10 Steps to a Healthy Mindset When Travel Feels Tough

Jumping freely excitedly off the dock into a dam in the sunshine. Having a healthy mindset allows you to enjoy your time more readily.

We’ve heard it before, ‘misery loves company,’ but how do you maintain a healthy mindset when everything feels like it is going wrong and things go tits-up while traveling?  How do you bypass others’ misery?  From rotten weather to politcal strikes, grumpy travel partners to corrupt officials, some events and people can influence how we feel. Negative interactions can torpedo your perspective and turn a successful trip on its head if you allow it, but there are actions you can take to protect your emotional ecosystems.

This scenario has come up with almost every travel coaching client, I thought it useful to do some research, analyze my own experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly, and pull together some strategies for handling difficult situations that can affect your mood while traveling. 

Here are 10 steps to keep your emotions at bay and feel less affected when bad shit is happening around you.

jumping free into the water in the Cederberg Mountains, South Africa. South Africa is full of strife and stress politically, racially, environmentally. The tension is high and finding ways to not be affected by those stresses is necessary.


1. Identify the emotions.

Paul Eckman, an American psychologist, outlined core emotions that are universally felt by humanity. These, of course, adapt and expand as they combine.   

The core positive emotions are: happiness, surprise, pride, and excitement.

The core negative emotions are: sadness, disgust, fear, anger, shame, and embarrassment.

The eight core emotions illustrated with simple emojis. This is a useful tool when understanding how you feeling.

When you notice a shift in your energy that you don’t feel comfortable with, start by  identifying what you are feeling at the time. Tune into it and try to express what you are feeling or experiencing.  Once you determine how you are actually feeling it’s much easier to bounce back to a healthy mindset.

2. Name the trigger.

Ask yourself what caused me to feel this way?  The trigger can come from a million sources, internally, externally, or both.

Internal sources include (but certainly are not limited to) travel burnout, sickness, depression, anxiety, lethargy, your daily perspective and waking up on the wrong side of the bed as they say.

External sources can be a custom officer having a bad day, protests, political unrest, finding yourself in a dangerous situation, a scam artist, accommodations that don’t match your expectations, bad weather,  a flight delay, or a grumpy travel partner. 

3. Determine what you can control.

The Circle of Control and the Circle of Concern are concepts explained by Stephen Covey — the premise is that you can only control your own behavior, emotions, and health and well-being and you can influence the outside world and how you interact with it, but you have zero control over it.   These things can affect you, but you ultimately choose how to engage with them. 

Circle of Control: 

My thoughts, my words, my behavior, my actions, my reactions, my choices, my attitude, my mood, and my perspective.

Circle of Concern: 

Literally anyone or anything else outside your person.  All those external sources and then some that could have an effect on your trip. 

Do you have the power to get the plane off the runway?  Unless you’re the pilot then the answer is no.  Will being angry with the flight attendant fuel the plane?  Most certainly not.

An example of Stephen Covey's Circle of Control and Circle of Influence. The idea is to expand outward your Circle of Control to be less effected by the things you cannot control.

4. Breathe deeply and ground yourself.

Yep, it’s the breathing again.  We do it all day, all night, and now you must dive deeper and breathe some more.  Deep breaths this time. 

5. Assess the situation and stay calm.

If you are in a dangerous or chaotic situation, what is the best way to handle it?  Try to stay calm and think clearly instead of allowing the adrenaline and cortisol to get the better of you.  Look for the best and safest way out of that environment.  Fight, flight, or freeze behavior is based on our past experiences and conditioning and impact how we react to situations.  Whether it is violent roadblocks or natural disasters your safety is a priority and let go of your belongings.  Everything (while inconvenient) IS replaceable. 

6. Be objective.

Try to see the issue from another perspective.  Why are they stressed?  Angry?  Upset? Is this something you can understand?   Empathize with?  Were you the cause of their frustration?  Could they have been affected by something that they have no control over?  Express what you have observed, “I’ve noticed you are upset; do you want to talk about it?”    

7. Make some space. 

Taking a walk in nature is a great way to make space and clear your head. Here is a wide dirt path winding through the mountains and plains just before sunset

Physically or mentally change where you are in the situation.  When traveling with a person who cannot get out of their own negative narration, doesn’t mean you are obligated to to engage with their negative talk.  Take a walk, create your own personal travel bubble, plug-in and give them the space they need as well to either wallow or release it.   

Personal space helps you stay grounded and allows you to practice selfcare.  You can better connect to your needs when you are in a space without distractions. 

8. Establish emotional boundaries and communicate your feelings.

a garden fence with thick branches inttwerwoven with flowers and not a gate that is in use to signify strong boundaries.

Find a way to stay positive and protect your emotional well-being.  I am not talking about turning a blind eye to a negative situation, in fact the opposite.  Acknowledge it is there and choose not to take on the burden of the negative emotions or feelings of the outside world. 

When you are establishing healthy boundaries, remember to communicate them clearly.  You can be compassionate, while protecting your mental well-being and not taking on their emotions as well. 

When traveling with a person that feels like an “energy vampire,” establishing alone time is essential —  laying ground rules for what you are willing to chat about.  If their conversations continue to flow in a negative direction, reframe it and ask positive questions.  Bring to light what they have appreciated, if you keep circling around the positive, hopefully the other person can recognize it and change their tone and message.

9. Talk it out and learn from it.

Once a situation has already happened, it is helpful to talk through it again.  Talk to a friend, your family, write about it, post it on Facebook, speak with a therapist, or reach out to your girl here for a travel coaching session. 

Take the time to reflect on a difficult situation, learn from your mistakes and celebrate what went well.   What can you do better the next time you are in a similar situation? 

How will you approach it differently? 

What will you do to protect your well-being and be less affected by your surroundings?

10. Then, let that shit go.

Don’t dwell on the negatives that you had no control over and lose sight of your good experiences.  It is not always easy to mantain a healthy mindset while traveling, but following these steps will help. And if that doesn’t work, write it off and remember…

An ornate frame of the quote "not my circus, not my monkeys" another way of saying "this is not my problem"


If you are traveling and having a rough go of it, I feel ya.  I’ve been there.  Reach out and book a free 20-minute travel coaching call and let’s get you back to a healthy mindset and your beautiful self.  

On Key

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