Dear Fear, I am not going to let you stop me travelling

Dear Fear, I am not going to let you stop me travelling

Fear of travel is becoming a more common topic. In this article I write an open letter to my travel fears to explain why I will not be afraid to travel solo. Solo travel | Travel tips | Solo female travel | Backpacking | Travel guide | First time travel | Fear of flying | Overcoming anxiety | Fearless | Wanderlust | Motivational

Dear Fear, I am not going to let you stop me travelling.

Fear of travel is becoming a more common topic. In this article I write an open letter to my travel fears to explain why I will not be afraid to travel solo. Solo travel | Travel tips | Solo female travel | Backpacking | Travel guide | First time travel | Fear of flying | Overcoming anxiety | Fearless | Wanderlust | Motivational

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?

Read: why I believe solo female travel is more important than ever.

patrick-pierre fear of travel female tourist blue door
Patrick Pierre

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?

Read: 11 ways to overcome your travel fears and smash your first solo trip.

solo travel guy fear of travel

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.

Read: the steps to take before booking your first solo trip.

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.

priscilla-du-preez-fear of travel female backpack
Priscilla Du Preez

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:

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Fear of travel is becoming a more common topic. In this article I write an open letter to my travel fears to explain why I will not be afraid to travel solo. Solo travel | Travel tips | Solo female travel | Backpacking | Travel guide | First time travel | Fear of flying | Overcoming anxiety | Fearless | Wanderlust | Motivational

Fear of travel is becoming a more common topic. In this article I write an open letter to my travel fears to explain why I will not be afraid to travel solo. Solo travel | Travel tips | Solo female travel | Backpacking | Travel guide | First time travel | Fear of flying | Overcoming anxiety | Fearless | Wanderlust | Motivational

20 Comments

  1. September 16, 2017 / 9:20 AM

    This is such a good post and something I think more people should come to read – I too am see a lot of people questioning if its too dangerous to travel (mostly in the good ole Facebook groups). Will direct them this way the next time someone is put off travelling by someone who’s never been to said destination haha!

    • September 19, 2017 / 8:14 PM

      Thank you for your kind comment. I hoped that my words may bring a little comfort to some people who are hesitant to travel. I think as long as your travels are planned in such a way that will ensure you are as safe and happy as you can be I really don’t think it will be a detrimental activity you’ll regret!

  2. September 16, 2017 / 9:31 AM

    Really great post! Completely agree with what you say. The world can be a scary place but can also be so beautiful and wonderful! I don’t think anything could stop me from traveling!

    • September 19, 2017 / 8:12 PM

      What a fantastic attitude you have, Danielle! I’m so glad you also champion travelling. Thank you for reading.

  3. September 16, 2017 / 9:35 AM

    This is very powerful and I agree so important for us to grab life and fear by the balls and say “not today!”. Get out there and smash it and experience everything or stagnate wondering what if.

    Love your writing ❤️

    • September 19, 2017 / 8:10 PM

      Thank you for your words, Chanie! I feel motivated just reading them… wooo!

  4. September 16, 2017 / 11:22 AM

    I love this so much Meg! the perfect attitude to travel. I’m guilty of letting fear stop me travelling in the past and I always regret it! It’s wise to be cautious, but not so much that it stops you from enjoying life. (Also, I love Lauren Juliff’s blog!)

    • September 19, 2017 / 8:09 PM

      That’s it: I think we actually have more regret when we don’t do something (especially travel!) Glad to hear you also enjoy Lauren’s blog… She’s great!

  5. September 16, 2017 / 12:54 PM

    I have so much admiration for women that travel solo – I haven’t gone solo in many years and recall the sheer joy of doing things myself – and the fact that the fear so enhances the enjoyment especially when telling the stories years later. Good for you – keep on trekking.

    • September 19, 2017 / 8:04 PM

      Thank you so much, Faith! I’m pleased you’ve had a chance to tap into the feeling of joy that comes with solo travel…

  6. Nifty
    September 16, 2017 / 4:43 PM

    This is so important. As more and more of us are filled with anxiety (myself included), it’s so important to remember it’s just a feeling and you can work to not let it stop you travelling (or other such activities).

    Thanks for sharing!

    • September 19, 2017 / 8:00 PM

      You’ve got it spot on… it’s not just travel that fear will restrict if we let it take the better of us. Hope you can continue to enjoy your travels.

  7. September 16, 2017 / 5:17 PM

    Love this post!! I am totally guilty of letting fear stop me from travelling!! This post definitely helped though!! 🙂

    • September 19, 2017 / 7:59 PM

      Thank you, Eryn. I think we’re all guilty of it – but we’ve got to try to push through them and continue to explore our beautiful world… Happy travels.

  8. September 16, 2017 / 11:12 PM

    Great article! I wish people wouldn’t be in fear of traveling. It’s such a humbling experiences and you grow so much seeing different places. It’s good to plan ahead and avoid risky situations but never to avoid the whole thing.

    • September 19, 2017 / 7:58 PM

      I agree that a degree of planning is key to avoid putting yourself at risk – thanks for your comment, Taylor!

  9. September 17, 2017 / 11:43 AM

    A great blog. Thanks. I know I am going on my next trip, the Alps; I know I want, no need, to walk in that place alone, but my fear is stopping me from planning. Deep breath. Off I go!

    • September 19, 2017 / 7:57 PM

      The Alps will be a beautiful, peaceful place for some solo exploration. Enjoy!

  10. September 18, 2017 / 2:43 PM

    I love Lauren’s writing. I cannot tell you how many times people have challenged my ability to be safe in places, how many people secretly (or not so secretly) think I am too outspoken and headstrong, how much I stress about money yet am unwilling to live in hostels and how much I try to keep that a secret.

    I used to worry about being lonely, the but older I get the more I like being alone. My cell phone and skype keep me sufficiently connected at this point, which wasn’t the case 10 years ago.

    • September 19, 2017 / 7:57 PM

      I agree with you that the older I get the more I don’t mind being alone. It must have something with becoming more comfortable in your own skin the older we get!

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