Don’t Be a Scaredy Cat – Just Travel

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

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.

Horseshoe Bend in Arizona

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.

RELATED: The World is Not Safe – But You Should Explore it Anyway

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

Common travel fears and how to overcome 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.

Intrepid group on Nile cruise
Me with a group in Egypt

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.

Riding the Rocky Mountaineer train

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.

Cao lau in Hoi An

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, get yourself a theft-proof backpack or purse.

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.

Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook

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. And make sure you have travel insurance to cover any accidents if they do happen.

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.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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57 Comments on “Don’t Be a Scaredy Cat – Just Travel

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  1. The fear of leaving my aging cat at home 🙁 The only options seem to be a twice-daily pet sitter, which isn’t enough supervision given her health issues, or boarding at the vet, which stresses her out. Either way, I can’t handle the anxiety and guilt. Any advice?

      That’s a tough one! And if you’re feeling that much guilt about leaving her, that might not be something you can get over. Have you ever tried looking into hiring a housesitter for the entire time you’d be gone? A housesitter is different than a petsitter in that they actually live in your house the whole time you’re gone in order to take care of your home and your pet(s). That’s the only solution I can really think of!

    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.

      Go for it, Isabel! I doubt you’ll regret it!

    […] Fear and being nervous are natural when it comes to traveling. I’m not any braver than you are (no matter what you tell me). There have been several times when I’ve seriously considered canceling a trip at the last minute because I was scared. Scared of the unknown, mostly, because travel is full of unknowns. It’s pushing through this fear and nervousness that really make you brave. […]

    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.

      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!

    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.

      Awesome, Lori! That’s a great approach to traveling when you don’t have anyone to travel with!

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

    Lol… I love it!!!

      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! 😉

    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.

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

    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.

      Good for you, Angie!! I think more people need to realize how rewarding it can be to face your fears.

    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! 🙂

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

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