Charlie has grown to dread family vacations. No one agrees. His wife likes museums. His twin son and daughter fight or want to play video games. Charlie likes spending time with the family and taking a few long bike rides when he’s away from the office. But it just doesn’t seem worth it.
Beth still remembers crying herself to sleep at Camp Pinewood. She missed home so much. Now that she’s thirty-two years old, nothing has really changed. On a recent “girls’ weekend” with her best friends from college, she had a panic attack when they were all out dancing. She could barely leave the bathroom. It was so embarrassing.
Steve hates flying and gets out of it whenever he can. His friends think he’s afraid of crashing, and he goes along with that. He doesn’t tell them he hates the moment when the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign lights up. He’s stuck. He can’t move. What if he feels anxious? On the ground, whenever he feels that way he walks around until he feels better. What would he do on a plane?
Fear of Travel
Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. According to an article published in the Boston Globe on July 30, 2017 “a surprising number of Americans avoid traveling.” Author Jon Marcus writes that fear of traveling even has a name– “hodophobia.”
I see many people in my clinical psychology practice in the Boston area who avoid traveling. Their reasons vary: fear of flying, preferring the comfort of the familiar, or worries about how they will get along with family members. Fortunately, fear of travel, like other phobias, is treatable. Here are some ways that you can overcome fear of travel:
Getting Over Staying Home
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT will help you identify and change your anxious thinking and behavior patterns. You will take small steps to actually practice and get used to whatever you are afraid of. (This aspect of CBT is called exposure). Beth, who had a panic attack at her girls’ weekend away, learned more realistic ways to view her anxious thoughts and feelings. Then, she practiced handling those feelings by going on more frequent, shorter trips. Eventually she enjoyed a week-long vacation.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Plus Hypnosis
In CBT Steve learned about the fight or flight reaction and why his body reacted so strongly under stress. In addition, Steve’s therapy included some sessions of hypnosis. Hypnosis allowed Steve to use his imagination in a therapy session to practice handling his anxiety.
Charlie came to therapy and we discussed his worries about travel. He wanted to have a great family vacation. Charlie wanted everyone to be happy all the time. Counseling helped Charlie realize that everyone being equally happy all the time was not a realistic goal. However, with communication his family could compromise. Charlie’s wife, and then his children, joined the sessions. Together, they talked about what they wanted, disagreed a little, but made a plan. Everyone got some of what they wanted, and the rest… they put on the agenda for future trips.
Are you tired of staycations? Does a fear of travel impact your enjoyment of life, your work, or your relationships?
If you would like to find out more about how to get help with your fear of travel, please call Dr. Stephanie Kriesberg at (781) 507-3421 to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute consultation.
Dr. Kriesberg is a licensed psychologist in Concord, Massachusetts. She has over twenty years’ experience helping children, teens, and adults lead happier, more productive lives. She can also be reached at: