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Travel Trepidations – Part 1

With summer vacation on the horizon, it may be a good time to talk about travel phobias. From fear of flying or driving over a bridge, to a fear of boats or cruise ships, these common concerns often hold some individuals or even entire families back from enjoying their time off.

Living on Long Island, you basically have to face one of the above travel methods if you’re planning a getaway. Because there may be a “need” to travel via a feared modality, people may find themselves “enduring with dread,” or engaging in the frightening travel method but doing so with a great deal of anxiety. This feeling of dread may linger and grow for weeks before the trip, and may lead to popping a prescription pill or drinking alcohol to endure the discomfort. Others may avoid the feared travel methods entirely, choosing to drive instead of fly – we all have that friend or family member who insists on driving to Florida, in spite of the fast flight!

So what could possibly be so frightening about these travel methods? Let’s look at the example of driving over a bridge. Many people find themselves fearing they are going to lose control on the bridge and go plummeting over the edge. This may or may not be related to other psychological issues such as panic disorder, whereby the individual perceives that a panic attack may lead to loss of control, inevitably leading to their impending doom. Alternatively, it may represent a greater fear of heights or even a fear of drowning that may be triggered by the idea of being suspended hundreds of feet over water.

So why might someone be afraid of driving over the George Washington Bridge but totally fine with driving through the Lincoln Tunnel? Aren’t there tons of scary possibilities in any travel situation? Absolutely. It just sort of depends on the beliefs that people have about the “What if’s” in the situation. People who are afraid of going through the tunnel often have a fear of not being able to escape a situation – – and may ask themselves, “What if I am going through the tunnel and get stuck in traffic, and won’t be able to get out?” While this would be intolerable to some, it may not bother a bridge-phobic who asks, “What if I swerve over the edge?”

A common thread in most travel phobias is the fear of losing or not having control. Even with air travel, I’ve had countless flight-phobics tell me that if they could just fly the plane themselves, they would be fine. It can be really difficult trusting your fate to a world of “What if’s” and unknowns. Unfortunately, relinquishing some control is part of what we all have to do when we travel, and in fact, part of what we have to do to succeed in life.

So what can we do when summer vacation planning is nothing but a sea of “What if’s” and dread? Check back and find out more in Part 2.

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