03/07/2014 02:40 pm ET Updated May 07, 2014

Fear Traveling? Go From "Headcase to Suitcase" With These 8 Steps

Anxious about taking a trip? Worried you'll get overwhelmed so far from home and want to fly back within two days, devastating your confidence and upsetting your travel companion? You don't have to resign yourself to reading travel blogs and books while others are out actually seeing and experiencing the world. Here's how to make the ultimate trip: from daydream to departure gate. For more, check out The Anxious Traveler on Amazon.

1. Start small. Start out with small journeys in relatively nearby areas and regions, and by going for a short time with someone you trust and love.

2. See your doctor. Recognize and learn how to manage the various physical impacts of traveling that are often a significant (but inadequately addressed) mental hurdle to going abroad. Talk to your doctor about jet lag, travel fatigue, acclimatization, altitude sickness, your sensitivity to environmental factors such as air or water quality and other similar issues before you leave.

3. Externalize. Don't overwhelm yourself worrying about culture shock, etiquette and local customs, and language barriers. Once you stop paying so much attention to yourself, it's far easier to assimilate than you'd think. Remember, you are a guest in another country; focus on being a good guest, and you will bring out the best in people around the world.

4. Recognize how many choices you have. Understand your many lodging and transportation options: B&B, hostel, apartment rental, hotel, rental car, train, plane, bike rental, walking tours, bus tours, etc. Some of these will undoubtedly be more comfortable and natural to you than others. Choose wisely and put your comfort level before factors such as cost and convenience.

5. Know before you go. Learn as much as you can about the place you're traveling to! It won't "spoil the surprise" of your destination -- on the contrary, it will help you anticipate and eliminate unwelcome surprises such as lack of services in some areas, where crime typically takes place, and where to avoid hazards and accidents.

6. Shape up. Get yourself in good physical shape! It will improve your confidence and your psychological resilience (more than you'd expect), reduce the likelihood of getting run down and ill while abroad, and enable you to respond quickly to an unexpected challenge or change in plans.

7. Have back-up plans. Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and venturing far from home is full of "what-ifs." Have a Plan B to deal with everything from metro strikes and public rallies to lost luggage and closed attractions.

8. Plan to enjoy yourself! We're privileged in this day and age to have the time and means to take trips thousands of miles away, and keep going back. Make the most of it, and have an attitude of both learning from your travel snafus, and savoring every moment of your best days touring.