
If you’re not staying in an Airbnb, the principal is the same. Talk to the staff that work at your hotel, find an online message board and pitch your questions. Whatever it is about your trip that’s causing you anxiety, asking a local is such a simple and easy way of figuring things out. And being able to message your host takes away the scariness of having to ask someone a question in person. I don’t see this as giving into my anxiety, but more that they’re genuinely there to help.
I’ve always found that Airbnb hosts are happy to answer any questions you have and always give you great tips about what to do and how to do it whilst you’re there.
🌻 Don’t be hard on yourself 🌻
If there’s an evening where the idea of venturing into a restaurant and having to talk to people is too much, staying at home isn’t a cop out. Give yourself some time to breathe and relax – and sometimes that means staying in for the evening! You don’t have to go out every single night just because you’re away. I found, if I was too overwhelmed and we ended up having an evening in, the next day I felt so much more energised and ready to venture out and about into the city.
And that’s that! I’m really proud of how far I’ve come over the past few years, and the more I travel, the easier it gets.
Do you have any tips for dealing with social anxiety whilst you’re travelling or visiting a new city?