Dear Fear, I am not going to let you stop me travelling.
I wanted to address you because I feel like fear of travel is a topic that is beginning to squirm uncomfortably under the surface of our society; I hear the words “scared” and “dangerous” mentioned more and more often in some Facebook groups I am part of.
The idea that we should be fearful of travelling in general is getting increased airtime, and I know that some people are seeking reassurance to travel, especially solo.
Fear, I think it’s time you and I had a little heart to head. I believe it is necessary to overcome the chasm that is rapidly widening between the wanderlust yearnings of the heart and the nervous hesitation of the head.
Our Imperfect Planet
It would be blasé of me not to base this article in reality and pretend like the entire world is a haven of sunshine and rainbows. I am well aware that a certain level of danger exists in the world. To not acknowledge that would make me sound like I am some rose-tinted dreamer, which is far from the realist I actually consider myself to be.
On an almost daily basis we are confronted with terrible atrocities in the news: Manchester, London, Barcelona, Paris… News is available to us 24hrs a day and perpetuates the notion that this violence and terror is never ending. And it certainly does feel like the frequency of attacks such as these are increasing.
If these terrible incidents are happening in our own towns and cities, the desire to travel further afield, where the perceived danger increases, diminishes with every news headline.
If the world in our own backyards is threatening, what is the threat level like in other parts of the world? War continues in many countries around the world; political unrest, poverty and famine also make the headlines (or sadly go unreported).
It is reported that Americans fear travel in Europe and the Europeans are concerned over travel in the USA – the list just goes on and on.
But what is the effect of this fear? Are you hesitating to book a solo trip because you feel afraid to travel?
The Effects Of Fear
To tell you the truth, being afraid is exhausting.
Sometimes fear whips me into an agitated frenzy where poor, jerky decision making is exacted with a rushed imprecision for me to regret later. With fear nipping at my heels, I hurtle into action because I feel its pressure driving me forward, unable to think clearly.
Fear doesn’t want you to settle into a comfortable routine, where you are confident and able to make solid, assured choices.
Sometimes fear entraps me. It numbs me to the point of inaction, crouched at the corner of my brain. Unable to move through the fear of what I will encounter if I do.
But who puts me there?
And I ask the same questions to you:
Who holds you down under their thumb? Who snatches your voice? Who sets your limitations and makes you doubt your choices?
Is it your parents, your partner, your boss or the news articles you read and watch on TV?
Is it the voice inside your head or the Devil on your shoulder?
Are we the ones we should be afraid of?
Travel Anxiety And Fear Of Travel
Fear of travel can take on many forms.
You can fear the physical aspects of travel: such as taking off in an aeroplane and flying for hours above the surface of the earth. You can fear long journeys on various modes of transport. You can fear airports, queues, becoming lost, translation issues or sleeping in unfamiliar places.
But fear of travel can also be in the mind: you’ll be lonely (if you travel alone), you’ll miss home, you’ll lose your place in society (if you take an extended trip).
Fear of the unknown can stop you dead in your tracks.
You can have a fear of travel because of finances: ‘can I afford this?’ has to be at the back of every wannabe and current traveller’s brain. From a week long holiday to a six month trip, spending money on travel is seen to be frivolous, wanton behaviour. Selfish and temporary.
For some people, the fear of travel is a very real and deeply personal issue. Hodophobia stops many people leaving their familiar surroundings at all. On a slightly lesser scale, many highly anxious people fear being out of their comfort zones and suffering panic attacks on the road.
Nomadic Matt features a guest post on his blog by Lauren Juliff of Never Ending Footsteps. Lauren suffers from anxiety and shares her story and tips for dealing with fear of travel. Lauren is testament to the fact that you can overcome crippling anxiety to travel, and now travels and writes full time about her experiences.
And for those who have previously travelled, or would like to, we now have to add the fear of violence and terror to the mix. Are we going to be safe simply walking down the street? Are we putting our lives at risk by taking public transport in another country, or even our own?
Travel Is All About Shades Of Grey
Travel may expose us to an element of risk because unfortunately bad things can happen in every culture and country. But bear in mind that for you to experience these situations first hand is the exception when travelling and not the norm.
More importantly, travel helps us to challenge the perspective of fear we’ve come to expect from the rest of the world. Travel helps us realise that the more we learn about another place and other people, the less we need to fear.
Janice from Solo Traveler World shares her thoughts on why solo travel is vital: “Travel helps us with nuance. Through travel we realize that the world and every place in it lives on a gray scale – nothing, no place, is exclusively black or white.”
The idea of nuance may help us put the recent attacks in Manchester, London, Barcelona and Paris in some kind of perspective. Just because they have recently been a target of terror, does it mean that these entire cities and the countries in which they stand are inherently dangerous?
No, it does not. It’s all shades of grey.
Learning To Let Go Of Fear
Fear can rob us of so much. It can take away the inquisitive nature, inherent in every child, until the shutters come down and attitudes become set. It can stop us from venturing too far, tethered by familiarity.
From fear there comes a power that we must learn to address.
If we allow fear and doubt to dictate our actions, they will begin to restrict our lives. And it won’t stop there: the power of fear and doubt will consume our minds until we see shadows around every corner.
And then we won’t travel at all.
Fortunately, there are practical steps we can take to help mollify our fears of travel before they take over and stop us from wanting to explore.
Amanda Kendle writes on her website Vagabondish that: “It’s easy, and somehow even logical, to fear the unknown. And it’s certainly very normal. When you travel, the unknown is actually what you’re striving to find (otherwise you could just stay home). However, that doesn’t always make it less frightening. Which is why it’s a good idea to become familiar with your destination before you arrive, so that you feel less concerned or anxious about what might await you.”
Feeling prepared by doing some pre-trip research may help you to feel more confident and connected to your destination before you arrive.
- Take the opportunity to read books written by authors from the country you intend to visit, learn about the history and culture of the place you are going.
- Check practical elements like currency, useful language phrases, what transport is available and what to bring with you.
Fortified by your travel preparations, shifting our mindset then is absolutely key to ensuring that fear of the unknown and the outside world doesn’t entrap us in our own little cocoon.
Remember that it’s not unusual to be nervous about the unknown element of travel. Flip that on its head and realise that it is learning about the unknown that largely inspires you to travel.
Why I Love Travel
So whilst it’s tempting to throw the duvet over our heads and cancel any travel plan we may ever want to make, we cannot let it happen.
We should not allow the fear of the unknown stop us from exploring.
Whenever I start to dismay, I remind myself of the benefits of travel: beauty, kindness, love and wonder on an immeasurable scale.
I continue to travel to watch the sun rise and set in different places, to make connections with people from all around the globe, to try different food and learn a little of another language.
I travel to confirm my belief that the overwhelming majority of people I meet are happy, helpful and kind.
Travel helps me to understand that terror only lurks in isolated pockets of the world – and at the back of our minds. To give into the assumption that danger is prevalent is to sit back and let fear dictate.
So, Fear, I refuse to let you take travel away from me. My love for the world and the people in it will remain my driving force.
Do you feel some fear of travel? What’s holding you back? What barriers to travel do you face? Perhaps together we can take steps to break them down. Share your thoughts on being afraid to travel.
Further Reading On Solo Travel
Feeling inspired to plan a solo trip? You may like to check out a few of these posts to get you started:
- What are the five stages of solo travel
- Preparing for solo travel when you’ve never spent time alone
- How does it feel to live out of a backpack for a year?
- Tips on how to make a travel buddy when your friends don’t want to travel.
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