Fear and Loathing of my Trip (Friends Only, Please)

I have a big business trip coming up in what seems like an alarmingly short time, and although I’ve been on (honestly) hundreds of business trips before, for some reason I am irrationally afraid of it.

On or around Dec 7th, I must fly to Poland, do a presentation at a power plant there. Then fly to Madrid, Spain, rent a car, drive to a power plant, and train 5 engineers for a week. Then I have to fly to London and have a big marketing meeting for a day, stay over the weekend in London, take the Chunnel to Paris, meet with Electricite de France for a sales meeting, and then fly back on or around the 20th.

If it seems odd that I’m doing so many things in one trip, well, it is. When people found out I was going over for the training in Spain, they started saying “oh, well, while you’re over there why not do this and that so what’s-her-name doesn’t have to make a trip - since you’re already over there”…etc.

During this time, I will also be cut off from #straightdope chat, and probably Board access, due to having to dial back through my company’s firewall only. So I will be missing for 14 days. If you want to get an important message to me, you can send it via pepperlandgirl, as she is the sole person who has my work e-mail.

Anyhow, I don’t know why I am so nervous about this. I only get this way on long trips away from home, and this one is the longest. Maybe it’s because I worry about something happening to my SO, to the house, to the cats, or maybe to myself. I get sick a lot (diabetes sick, not sniffles), and although I have never been sick yet on a trip overseas, there has to be a first time…

Maybe it comes down to my fear of strange places and people, resulting from what happened when I was a teenager. And in Europe, all alone, I am definitely in a strange place with lots of strange people. I’ve been there many times before and liked it, don’t get me wrong. But because of what happened to me I’m still the person who catches their breath involuntarily out of fear if large men enter an elevator with me. So running around Europe for 14 days will expose me to a lot of uncomfortable situations.

But what else can I do? Hide at home? Quit my job? I just have to keep soldiering on, and hope that someday I will not be afraid of certain things. But it’s been 17 years now, and if I haven’t recovered yet I probably never will.

Anyhow. I’m so bothered by it I barely slept, and I still have another 10 days or so before I would have to go. :frowning:

Just thought I would put my thoughts down is all. If you have some helpful thoughts for me, I would dearly appreciate them. Otherwise, please do not say anything hurtful to me, and click on past.


Oh, Una, don’t worry, it won’t be so bad. With the exception of a certain mod on this board, Europeans are not bad at all. Well, at least not any worst than most Americans. Wait, I’m supposed to be soothing here. :wink:

Honestly, I feel much safer in Europe than I did in the States. The only thing I would be concerned with is your diabetes…make sure you have some sort of med-alert bracelet with your condition on it in a few languages. I’d also find out the pertinant phrases for “I need a doctor” ect, in each language and keep them on your person. Better safe than sorry, that’s my motto. You could also call the US Embassy in each country and get a list of English-speaking doctors in each country. And as I’m sure you know, doctors in Europe are very well trained.
If it makes you feel any better, I could send you my phone number so you could have the number of a nice American girl to call if you get lonely. We’ll be in the same time zone, so you needn’t worry about waking me up or bothering me!

If you have any questions, ask away; though, I must warn you I’m in Germany & not as familiar with the customs of the countries you will be visiting. MisterTot just came back from Poland, and his only complaint seemed to be about the weather…he thought the people were super.

Anthracite, I can’t begin to address any long-term issues with which you might be dealing, but I do have to deal with anxiety producing commmitments that sometimes appear as walls, and I’ll share a short-term coping strategy. If, along with being aware of your European itinerary, you hammer on to the end of it some thoughts of what you’ll be doing that week after you get back, it may help keep it all in perspective. For example, if I know I have to give a talk (public speaking is not something I like to do for a few reasons, the primary one being physical) then if I can make a firm part of my perspective for the day also include the thought that I’m having dinner with some good friends that night, the spectre of the unwelcome task is far less threatening.

I suppose the non-long-winded-beatle way to say that is in a month it’ll be a thing of the past. Hope all goes well.

I don’t have any good advice for you, Una, except try not to worry and enjoy your trip. I’ll miss seeing you around here for 14 days! Think kindly on us while you’re gone.

Anth, not sure if this helps, but:

I LOVE POLAND! It’s the best country I’ve ever visited, and I’ve been to lots. Friendly people, sense of humor, amazing history. Where are you going in Poland?

I’m jealous…

hmmmm…I wish I could say don’t worry about it and everything will be fine. But, we all know that’s not always the case. All I can say is that nothing healthy can be accomplished by worrying about it, and if there is anyway you can think of other things until you leave, if you can try not to dwell on it, you should.
Have you ever been away from home for more than 14 days? Try and remember that tripo and realise that this one will be shorter. Also, remember you’re not going to India or Columbia here, you’re going to Europe. The police generally aren’t corrupt, you don’t have to worry about incompetant medical care, you are generally safer there than you are here in the us.

Best of luck…

I hope you’re able to relax and enjoy it. :slight_smile:

Get a grip, my dear!
Travel is fun. Getting it free via work is a bonus.

I personally guarantee this will be the most-remembered period of the next-few years, and one of the best times you recall when you are older.

Bon Voyage! :cool:

I feel jealous and sympathetic at the same time. My company has sent me on trips to our remote offices that were all more than two weeks. I get really apprehensive before every one, but generally end up enjoying them, except for the jet lag.

I find it makes me feel better to pin down my itinerary and find maps and alternate schedules before I go, just to be prepared if something goes wrong. I want to avoid relying on the kindness of strangers if possible, even though I have never had a bad experience with the strangers I have met. I expect you would be able to find English speakers in most of the places you are going, though in France they may not admit it. My German is abysmal, but everyboby under 30 in Germany has some English, and they seem to appreciate my efforts to communicate in their language.

I do feel safer traveling in Europe than I do in the U.S.; last time I was there I didn’t think twice about taking the sleeper train from Stuttgart to Vienna alone, and I’m not sure I would do anything like that here.

I’m envious too. I can’t imagine the company I work for trusting me to represent them anywhere! They sent me to Dublin, Ohio once, and to Houston, but they seemed disappointed (and a bit surprised) that I found my way back.

If they didn’t think you could handle it, or if they had any concerns about the safety of European travel, they wouldn’t be sending you.

I don’t blame you for being nervous. You’re going to be working your butt off, sounds like, and travel is always tiring.

But if my limited experience with you here on the Dope is any indication of how you handle “real life”, you’ll be fine.


I’m so sorry, hon…

I understand, and my prayers and good wishes will go with you on your trip.

And I am sure that the same can be said for the many, many people here who care for you.


Heck, your nervousness is understandable, Anth. You’ll be covering a lot of ground and performing some pretty high-stress jobs. Maybe your nerves are just anticipation, and you’ll have a blast once you get started, but it’s still uncomfortable now.

I’d suggest planning, planning and more planning–right now. Make a list of “what ifs”, with things you can do for each. It’ll keep you busy and help you feel more in control.

For example, rrange a pet/house sitter, complete w/ task and contact lists. Start packing, with a carry-on of essentials, e.g. medications, spare glasses, pertinent papers, 1 change of clothes if your suitcase go astray. If nothing else you’ll be addressing your concerns. If momentary “Omigod, what if…?” doubts pop up, you’ll know you have them covered.

I really believe once you set out your nerves will settle and you’ll have a great time. The positive new experience will erase the bad old one. In the meantime, I’m thinking about you and wishing you well.


With an itinerary like that on top of travel anxiety, I can see why you might be a tad overwhelmed.

tater (as usual) hands out good advice.

Something that works for me that you probably already thought of: Get everything you can under your own personal control. Have old-fashioned back-up overheads made of your presentation instead of trusting a projector that might or might not work, burn a CD-ROM with essential data in case your laptop self-destructs, doublecheck your reservations, stuff like that. In real life, you’ll of course never be faced with the crisis you prepared for, but at least there are some that you won’t need to worry about.

Apart from that - well, you said it: Nothing to do but soldier on. If you want to add another number to your list of “friendly Europeans to call”, say the word.

S. Norman

Anthracite, I hope I’m so lucky that you consider me a friend! I can’t know what you are going through, but my thoughts will be with you. I know you will have a wonderful, exciting time if you set your mind to it. I would love to be traveling to all those places, I am so jealous!

Here’s a hug for the road: {{{Anthracite}}}. Go get 'em, Anth.

You can do this thing.

Think of all the other things you’ve done in the past, that you didn’t think you could do. Tell yourself, “Well, if I did THAT, then I can do THIS.”

Works for me.

You are going to a civilized place–Europe. It could be worse, you could be going somewhere ghastly like North Dakota. Egad, or 14 days in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Or Saskatoon…

Find a computer somewhere, at some point, borrow somebody’s Internet access for a minute, and drop us a line. We’re all rooting for you. We’ll send out search parties if you disappear somewhere in darkest Poland. [joke, okay?]

I am desperately jealous of you for getting to see the Chunnel. There is no justice.

Hi Anth. Spiny’s idea about the CD-ROM is excellent. In addition, use a dayrunner or palm pilot to your advantage. Starting today, write down lists of all the points you need to cover in your presentations. Make punch cards for all of your important meetings. It is so much more relaxing when you go into a meeting prepared in this fashion. Be sure to bring scads of business cards. Running out of them will hamper your success rate and is really rude to boot. Conversely, collect business cards wherever you go. They can be vital links, containing contact information that is impossible to easily obtain any other way.

See if your company has some personalized corporate gifts that you can give to your critical clients. This can really pave the way for you and is a very nice gesture. Hopefully they will allow a budget for this. Although less common in the U.S.A. overseas this gift giving is still a practice. Some really nice pen and pencil sets (Mark Cross) are compact and well received.

Check your travel itinerary and acquaint yourself with all of the places you will be going. As tater mentioned, have a med alert bracelet and your meds. You may want to leave a backup package at European headquarters that they can drop ship to you in 24 hours in case of any emergency.

Avoid all alcohol if you can, this will help to keep you focused. Also avoid most raw foods. This will help you to avoid all sorts of little bugs that can really disrupt your stay. Pack extremely light, go with mix and match outfits to maximize your appearal. Dress very conservatively (suits etc.) and this will help you to avoid any harassment. You may wish to wear a “don’t-bother-me” ring on your ring finger to discourage unwanted advances.

If possible exchange some money ahead of time for some of the local currencies. See how many countries use the Euro. Also, carry AmEx traveller’s cheques. In many places the local office will only charge you one service charge a day whereas other check brands incur a service charge every single time you exchange some currency. Be sure your passport is in order. You may want to carry a xerox of it in case of loss. Some other form of photo I.D. is very useful to have. Consider a money belt or one on a neck strap.

For goodness sake, take a camera with you. A good quality point and shoot will allow you to bring back a wealth of photos that you will treasure forever. Buy your film here and do not take it out of the cardboard box. This will get you through customs a lot faster. Avoid the higher speeds (ASA 400+) as the X-ray machines can damage them.

Please remember that all of us are rooting for you while you are away.

I agree with what everyone else said.

Also, don’t forget the value of a good emotional crutch. Emotional crutches are great for those times when things get a little crazy and you get that sick-gut-feeling ahead of time that events might slip out of your control.

My traveling crutch is money. Lots of it. Wads of cash, traveler’s checks, back-up credit cards, and whatever else I can arrange. I rarely need it, but knowing that I can spend my way out of just about any disaster is a great comforter. Airlines lost the bags? Fine–buy a whole new wardrobe. Ended up on in the wrong town altogether? Fine–the hell with figuring out the train schedules; grab the nearest taxi, even if it means a three hour ride and a huge bill at the end. Security at the hotel looks shaky? Fine–upgrade to the five-star hotel across town.

Find out what your company is giving you for travel money and then supplement it with some personal cash or even a loan, until you have three times what you could possibly need. Wear the money and your passport in a money belt under your clothes, have extra meds packed in your carry-on luggage and in your regular luggage in case one or the other is lost, and consider everything else expendable and replaceable.

Control is the key to shaking off pre-travel jitters. The other posters have provided some good ways to reestablish control over your trip–review your itinerary, prep and over-prep for every eventuality, have pick-up points planned for replacement equipment and papers, etc. But, whether traveling or at other important times in life, I always feel most at my ease when I have access to those big, strong safety nets that really cut through the tangle and details and wrangling: a wad of cash, a big gun, the love of a good woman… :slight_smile:

And keep in mind that Europe really is a safe place. I’ve seen many Europeans who were honestly scared to come to the U.S. because of the much higher crime rates here. They couldn’t imagine how civilized people would put up with such a high level of personal danger on a daily level. They were overstating the problem, of course. But personal security really is less of a problem in Europe than in the U.S. If you think you have sufficient smarts to handle most big cities in the U.S. safely, then you almost certainly have more than enough street smarts to avoid becoming a target in Europe. It really is a nice place.

Good luck, Anthracite. And don’t forget to use a little of that cash on some sightseeing and relaxation. A daytrip to a local sight, a day at the spa, whatever. Europe really is a treat once you get into the spirit.

All the best!

Dear A.
If your Company has a hub office in Europe pack duplicates of important items and ship them over ahead of time Fed Ex, or the like. You will do fine. You are the Coal-Goddess!!!

You have my sympathies! My company has me travel to Europe quite a bit, and everyone always says “but you’re so lucky!!” and I feel like decking them. Europe is a fine place, but I just don’t like leaving home for long periods of time.

Some things I suggest:

Bring pictures of friends and pets.

Tell the people at the offices that you will visit that “you need an office with a computer with an internet connection” for an hour. This might imply that you need it for work, and if they assume that, great. Feel justified in knowing you need to get online and check email, boards, etc. for your own peace of mind and comfort.

I never got the knack of combining business trips with sight-seeing. This is great if you can do it, but personally, I get too stressed with the work parts, and need to use my free time to unwind. I usually pick one thing I really, really want to see, and feel accomplished if I manage to see it. Forget seeing 100+ sites in Madrid in under two hours.

Bring a book you have been wanting to read, and spend at least one night in your hotel relaxing and reading. Order room service if available.

The business colleagues I have met in Europe have been extremely hospitable, and take advantage of their offers to take you to dinner or other activities. You will have the advantage of being with someone who knows the area and the language, and can help you order food, find your way, and get you safely back to your hotel. This is something I don’t do at home – I like the work day to end promptly and don’t socialize with colleagues much – but when travelling it is a welcome experience. Lest anyone think I’m horrible, this did make me aware of how important it is to extend these invitations when people are visiting our office from overseas.

Bring little inexpensive gifts from your area (baseball caps with your city’s name, keychains, something your town is famous for like candy, etc) to give to the people who will be hosting you. Try to figure out ahead of time who your primary contacts will be in each city. If it becomes too cumbersome to bring a token gift for each person, bring a box of candy or nuts or something to put out in the office for everyone to share. This is a nice way to break the ice, if you can say “Back at home, my town is known for its sugared pecans that are grown in my state, so I brought some for you to try.”

I’m sure everything will be fine on your trip, and be sure to treat yourself to a great present while you are away!

Hey guys, thanks for the support! And I read each one of your suggestions, and took mental notes on them.

I know exactly who I’m meeting over there, just not exactly where. And I do speak…err…know a bit of French, so that helps me every time I go to France.

Going on business has some advantages too that I should keep in mind. I do get to fly business class everywhere at least. And I do have an “unlimited” (within reason) expense account, especially if I’m in an emergency situation. So if the only hotel in town in $400 a night, I need not worry about shacking up at a youth hostel.

Like I said…my fear is irrational. But realizing that does not make it go away for me. Knowing that so many of you will be rooting for me back “here” helps things.

And I really haven’t had a “bad” experience in Europe yet, except one time in Lisbon when I was stupid and went walking through town by myself and was accosted, and one time some punks (the mohawk kind, not just the young kind) on the Docklands Light Rail in London started harassing me. Small things, true, but given the type of person I am they were scary.

Sigh. Today I may have to buy my tickets, if I can get the client to fax a signed contract. More updates to come…

Hi Anth, add me to the list of callable people - I already said I’m free earlier in the day on 16th, but if it’s an emergency, I can do later - I can see my english friend anytime & she’ll understand.