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Traveling with an Anxiety Disorder

Meet Beckie Jones, a backpacker who’s been bouncing all over Southeast Asia for months —  with anxiety issues and OCD. How does she make it work? Has it been worth the struggle? Here’s Beckie’s story.

Words and photos by Beckie Jones

I had a panic attack this week because I didn’t want to ride a bike. Not a motorbike or a scooter, not even an electric bike; a normal, pushbike.
I am a solo female traveler who suffers with anxiety and OCD and at times, traveling the world is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Making the choice to travel is also the single greatest decision I’ve ever made. It has changed me and shaped me in ways that I didn’t think possible and I can feel it getting easier every day.
Don’t get me wrong, some days are still incredibly hard. I struggle with panic attacks over bikes, the devastation  you feel when you’ve bonded with someone on the road but it’s time to go your separate ways. I struggle with speaking to new people, going to a new country…But, nothing is worth doing if it isn’t a challenge, and most of the time travel is nothing but fun, laughter and excitement.
And those new friends you miss? You’ve shared experiences with them. You’ve become family and witnessed things together that people from home won’t have. Relationships form easily on the road. A stranger you meet at breakfast might feel like a best friend by dinner.
There is nothing like the feeling of complete freedom you get from traveling. “Today shall I watch sunrise over ancient ruins or swim in crystal clear seas? Should I trek up a mountain or volunteer in an animal sanctuary? Maybe hire a moped and explore the surrounding landscape by bike — or simply take a good book to a nice cafe and lose myself for a while.”
It Do not  let your mental health define you. I did for too long and challenging myself to break free from the imprisonment and confines of my own mind and the stereotype of mental health is the best thing I ever did.
Traveling has always been an aspiration of mine; buy a one way ticket, see the world, make no solid plans as to where, when and who. Leave on a jet plane, not knowing when I’ll be back again. All that jazz.
I feel as though I have spent my twenties waiting around for opportunities that were never going to arise and people that were never going to join me on the road. After the break-down of one such relationship, I woke up to the fact that life is for living and I’m not getting any younger. I made a pact with myself to seize the day, not let any more opportunities pass me by and to do things that scare me. It was now or never.
I’m telling you, that first day was hard and then I sank right in. The first time for each thing is daunting — the first day in a new country the first time you ride a local bus, the first time you crack out ‘hello’ in Japanese or ‘thank you’ in Khmer, — but then it gets easier and easier.
I never thought I would be someone able to circumnavigate the globe alone but I’m here and I’m living it every day and I have a little more respect for myself than I did before. But you also have to take it easy on yourself. You may be too scared to try something that terrifies you and that’s okay too. No one is judging; baby steps. Remember, this is the girl who had a panic attack about riding a bike.

Before I left for Thailand I was having panic attacks daily. I would lock myself in a cubicle at work and just freak out for half an hour. This was for a number of weeks before my departure date. Getting on that plane was terrifying and horrifying and it probably will be for you, too, but if you can make it (and if I can then anyone can), you will see that the last push, that final struggle, the homestretch before leaving the homeland, is all worth it.

Follow Beckie at her travel blog,
Instagram @jetsetter_jones | Twitter @Jetsetter_Jones  | Facebook /jetsetterjones