By Jessica Booth
When it comes to going on vacation, I often feel like my brain is split in two. One part of me is filled with adventure and spontaneous energy; I want to go everywhere, see new things, try exotic foods, and explore whatever comes my way.
The other part of me, the bigger part, is filled with travel anxiety. I worry about the smallest of details from the moment a trip idea comes into my head until the moment the vacation ends. It isn’t until I’m settled in my bed, home safe, that I feel an immense sense of relief. The sad part is that I absolutely love being on vacation and exploring a new place. Because of that, I am always looking for ways to fight my travel anxiety.
Even though a voice in my head says, “Hey, relax, this is supposed to be fun, not something to stress over!” a louder voice says, “But what if this is the worst trip of your life?” I’m sure that anyone with anxiety can relate to that kind of feeling.
Because I have anxiety, I am a meticulous planner whenever I go away. When I travel with my family and/or my fiance, they know that I’m the one who’s going to do the research, book the tours, find all of the restaurants, and schedule our days. I won’t make reservations or step into a restaurant without first checking out the ratings on both Yelp and Tripadvisor. Once it gets to be 10 days before my vacation, I obsessively watch over the weather for that destination, and my mood will often depend on what the forecast says.
Being that organized has its perks — but the anxiety and pressure that comes along with it is not one of them. I’m not just scheduling things to make sure I see everything; I’m scheduling things to try and feel less anxious. Recently, I began to wonder if I was really doing the exact opposite.
Around that same time, I was presented with the option to go on a surprise trip through Ford and Pack Up + Go. The premise is simple: you go on the Pack Up + Go site, select a budget, pick travel dates, fill out a survey where you answer questions about your vacation style and your personal hobbies, and then you get assigned a surprise trip. You don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing until the week of your trip when you get an envelope in the mail that tells you everything you need to know (you’re supposed to open this the day of the trip).
Going on a surprise trip, where I couldn’t even look at the weather or research restaurants ahead of time, sounded like a mild form of torture for me. But then I thought about how I wanted to try to stop being so controlling over my traveling, and decided, tentatively, to go for it. Ford hooked me up with a car rental, I filled out my survey, and then I waited.
For most of that time, I won’t lie, I was pretty anxious. I worried that wherever I was going wouldn’t be safe, or that it would be really far, or that I would hate it. I stressed over whether or not I’d be able to find restaurants that were vegetarian-friendly.
I was starting to feel less anxious. I couldn’t worry about the things I usually worried about, because I wasn’t planning this trip — someone was doing it for me. I felt a weird sense of calm thinking that this trip was kind of out of my hands — I was just doing what was planned for me.
I started to feel so calm, in fact, that I was even able to wait until the day I was leaving to open my envelope of information. When I did, I found myself feeling really excited. I learned that our road trip was taking us to a beautiful part of upstate New York, the Catskills. I saw that I would be driving a cute Ford Ecosport. My packet included recommendations for activities along the way and at my destination, restaurant choices, and info on my hotel.
Instead of feeling panicked that I had almost no time to do research on my own, I actually felt relieved. It was like all of this pressure had been lifted off of me, and I could just focus on having a good time. And I did have fun — I went somewhere I probably wouldn’t have ever picked on my own, and I absolutely loved it. I had dinner at a restaurant that was picked for me, and it was fabulous. I drove in a car I wasn’t familiar with and loved the amazing features it came with so much that I went home and even considered purchasing it. I stayed in a Tiny House resort, something I had never even heard of, and it was incredible.
It might sound silly to some people, but going on a surprise trip like this was really eye-opening for me. It made me realize that I don’t need to have control in order for things to go well, and thinking that I do is such a huge source of my anxiety. I left the trip feeling refreshed and happy, and I knew that I would have to change my vacation-planning ways from then on. Because is it really worth it if you’re making yourself feel sick over it? Probably not.
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Originally published at www.thisisinsider.com