Recently I was contacted about a book called Musing Mediterranean – would I be interested in receiving a copy to review? I read the blurb in the email and was instantly interested. The author, Beth Daigle, writes about her struggle with travel anxiety as she and her family head across the ocean to experience all the Mediterranean has to offer. Obviously, since I’d just been to Italy, this book touched me deeply and I could feel the humidity, hear the heated Italian drivers, and taste the incredible Italian cuisine as she wrote. Many times throughout the book, I felt myself experiencing the adventures along with Beth and her family.
I was able to “meet” Beth via Skype this week and ask her a few questions about the process of travelling with anxiety and then writing a book about it!
Why would you suggest travel to someone who doesn’t find it easy?
That’s one of my favourite questions! For someone who struggles to get to where I want to go, once I’m there I’m so happy to be travelling. I absolutely love the opportunity to see other lifestyles and cultures, and I think that is probably first and foremost why I think people should take that opportunity. This is a great, big world we live in and to go out and see it and experience other lifestyles and cultures really is just empowering and it helps with personal growth. You’re able to see the world from a different vantage point and I think it gives you an opportunity to be more knowledgeable in the big picture. It gives you an appreciation, not only for the places that you go
How can you deal with travel anxiety before you go, and also while travelling?
I’ll speak from my own experience. There are just so many ways, and I’ve done my own research to find good coping mechanisms and strategies that work for me. In advance of going on a trip, I think there are two completely opposite ways that you could approach it. I personally find planning to elevate my stress. I find all the minutiae and detail that’s involved in trying to work through the specifics of an agenda to be a lot, so I’m very fortunate, as you’ve read through my book, that I have a very staunch support system in my family. They kind of drag me to where we’re going; I have 2 beautiful daughters that love to travel and I feel very blessed that they want to travel with us – my husband and I. My husband is a big planner, so he takes over the planning side of things. A lot of people are surprised that I’m so comfortable letting him do that. But I am, and I’m also willing to say, “Ok, whatever he decides, I’m ok with”, because I’m not going to get to where we’re going and then complain when I involve myself in the planning. So for me, kind of removing myself from the planning helps. Now I’m going to offer a completely opposite viewpoint, which is – for some people that really like control and understanding of what they’re doing – they may very well want to get very involved in the planning, so that they know what to expect. They can set their own expectations, they know exactly what is going to be happening, and I think that element of control for somebody who doesn’t go my route of uninvolving myself, can also be very helpful. So there’s two very opposite ends of one extreme. For me, it is most calming to just remove myself. But I’m oddly also a control freak in many other areas, where I want to have all the control. But in this particular situation for me this works best. As for further ways to deal with travel anxiety, you know I really do love meditation. I find that it works and it’s not for everybody, but I think when you can take an opportunity – even if it’s not a structured meditation – to just kind of sit back and collect yourself, think through logically what you’re about to do, and why, and just have that moment of solitude for even 5 minutes, it can really set you on a very calming path. And there are some great apps out there that you can use and help with guided meditation and it really sets your mind at ease. And actually, exercise is another one of my coping mechanisms. When I’m really starting to get anxious, I like to exercise just to release the stress, get a good sweat, clear my mind, get some mental clarity, and that helps me. As well as things like aromatherapy and breathing exercises. I find that I really hold my breath when I’m nervous, more than I probably ever realize, and just getting back to a steady breathing pattern really helps me to relax.
What would you say that you learned, or the rest of us can learn – as North Americans, from the European culture?
Well, I certainly learned quite a bit. I live in the northeast – I’m in the Boston area – and we do have a tendency to have a bit of a fast-paced lifestyle. Go go go… so first and foremost, especially when we first flew into Italy, there was a very distinct difference in pace. So, slowing things down, enjoying the moment… it was just absolutely pleasurable to walk along the city streets and just take in the people of Rome, just going about their day. Many of them were dressed for business and clearly in the workday but not in a mad rush. They were also smiling, there were people holding hands. There was just something pleasant and at ease about the lifestyle in Italy, especially. What I also found, in both Greece and Italy, were that we enjoyed some really fantastic meals, and what contributed to those wonderful meals was that the food was so fresh, and there was no packaged food, no processed foods. A healthier lifestyle is definitely something I feel we need to take back with us, to the United States where I am and just making a conscious effort to eat more purely.
What kind of tips do you have for travelling with kids?
I have 2 daughters who were 9 and 11 at the time – they’re teenagers now – and we were also with my niece and nephew, who were early teens. I think the thing with kids is making sure that there’s enough to keep them busy – they were purely entertained throughout the entire trip – but also setting expectations. Kids are smart, and if you can say to them, “Hey, here we are in a foreign country, we have things that we want to see and do, and you’re going to have to go along with us, and do the best you can. But we also tried to adapt, you know. We’ve got a picky eater and everyone was wonderful. Everyone gave her the plain pasta, or we even got french fries when we were in this fabulous Greek restaurant. So the people in Greece and Italy were very accommodating. But I think travelling with kids too – we did have a moment where one of the kids got away from us when we were touring one of the ruins, so I think, first of all, set expectations for everyone involved. Second, do keep a close eye on them… I slipped up on that once and it was a little scary! Also, trust that your children will really embrace this new place. My kids were mesmerized by it and they really enjoyed every aspect of it. So there wasn’t too much effort on our parts, but also I will go back to one big tip – incorporate downtime! It’s a lot, depending on where you’re going. Ours happened to be rather strenuous in terms of touring, and the kids were young so we did make sure to take mornings off to just rest while we were on the cruise, so we didn’t rush out the door every day. We gave ourselves
Would you say it’s more important to create a schedule and stick to it? Or to be flexible? Or somewhere in between?n
Depending on the kind of trip you’re doing. The kind of trip I wrote about was a multi-port cruise where we were going
It was fun chatting with Beth and hearing more of her story behind the book. You can visit her at her website Beth Daigle, and buy her book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.