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Overcome Travel Anxiety – Connect with Public Art

Traveling can be an exciting experience, but for some people it can also be a source of anxiety and fear. Fear of flying, being in unfamiliar places with a lot of new people, or the uncertainty of the unknown are hard for many people. Travel anxiety can be a real obstacle to enjoying the benefits of travel. One way to overcome travel anxiety is by connecting with public art: fountains, murals, parks, street performers, etc.

Public Art is Freely Accessible

Public art can be a way to familiarize oneself with a new place and to explore its culture and history in a safe and accessible way. Visiting a city’s public sculptures, murals, or monuments can help you to understand the local culture, history, and values. It can also help you to orient yourself and to feel more grounded in a new place.

Public art humanizes the built environment and invigorates public spaces. It provides an intersection between past, present and future, between disciplines, and between ideas. Public art is freely accessible. American cities and towns aspire to be places where people want to live and want to visit.


Family Travel Connection with Public Art

A few years before the pandemic we found ourselves with a long Seattle layover and decided to extend it to a couple nights. We picked a hotel between the Space Needle and the Ferris Wheel on the water so we could walk everywhere. Pretty quickly we noticed our older kid, 12 at the time, seemed extra anxious. This was more than a little “country mouse” shock for our Montana kiddo. Loads of people and languages coupled with lights, signs, cars, honking, buses whooshing by, and commotion induced sensory overload with a bit of big city fear.  

Child by a waterfall walkway at night in Seattle

Glowing rocks along a walkway in Seattle's downtown

However, after a few blocks of holding hands or talking it through, she started to notice cool things: an illuminated fountain cascading down a public walkway, a corner lot turned into a mini dog park village, glowing stones placed along a multi-tier plaza, a shimmering sculpture moving with the wind. With each interaction her hands and jaw relaxed, her shoulders slowly dropped, her eyes widened with curiosity. By the next day, she boldly took the phone with maps apps and was our fearless tour guide to one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had. We wandered through parks and plazas and back to our hotel in time for a cab ride to the airport for our next flight.

A couple years later, on another extended layover in big city – this time Chicago – I had a well versed teen explorer on my hands. From the “Bean” in Millennium park and neighboring gardens, a lake shore walk from the Shed Aquarium back north past sculptures, the “Married with Children” fountain, rose parks, hedge lined paths, and an impromptu lunch concert at the band shell. Of course we stopped for ice cream from a vendor and rapidly bought umbrellas during a downpour! Walking, connecting with art and nature in an urban environment, and connecting with the local pulse made for a more positively memorable experience.

Author's kids at the Bean sculpture in Chicago's Millennium park on a rainy day

Participate in Art-related Activities

The beauty of art can be a calming and grounding experience, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Viewing a stunning painting or sculpture can be a great way to take your mind off your worries and to focus on something positive and uplifting. Consider these 10-reasons to support public art.

Participating in art-related activities can also be a great way to overcome travel anxiety and has a positive effect on your mental health. Taking an art class or workshop, visiting art museums and galleries, or even creating your own art while traveling can all help to boost confidence and build a sense of accomplishment. Finding a local resource like centralized community events or arts events site can make the process easier and more fun (hint hint, like GatherBoard).

Connecting with public art while traveling can be a great way to overcome travel anxiety and fear. It can provide a sense of familiarity and understanding of a new place, and the beauty and power of art can be a calming and grounding experience. It is an interesting way to immerse oneself into local culture and tradition and also to foster creativity and personal growth.

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