Dealing with Agoraphobia While Traveling In a New City

Agoraphobia is defined as having an extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, fear of leaving one’s own home, or fear of being in places from which escape is difficult.

For the first time in my life, I woke up in a new country feeling terrified of the world beyond the four walls surrounding me.

After enduring 10+ hours of harassment and torment while riding on a bus from Croatia to Bosnia & Herzegovina, I was left feeling too terrified to go outside.

The incidents that took place during that chaotic bus ride had me worried about my safety even in the days that followed. I really believed something bad was going to happen to me the night before. Despite the fact that it was over, my feelings from it lingered.

Thankfully, I managed to exit the bus situation mostly unscathed aside from some emotional trauma and bad memories.

I am eternally grateful for my super patient Airbnb host who waited for me at the bus stop almost 2 hours into the night past the time I had scheduled my pick up at. It was all because the bus arrived behind schedule and without a working phone, I had absolutely no way of contacting my host to inform him that my bus was going to arrive late.

The bus crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina

My host patiently waited there for me! After we found each other, he proceeded to drive me to my new temporary home.

The following morning in Sarajevo, I woke up feeling a deep sense of dread.

A new day… in a new city… and I had no desire to see any of it.

At that particular moment in time, I had seen nothing of Sarajevo and already felt like I’d seen enough.

I wanted nothing more than to stay put. Inside. Away from people. It was such a shame. It had taken me so long to get to Sarajevo and by the time I made it, I had already been through so much that I had no desire to walk around outside voluntarily. 

I so desperately wanted to stay in the safety of my new apartment.

Leaving my home in Sarajevo to walk outside.

That’s the thing about fear. You may know it’s irrational.

That doesn’t mean overcoming it is easy.

It still affects you.

I skipped breakfast that morning and choose to take an extra-long shower instead.

By lunchtime, my hunger was growing and I knew I needed to go out to get food. No one was going to do it for me. I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone.

After all, that’s why I set out to travel in the first place.

My Gregory Baltoro Backpack in Bosnia

I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself that I didn’t come all this way to hide at home. What happened on the bus was rough, but I reminded myself that sometimes altercations happen. They are nothing more than unfortunate isolated incidents.

If I mind my own business, I should be fine.

With my hand on the doorknob, I took a deep breath in and prepared to venture out into a new country.

Door to my Airbnb in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

I had no working mobile data. No safety net to fall back on. I had only the local map downloaded on my iPhone, a general idea of the direction I needed to head in, and the rest boiled down to trusting that I could backtrack my steps back home if anything went wrong.

I set out to try to locate a small roadside farmer’s market to buy fruits, vegetables, and other things to eat. I wanted groceries to keep at my new place in case I did end up wanting to stay home. Just in case.

Preparing sauteed vegetables for lunch.
Preparing sauteed vegetables for lunch.

Besides that, I would need to cook my own meals to budget properly for my extended stay in Sarajevo. Getting food is usually one of my first priorities anytime I travel anywhere, haha.

Step by step, I ventured out into the city all on my own.

Making sure not to confuse the actions of those individuals, I needed to rebuild trust in the people around me. Hate is not representative of an entire country.

The things those men said, they’re nothing more than the pure ignorance of a few individuals.

I could still fall in love with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sarajevo skyline view

Little by little, I worked on rebuilding my spirit to where it was before those strangers came into my life. I fought against my urge to go home and made myself walk all around Sarajevo. My first few days weren’t the best, but things did brighten up with time.

Eventually, the fear and anxiety of leaving my home did go away.

After all, I went to the city to see their pigeons and I was NOT going to leave Sarajevo without seeing them!!! 😉

Pigeons in Sarajevo

PS: Sorry for being MIA for a while. I’ve had a TON of things happen recently. Mostly all good things and a lot of huge projects to juggle. I’m making an effort to get back into the full swing of things.

Be sure to check out my new travel gear store!

5 Comments

  1. I resonated with this: while I never had much issue venturing out on my own while travel just a couple of years ago, given the pandemic and the bad news I see on social media these days (e.g. the Ukraine dilemma, anti-Asian hate in the US/world), I’ve started becoming more anxious and fearful of stepping out of my home, even to work. It’s irrational, I know, but there’s still the sense of dread that there’s still the possibility of something bad happening…it’s something that I’m working on, and I commend you for pushing past that and still enjoying your time in Bosnia & Herzegovina. It’s such a beautiful country!

    1. Rebecca, you put that perfectly. I completely agree. Ever since the pandemic started, it seems like there’s just one thing after another making the world feel like a dangerous place (war, hate crimes, the list goes on and on.) Finding that fine line between being cautious and letting fear get the best of us isn’t always easy. It makes me sad that there are so many reasons for people to be afraid of the world we’re living in. I think that’s also why I finally felt comfortable finally sharing this story. I know, for sure, that people around the world can relate to this right now. I hope my story can help inspire someone to take that next step. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us! 🙂

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