Are PRE-Vacation Blues a Thing?

Could it be? We all talk about post-vacay blues. It’s a thing. But, I am proposing that there just might be a little pre-vacay blues as well…just like all emotions, they are fleeing – yet, interesting to discuss and at the end of the day – know that you are not alone – and, use this as encouragement to feel discomfort, yet still BOOK THAT TRIP!

If you’re anything like me, and the science to back it up, the anticipation of a trip is one of THE best parts of travel. Weeks before, you begin to imagine yourself walking new streets, taking in new views and immersing in another culture. Creating life-long memories, soaking up the sun, researching all the places you will eat / explore / discover (oh, is that just me, who geeks out over the pre-trip research??!! LOL).

But, wait! Pre-trip feels are not always pleasant…

Even with all of the excitement, I believe that it is still possible to experience some trepidation. As I myself am preparing for another adventure – I’d like to share some of my own pre-trip pangs. With the hope that if you feel any of these emotions, and they keep you from jet setting, you will know that you are not alone. It is completely “normal” and there are ways to overcome these pre-trip blues! So, are PRE-vacation B=blues a thing? Yes – absolutely, let’s dive in.

1. Anxiety

Anxiety – the first of those pre-trip blues. This is so broad, and of course, can include so many feelings at various life stages. For example – I have three kiddos that sometimes join us on our travels, and other times, we leave them at home. Both spark aprehension in their own ways.

I’ve been up at night thinking about someone getting hurt, going through what activities we will experience during vacay – and, even though I feel excitement, I also notice some nerves creeping in. What ifs. When we leave our kids at home, I am often again, up at night, thinking about all of their activities, the schedule, logistics and so on.

There’s worry regarding embarking in new territory. The unknown. Leaving behind loads of work. Being unavailable to respond to emails right away. The list goes on!

A small amount of anxiety, without it interfering with the life you want to live, is entirely normal, and can be a good thing. Studies have shown that the positive side of feelings of anxiety can bring awareness, preparation, motivation, and it can help keep you safe!

It’s also helpful to focus on how you can feel difficult and challenging emotions, like anxiety, yet not let them hold you back – there’s such a sense of empowerment!

A few other tips – plan your first few days (buy a travel guide, or reach out to me!), book things you are excited about, remember why you want to travel, talk about your travels, breathe, make new friends / or travel with friends, embrace feeling BOTH trepidation and excitement at the same time! That is life, after all.

2. Lack of control

Any other “control-freaks” around here!? Even with the best planning, travel is a sure-fire way to remind us that control is simply an illusion! So, pre-trip blues numero dos – feeling out of control.

Before a trip, it is so common to fret over all the things – from forgetting to pack something, to the weather. Trying to see and do it all. Oh, not to mention flight delays and cancelations, which are all so common these days.

The reality is that travel is the perfect antidote to control issues! There is so much that can happen – neither good nor bad. And, they remind us that we can prepare, yet we are really just along for the ride.

In fact, part of the reason we choose to prioritize travel is to break up the routine, the mundane, get a change of scenery. In essence, it is giving up control, or what we think we are in control of, during our every day. Enjoy it! We can make the best of anything and little bumps in the road oftentimes do make the best stories.

3. Already anticipating the trip being over, before it even began!

Am I the only one who does this??? Days, if not weeks, before a trip I am already feeling sad about the trip ending! HOW WEIRD IS THAT!!?? So, this is the third pre-vacay blues, and so real.

I am a big self-learner and I recently discovered that I am absolutely guilty of the emotion of foreboding joy. A term coined by one of my favorite researchers, Brene Brown. It’s the feeling of something bad happening, or anticipating what might go wrong, despite the happiness you currently feel! “You’re still experiencing joy, but you’re also worried, convinced, and fearful that joy will leave you.”

OMG. I do this with my travels – even before I experience them!

My therapist gave me an amazing visual that I used so frequently on my last trip. She said to imagine that foreboding joy is like sand slipping through your fingers. And, in order to be more present and feel the joy / happiness / contentment – imagine adding water to that sand so it becomes thick and sticky. It doesn’t slip through so easily and quickly. I just love this. It’s a practice that can be put to use almost every day of our lives, if we have moments we want to savor.

I thought about that visual throughout my trip – on a gorgeous hike, having an amazing dinner with my family, sitting and listening to the birds chirp or the waves crash against the shore. Watching a gorgeous sunset. I never want those moments to end. They will, and that is ok. But, I can now at least fully feel ALL THE JOY.

So, how to turn these PRE-trip blues around…

Who’s with me – pre-vacay blues are definitely a thing! With a background in science – human biology and positive psychology – I wholeheartedly believe in the life-changing magic of travel. I live it and I advocate for it (duh, if you know me, you’ve heard me talk about it over and over and over again!).

…AND, I also understand its physiological benefits. With this, with anything new, comes some discomfort. We aren’t taught how to sit in that discomfort. Allow our cells to turnover. To know that it is ok to feel a bit anxious at times – not to judge ourselves, and definitely not allow it to hold us back from something really incredible.

Even though we have an exciting trip ahead – we will undoubtedly experience moments of uneasiness (for all sorts of reasons) and that is ok. It’s just another aspect of stretching – going beyond our comfort zones – experiencing something new – that makes our lives more fulfilling. It’s a component to the formula in which travel gives us perspective, strengthens our immune systems, improves our ability to handle change and problem-solve.

I don’t know about you, but the minute I arrive at the airport, all of my pre-travel worries / blues dissipate. And, I am never more present.

Mollie Krengel

Mollie Krengel