How I Cope With Travel Anxiety

Updated on December 8, 2018
meloncauli profile image

Many years ago, after a head-on collision, I developed a fear of travel that seemed to be part of my panic disorder/agoraphobia.

Fear of traveling by train
Fear of traveling by train | Source

If you suffer from generalized anxiety, or another anxiety disorder, you may also suffer with various phobias. A common phobia or fear is that of travel. Whether it is a short journey to do some shopping, or a long journey such as taking a holiday, a travel fear may be stopping you in your tracks.

There may be many reasons why your particular fear of traveling started, but commonly, people with an established anxiety disorder, or those who have had a traumatic experience whilst traveling, might develop this particular fear. Many years ago I had a fear of travel which seemed to be part of my panic disorder/agoraphobia, and I was involved in a head-on collision in a car that was driven by my husband at the time.

I do not drive, but as a passenger, I was prone to have panic attacks and avoided travel wherever I could. This was mostly because I dare not travel alone by coach, car or train. After the car crash, and realizing how unsafe the roads were, my fears reached gigantic proportions. This lasted for around four years and severely disrupted my life.

In this article I want to discuss fear of traveling on public transport in particular.

Which public transport do you fear the most?

See results

Agoraphobia and Travel Fear

Having a fear of traveling is often an offshoot of agoraphobia. An agoraphobic typically worries about being outside his comfort zone, being in public places, and fears for his safety. Panic disorder sufferers often have an attached agoraphobic condition, with a great fear of having a panic attack in public. It is easy to see therefore, why in this instance, a fear of travel may develop.

Having a panic attack on a bus for example is an agoraphobic’s worst nightmare. There is a fear of not being able to get off the bus at the precise moment if needed. A person suffering with panic disorder may interpret the actual root problem as a fear of traveling, but actually the reason is typically not being able to escape from the bus, the train, the car. Avoidance becomes an issue, which in turn compounds the problem.

Bridge Anxiety

Bridges make travel fear worse
Bridges make travel fear worse | Source

Other common fear of travel factors that aggravate the condition, are such things as:

  • Traveling on busy roads such as motorways
  • Traffic jams
  • High sided vehicles overtaking
  • Hearing about, witnessing, or being involved in an accident
  • Train derailment or crash
  • The fear of being isolated and not getting help
  • Claustrophobia
  • Hot weather
  • Fear of crowded places and people
  • Traveling through tunnels or over bridges

Avoidance and Apprehension

A travel phobia, as with other phobias, is the result of a huge amount of fear and anxiety. It is maintained by avoidance and fearful apprehension. The more a person avoids traveling, the worse the problem seems. The more a person anticipates a negative outcome on traveling, the more he will avoid the situation. It is a vicious cycle that a person feels helpless to control.

I lost count of the number of journeys I had planned and abandoned. The very thought of having to go shopping, because it meant traveling to the shops, terrorized me. The thought of having to take a bus into town scared me greatly and I would often ask others to do my shopping for me. I couldn’t go on holidays during the years I suffered, simply because I was too scared to travel on roads or use the rail service. The more I didn’t travel, the more apprehension build-up stopped me from traveling.

Medications for Anxiety

Xanax and Valium can help but they are not a cure
Xanax and Valium can help but they are not a cure | Source

How to Deal with Travel Fear

There are various kinds of treatment or therapies to approach a fear of travel. Many people tend to rely on anti-anxiety medications such SSRI antidepressants, or benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Valium. If you have a travel phobia and you go to work for example, you may feel you have little choice but to take a medication. Such drug treatment however, is usually not a cure.

Therapies for Travel Fear or Travel Phobia

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Counseling
  • Emotional freedom technique (EFT)
  • Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)
  • Self-exposure or desensitization

CBT looks at your thoughts, feelings and behaviors with regard to the perceived threat. Once you begin to understand why you think and feel as you do, the theory is that this will help you to change those thoughts and thus help with your reactionary behavior. A counselor will use a similar talking therapy, getting to the root of the fear and guiding you to change your thinking and behavior.

EFT is growing in popularity with regards to the treatment of phobias. It is often thought of as a kind of “emotional acupuncture” but instead of using needles, a tapping technique is applied. It is painless and simple to learn.

NLP is also a popular technique, and to understand the nature of this treatment for phobias, I suggest watching the video on the right.

Exposure to the perceived threat of a phobia is probably the most successful. To face the fear slowly over time until you are desensitized to it brings about long lasting results. There are ways you can do this on a self-help basis, but I want to begin by pointing out the following to you:

Phobias or fears will not get resolved until you address them head on.

Facing a fear takes great bravery, consistency and determination.

The longer you take to address the fear, the more time you have to build negative memories and safety behaviors.

NLP for Travel Phobia

Self-Help for Fear of Travel

The first step is to want to be rid of a travel phobia once and for all. The determination you need is vital to face consistently for full effect.

Dealing with Apprehension

The anticipatory thoughts leading up to traveling causes apprehension and anxiety build up. This is often as much of a catalyst for a travel phobia as performing the fearful action itself. I suggest doing the following:

  • Try not to plan travel too far ahead
  • Try spur of the moment journeys to practice facing the fear
  • Try a guided relaxation daily for general anxiety or stress relief

When you find yourself ruminating about any journey, take yourself away from it by humming a specific tune or reciting a couple of lines of a poem. This short distraction may help break the cycle of apprehension, and therefore the build up of pre travel anxiety.

Other Tips for Travel Fear

Guided imagery is good for fear of travel as is self-hypnosis. Guided hypnosis CDs helped me quite a lot and they are exceptionally good for leading up to a journey.

Self-Exposure for Fear of Travel

This is the bravest but shortest route to conquering your travel fear. Graded exposure is the way I finally recovered from my fears.

Fear on Buses and Trains

As I suggested, don’t plan too long in advance. On a free day just decide quickly to take a journey on a bus or train. I decided on a short trip by bus, and was out of my front floor in ten minutes flat! Dependant upon how fearful you feel, your aim should be to try one or two stops, increasing as you feel able over time.

It is ideal if you can get someone to go with you whilst you practice. I did the facing alone, but I can see how some people would simply find this too much.

If you do take someone with you, for your first trip, sit together. On subsequent trips, you should get that “safe” person to sit further away from you each time. Eventually, you could get that person to wait for you at your destination. This is all graded exposure and how quickly or slowly you do it depends entirely on your progress. When you can manage a certain journey on your own, you should stretch your capabilities slowly, until you can manage longer journeys.

Distraction Whilst Travelling

Take a book to read when you fear going on a bus or train
Take a book to read when you fear going on a bus or train | Source

Success is the key to your cure. The more you succeed, the easier it will become, because you will gain confidence as you improve. The more confidence you build, the less likely it is that you will have a fearful time.

You can make your journeys a little more bearable by taking things such as:

  • A book or magazine to read
  • A bottle of water to drink, as the mouth becomes dry when anxious
  • An MP3 player with some soothing, relaxing music
  • A puzzle book
  • A mobile phone or tablet, with or without internet connection

If possible request a seat on a train that you would feel more comfortable with (by doors for example). This is easier when booking, but don’t be afraid to ask someone to swap seats with you if it will help. Engage in conversation whilst on the journey wherever possible too.

Your fear will build the more you internalize what you are physically feeling. The adrenaline rush can cause you to feel very strange, and you tend to misinterpret the physical sensations as there being something very wrong with you. When your face buzzes, you get hot, you shake, feel a bit faint, or you feel you can’t breathe, it is your defence mechanism kicking in. You should be running away from that tiger! This is why you feel the need to escape; only there is no tiger.

Remember, it isn’t the bus, the train or the car you are afraid of. It’s the way you feel inside the transport that you are scared of; that and the feeling of there being no escape. It is the classic fear of fear syndrome.

Travel fear can cause you to miss out on so much in life. Some people see travel as not being a necessity, but I think they may be finding yet another excuse not to address the problem. I aim to write a separate article on fear of car journeys and roads, but if you have a fear of flying you can read the article I wrote on that topic.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks for dropping by Vickiw! One can have a great desire to see many places, but travel phobia can put a halt to those desires. For those who have never suffered, they take the ease of getting from A to B for granted. It can really be a debilitating problem.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      One of my neighbours has this phobia. I have noticed it seems to be getting worse . She has to really nerve herself even to drive down to the village, just a couple of minutes away. It really spoils her life, and that of her husband too. Presently they are in Hawaii for their vacation, but she was a basket case before they left! It is just the travelling that makes her so terribly anxious. She was in a car accident once. Very interesting Hub.

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comment shuck72! You are most welcome :)

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comment gsidley!

      Best wishes

    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 

      7 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Hi meloncauli

      As you rightly say, travel fears can have multiple causes (claustrophobia, fear of losing control, traumatic traveling experience etc) and effective interventions will need to be tailored to each specific case.

      Thanks again for another informative hub.

      Best wishes

    • shuck72 profile image


      7 years ago from Seattle

      Interesting topic, well covered, voted up, thanks for writing it!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)