Don’t Be a Scaredy Cat – Just Travel

People make all sorts of excuses for why they can't travel — they don't have the time, they don't have the money, they don't have anyone to travel with…

But all of these excuses have their root in one thing:

FEAR.

Fear of the unknown and the unpredictable. Fear of taking a step and not knowing where your foot will land.

Fear - Graffiti

Photo by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha, on Flickr

Because, let's face it, travel can be scary. Not everyone loves planning the way that I do, and not everyone would be comfortable jetting off around the world alone. To many people, what I do is overwhelming; intimidating; downright scary.

I understand this. I understand where the fear comes from, because I experience it too sometimes.

But most of the things we all fear about travel can easily be overcome — and none of them should keep us at home.

Here are some of the most common travel-related fears, along with some suggestions on how to get over them:

The fear of traveling alone

Solo travel isn't for everyone. In fact, for many people, traveling alone would be their worst nightmare. When I told some friends recently that I was planning to travel Eastern Europe this summer on my own, their immediate response was, “You're going to die.” Well, no. No, I'm not. I'm capable of traveling solo, and I usually don't mind it. But I know many people would never dream of doing it, and that the lack of travel partners keeps many people firmly rooted at home.

Solution: If you can't convince a friend to travel with you, book yourself on a small group tour to the destination you want to visit. This way you'll be able to make friends with the people in the group, and you won't have to worry about doing any of the planning on your own.

The fear of disaster

Terrorist attacks. Planes crashing. Ships sinking. These kinds of worst-case-scenario fears, believe it or not, keep many people from traveling. They are the reason tourism suffered so much after the 9/11 attacks, and why cruise lines around the world are currently slashing prices following a ship sinking last month in Italy.

Solution: Stop worrying about things that are not likely to happen, and that you really have no control over anyway. Do you know the statistics behind terrorist attacks, plane crashes, or ship sinkings? The numbers show that you are MUCH more likely to die in a car crash on your way to work. So ignore the media coverage, and take advantage of some of those cruise deals right now! (My family is this summer; we scored a fantastic deal on a New England/Canada cruise in June!)

The fear of flying

No, it is not natural for something like an airplane to fly. And having a fear of flying is really not all that uncommon.

Solution: As mentioned above, the chances of your plane crashing are statistically very slim. But knowing that doesn't always help to alleviate fears, I know. So if planes terrify you, consider other transportation options — ships, buses, trains, cars, bikes, walking… there are plenty of ways to travel that will keep you out of the air.

The fear of language barriers/culture shock

Traveling abroad to a place where you don't speak the language and aren't familiar with the culture can be understandably overwhelming. Most people want to hold on to at least some level of familiarity — that comfortable “bubble” of home — and worry about not being able to communicate or being crippled by culture shock.

Solution: Start out simple, and travel first to countries similar to your own before branching out. Ease into the foreign cultures; you don't have to dive into the unfamiliar straight away. Or, better yet, spend some time exploring your own country first! It's amazing what can be done/seen in your very own backyard, especially if you live in a country as large and diverse as the U.S. or Canada.

The fear of mystery foods/getting sick

Along with culture shock and language barriers, people fear strange foods and the effects those strange foods might have on their digestive tracts while traveling. It seems silly, but I've worried about this, too! Nobody likes being sick, and being sick abroad is even less appealing.

Solution: Don't completely avoid foreign foods, but be aware of what you're eating. Go where the locals go when possible, and be sure to have your Tums and Imodium on hand just in case! Also be sure to educate yourself on the region you'll be traveling — is it safe to drink the water? Are there certain foods to avoid? Simply being informed can go a long way.

Best Thai Food Ever

Photo by mynameisharsha, on Flickr

The fear of getting robbed

Getting robbed, scammed, or otherwise ripped off is a common fear among would-be travelers — and it's often a valid concern, depending on where you're traveling. Some parts of the world are, in fact, known for scamming tourists, or for street robberies. It's an unfortunate reality of travel.

Solution: Be alert, and be informed. Are there certain common scams that target tourists where you're going? Are there specific areas of town to avoid? Know these things before you go so you know what to keep an eye out for. Another obvious tip would be to leave your valuables at home — if you don't want to lose it, don't bring it. If, however, you really need a fancy camera or computer when you travel, make sure you keep it in a secure spot, and never let your bag out of your sight. And, if you really want to get serious, perhaps some gear like pickpocket-proof underwear could be right for you.

The fear of getting lost

For some people, getting lost in a new city is all part of the travel experience. But for others, it would be far less than ideal, and can sometimes dissuade people from venturing outside their hotel rooms.

Solution: If you're the type who hyperventilates when you're convinced you're lost, make sure to always get a local map (that you can read) before you go out exploring, and don't be afraid to approach locals for help. Believe it or not, getting lost can sometimes enhance your experience — if you can manage to let go of some of the control.

map reading

Photo by zoetnet, on Flickr

The fear of getting injured abroad

Nobody wants to think about that slim chance of getting seriously injured abroad — getting in an accident, breaking a bone, or winding up in the hospital with some mysterious virus. But of course there's always a chance of something like this happening abroad, just as there's a chance of it happening at home. However, the fear of it happening on the road — where hospital conditions can vary and language barriers could make it difficult to communicate with doctors — is usually much stronger.

Solution: First, realize that hospitals and doctors DO exist in other parts of the world — and most of them are perfectly safe. But if you want to avoid ending up in one, don't be a moron. Don't take unnecessary risks or let yourself get so drunk that you start making stupid or dangerous decisions.

The fear of coming home

A less-obvious fear that sometimes accompanies long-term travel is the fear of what will happen after the adventure is over. If you quit a job to travel, how will that lapse affect your prospects of finding work?

Solution: Despite the rather widespread belief in America that travel is largely a waste of time, don't look at it that way. Travel is one of the best educational experiences a person can have, and the skills you pick up while navigating the world can often translate back to your life at home. Instead of worrying about how taking time off to travel will look on your resume, consider how your experiences abroad can actually set you apart from others.

The bottom line here is that, yes, travel can be scary for a variety of reasons. But I implore those of you out there who are scared about some aspect of travel to set aside your fears and JUST DO IT.

Because, as they say, “When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did.

Don't let not traveling be one of your regrets.

——

What's your take? What do you fear about travel, and how do you overcome it?

52 Comments

  • Yes! I agree. I ran into these fears, and for a bit, they were holding me back. I felt like, in order to avoid most chaos, I had to travel with a huge group of friends. But of course, most of my friends were not interested. So at 20, I finally broke away. Now I’ve been drifting for 2 years and digging every second of it.

    Great article! I hope those who have the travel bug will find inspiration in your words!
    Kae Lani | A Travel Broad recently posted..Sankt Pauli Soccer

    • DangerousBiz says:

      That’s great that you decided to set out on your own! Sometimes all you need to do is make the firm decision to do it… and the rest just kind of falls into place, and it all doesn’t seem so daunting anymore!

  • Laurence says:

    Great post Amanda. It’s easy to put roadblocks in front of ourselves that stop us from achieving our dreams, and just as easy to let others do the same thing. As you (and Nike!) say.. just do it!
    Laurence recently posted..7 Super Shots

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Laurence! And yes, letting the fears and roadblocks get in the way is often much easier than figuring out how to get around them, but it’s so worth it! (As I’m sure you can attest to!)

  • Ryan Brown says:

    Awesome advice Amanda. Being that I just struggled with Culture Shock, I understand now that fear plays a huge part in travel. They go hand in hand. But great you posted possible solutions, because when I fell into the dumps while traveling alone, I was lost.

    My biggest fear initially was losing the security you have when you are home, in a safety bubble. What about money, what happens if I can’t work? Even what if I don’t like it? Sometime irrational thoughts, but you need to use the fear as leverage, and once you overcome your fears it is exhilarating!

    Thanks!
    Ryan Brown recently posted..My Quote: The Scribe.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Even seasoned travelers suffer from some amount of fear and uncertainty sometimes. Some people are just better at powering through the fear than others! But powering through is really the only solution if you’re serious about making travel a major part of your life.

      I hope you’ve gotten over the culture shock and are enjoying yourself again now!

  • Arti says:

    This is an amazing post Amanda, with the advice it becomes even better!!!
    People usually have some of those fears especially I have seen the fear of food. But it is so much fun travelling and exploring!
    Wish you a wonderful sunday Amanda:)
    Arti recently posted..The Village Woman By The Riverside

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Glad you liked it, Arti! There are many things to be scared of in the world, and I think the number only increases when you think about traveling somewhere foreign to you! But I think overcoming those sorts of fears are so rewarding.

  • Ruth says:

    Amanda,
    Certainly, there are a lot of fears that can stop somebody to travel. However, I think anybody can overcome the travel related fears or at least be able to managed them. For example, I don’t like to fly but I manage to do two or three trips a year. You just have to travel a little bit to realize everything is going to be ok. Additionally, danger is everywhere not only abroad (I don’t want to be pessimistic but this is true). The other day a helicopter crashed at one of the buildings were I work. So, our known environment is not necessarily safer than others.
    Ruth recently posted..Exotic Flowers of Rio de Janeiro

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I totally agree — all these fears are very easy to overcome if you really want to travel. I just feel like a lot of people allow these fears to become excuses for why they don’t travel. And that shouldn’t be the case!

      Also a good point about our known environment being just as dangerous — that was the point I was trying to make by saying that you’re much more likely to die in a car crash on your way to work than you are in a plane crash or other travel disaster!

  • Ayngelina says:

    I find all of these practical reasons are just masking the real reason not to travel – the fear of the unknown. I know you spent quite a bit of time in New Zealand and I did a trip there for 4 weeks as well, I think it’s one of the perfect places for novice travelers to get acquainted with backpacking in a safe country.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: Pulled Pork Poutine

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Most fears have to do with being afraid of the unknown or the unfamiliar. Or just not being in control of situations (I think that’s why a lot of people are afraid of flying, personally). And it’s understandable to be a little apprehensive about the unknown — I am too, sometimes!

      And New Zealand would indeed be the perfect place for someone to get their feet wet with international travel. It’s pretty far from home for everyone except the Aussies, yet, like you said, it’s safe and very easy to get around.

  • Andrea says:

    It’s interesting – the more I travelled the less I felt fearful. Reading this list, I’m just as afraid of these things happening in a place where I live as I am afraid that they could happen travelling. Great post!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I’m the same as you — the fears definitely lessen the more that I travel. Granted, I don’t think I’ve traveled to any truly “scary” destinations, and yet friends and family often tell me how brave I am for traveling solo to the other side of the world. I don’t really look at it that way, but those sorts of comments always remind me that the fears really do exist.

  • Wanderplex says:

    Great post and I liked that you provided practical “solutions” to each of the fears. I think a lot of people are afraid generally of all the unknowns associated with travel and just throw it into the too-hard basket, but you showed there are ways of overcoming many of the common fears. It’s so important to remember that bad things can happen to you anywhere (including your own, supposedly safe neighborhood) and even if you’re not alone (you could get pick-pocketed when traveling in a group). You just have to prepare, and then jump in!
    Wanderplex recently posted..The fine art of getting electricity at the airport

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks! Most of these fears can easily be overcome if you just approach them logically. And hopefully this post can help people realize that!

  • Leah says:

    This post is right on. In fact, It’s so frustrating to see people miss opportunities due to fear. With out risk there is no reward.
    Leah recently posted..A Gringa’s Guide to Rio’s Carnival Parades

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Amen, sister! I couldn’t agree more. If you never take risks, you’ll never get that sense of accomplishment that comes along with taking on and overcoming challenges!

  • Julia says:

    I am totally with you — the fear does it. But there’s all kinds of travel — I might be scared of being a short-term traveler, but oddly being an expat is so much less scary (maybe it’s the idea of finding a real community). Sometimes we bloggers get stuck in thinking that all travel is backpacking and RTW trips!
    Julia recently posted..Link time!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Very true, Julia! There are all sorts of different types of travel. Though, I’m sure that others would feel the complete opposite of you, and think that being an expat would be much scarier than traveling short-term!

  • Great post! Very inspirational! I have a little bit of a fear of solo travel, but I am going to force myself to get over it. I have 5 weeks in the Pacific islands which I will do solo, and then a good half of my three month Australia trip will be solo as well….. EEK
    Jade – OurOyster.com recently posted..The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly – A Completely Personalized Guide To Save YOU Money

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I think solo travel breeds a lot of fear! It even makes me nervous sometimes, even though I’ve done it plenty before! But you’ll be just fine, and you’ll be so happy you overcame the fear!!

  • Sabrina says:

    Great post! Who, even among people who travel a lot, hasn’t been afraid of some of these things in the past? It’s so easy to let your fears stop you from doing what you want to do – at home and on the road. I think sometimes it’s wise to listen to your gut instinct to keep you out of potentially bad situations, especially when you’re traveling, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid everything.
    Sabrina recently posted..Only in Texas: Crazy Big Trucks

  • Linda says:

    Excellent post. I think the sad thing is too many people put off doing what they really want to do and going where they would like to go for far too long. I’d encourage everyone to heed Amelia Earhart’s words “When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it” – you may never get the chance again!
    Linda recently posted..Where to Fly to – Linz

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Very wise words you quoted, Linda! And I definitely agree — don’t put any adventures off for “later” for any reason, because “later” may never come!

  • Cherina says:

    Really great post, Amanda. I think that fear of the unknown is what holds so many people back, and not just in travel. Starting small is good idea – going somewhere similar to your own culture, same language etc and finding your feet a little before venturing outside your comfort zone. Especially if you are travelling alone. And I totally agree with doing it NOW, not later. Some really good advice here!
    Cherina recently posted..Long-Haul Travel: A Frequent Flyer’s Survival Guide. PART II

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Glad you agree with some of my suggestions, Cherina! I feel like a lot of people assume you can only “travel” if you’re willing to step WAY outside your comfort zone. But of course that isn’t true at all!

  • Well this post feels oddly familiar 😉 Nice roundup!
    Brooke vs. the World recently posted..Saturday Snap: Love Is in the Air (Ukrainian Brides and Grooms)

  • joe wong says:

    Everything you mention is so true. At some point we all find excuses for not doing what you want. Life is too short to live it in fear. Lets get out there and explore the world. Keep having fun! 🙂
    joe wong recently posted..Visiting Incredible Fairy Tale Destinations

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Yup, there are ALL sorts of excuses out there — for everything. But, like you said, life is too short for all of that!

  • Angie Away says:

    Pretty much all of these things have happened to me… but I survived and I’m so glad I didn’t let fear keep me from traveling! Great post.
    Angie Away recently posted..The Wild Side of a Home Stay in Kenya | Part 2

  • I never had any of those fears back when I use to travel more. I guess I was young and stupid. There are plenty of bad things that can happen on your travels and having a fear of them is only a bad thing when it prevents you from traveling to begin with. Having a fear of something is completely healthy and actually forces us to prepare for whatever situations we’re afraid of.
    Lawrence Michaels recently posted..Phuket Beaches Guide

    • DangerousBiz says:

      That’s really great that you’ve always been a fearless traveler! Not everyone is like that, unfortunately.

  • Shezza says:

    make sure to always get a local map (that you can read)

    Lol… I love it!!!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Well it’s true! If, for example, you get a map in Russia that’s all in Cyrillic, chances are it won’t help you out very much unless you can read the Cyrillic alphabet! 😉

  • Lori says:

    Another fabulous post! Great advice! I had no one to go on my dream trip to Paris with, so I found a group tour and went that way. Best thing I ever did. I made some fabulous friends who I am still in close contact with. Doing this gave me the confidence to do more on my own.

  • Alex Saad says:

    Haha. I completely agree. I have a ‘fear of traveling with other people’!! I just have so much more fun traveling by myself because you dont have to deal with anyone and the time is 100% yours. You dont like a museum – you leave, you want to eat Indian curry – you go do it, you love a particular city – you stay longer. No big deal. You dont have to respond to anyone. I recommend friends to always stay in hostels because you always meet cool people that you can hangout with and you would be surprised but most people staying at hostels are solo travelers from my experience.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I can understand that. Traveling solo does definitely carry with it a certain independence. But I quite like traveling with others from time to time, too, just to have people to share the adventure with!

  • Good advice, no one should let their fears stop them from seeing the world! I just wrote about some of my fears while traveling, they’re a little more odd ball, and out there, but I think making it funny helps 🙂 Check it out and let me know what you think. http://www.cameraandcarryon.com/travel-fears-and-crazy-thoughts/
    Shannon // Camera & Carry On recently posted..Honest to Goodness Fears & Crazy Person Thoughts I’ve Had While Traveling

  • Isabel says:

    Thank you for all your kind words. I am on a plane on my way to the Bahamas and will making this solo trip for a week. I was about to walk out of the airport and abort my mission before I stumbled upon this site.

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