How To Overcome Your Fear Of Traveling

I often receive emails from people who have read articles about my trips telling me how much they want to travel, but how scared they are to actually take the plunge. Many are terrified of flying, while others think they’re too old. Moreover, some people are worried they won’t be able to afford it, will become culture shocked or may jeopardize their safety. While these fears are natural, they are unnecessary and are holding you back from experiencing the world.

Do you want to book a trip, but are nervous? Use these tips to overcome your fear of traveling.

Realize Your Fear Is Inhibiting You From Fully Living

Think about it. If travel is something you dream about doing, but you’re not traveling because you’re scared, you aren’t living your life fully. You’re keeping yourself from being complete. There really is no reason to do this, especially since booking a trip is as simple as logging onto an airline website and choosing a flight. Of course, being a first-time traveler you’ll probably want to have everything planned out, but this isn’t a requirement. I’ve gone to many destinations with absolutely nothing booked and had a fantastic time.

The most recent example of this was when I flew to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. I had no idea what I would see or where I would stay, and carried only a backpack. It soon became clear, as I stood alone near the taxi stand, I was the only traveler who had not pre-booked a cruise. One other traveler came up to me, curious about where I was going in a taxi.”Where are you staying?” she asked.

I smiled politely. “Wherever the taxi driver takes me.”

She looked concerned, but continued her questioning. “What tours are you doing? Are you visiting any other islands? Who are you traveling with?”

“I don’t know. Probably. Just myself.”

The woman was flabbergasted. She couldn’t understand how I possibly got on an airplane by myself and arrived in the Galapagos Islands without any plans. My strategy? Using common sense and not allowing fear to get in my way.

By the way, the trip ended up being fantastic. The taxi driver helped me find a hotel with rooms for $25 a night, I made new local friends who showed me around the island and had unique experiences like swimming with sharks, hiking up volcanoes, snorkeling with sea lions and visiting the recently-deceased Lonesome George on Santa Cruz island.

Start Small Or Jump Right In

For your first trip, it can be helpful to choose somewhere close in proximity and culture to yourself. If you’ve never traveled domestically, why not head over to the opposite coast for a long weekend, just to test the waters. Even better, choose a different country where you’ll at least be able to communicate with locals. If you’re scared of traveling, booking a trip to China or Africa, where the cultures are very different from Western ideology, could be unsettling for a first timer.

That being said, diving right in and booking a trip somewhere exotic and remote can help you realize your full potential right away. For example, when I traveled to Ghana to do orphanage work, a friend of mine who had never been out of our home state of New York came along. While the other volunteers had all backpacked and lived abroad, my friend proudly confided in the group this was her first travel experience. We spent a month living with locals, working with children and touring the country. She had a great time, even crying at the end of the trip because she didn’t want to leave. It’s no surprise that since then she’s traveled to Asia and Central America with confidence.

Read Travel Blogs

I’m guessing you’re probably already doing this if you’re reading this article. My point is, reading inspirational travel stories from others who have already traveled can help assuage your fears. You’re not the first person to do this, and seeing visual proof will make it clearer that it is possible. Better yet, if you can talk to an avid traveler in person, or even go on a trip with them, you’ll see your fears aren’t necessary. For example, last year I booked a one-month backpacking trip through Spain, France and the United Kingdom. My friends wanted to come with me, but were nervous about backpacking, taking off from work and staying in hostels. I assured them everything would be fine, and when we got to Europe they loved every second of the backpacking experience.

Look At The Odds

Realistically, most of peoples’ fears are not logical. For example, the likelihood of dying in a plane crash is 1 in 1.7 million to 1 in 29.4 million, depending on the airline’s accident rate. Moreover, as long as you’re not traveling to a war-torn country, you’ll most likely be able to keep yourself safe. Just because you hear one story in the news about a murder doesn’t mean people are being killed on every street corner. I know this situation very well, as my father watches the news incessantly and always has an opinion about the place I am traveling to. Being from New York, I find it ironic that he’ll hear about an armed robbery in Germany and then deem the country unsafe, even though crime happens on a daily basis in our home state. Another example is when I was in Tarifa, Spain, and told him I would be taking a day trip to Morocco.

“Don’t eat the food there!” he warned. “Uncle John went and got food poisoning last summer.”

He seemed to have forgotten the times him and I both had been struck with food poisoning from restaurants 20 minutes from home. Just be realistic, and stop letting one bad story or misconception scare you away from traveling.

Make A List Of All The Places You Dream Of Seeing

Maybe you’ve always fantasized about hiking the Inca Trail, or seeing history first hand at the Roman Colosseum. Now, imagine exactly how moving it would be to actually experience these places in real life. The truth is, no matter how many times you look at HDR photography and video of a place, it can never compare to how awe-inspiring it is to see a sight in person. Make a list of all your bucket list destinations, and realize there is no reason you can’t experience them all.

Think Of Travel As A Growing Experience

For some people, thinking about the benefits of
doing something, even if it makes them nervous, can help push them in the right direction. As mentioned earlier, the best part about travel is it makes your life more enriching. Additionally, there are many other ways travel helps you grow. First of all, seeing a foreign place and culture can really open your eyes to how other people live. In spiritual Thailand, I learned a lot about Buddhism, while doing orphanage work in Ghana I became thankful for everything I had. In Italy, I adapted to the thought process of not needing to feel like I had to do something to deserve a reward, like a massage or a glass of wine. If I wanted these things, no justification was necessary.

Traveling also makes you more adaptable, a better planner, hones your negotiating skills and gives you the ability to problem solve. Additionally, you’ll become better at budgeting, while a broader view of the world will enhance your conversational skills. And the more you travel, the more you will grow.

Travel, And Travel Often

Once you book that first trip, you’ll begin to realize travel isn’t as scary as you originally envisioned. Furthermore, the more you travel, the more you’ll see what you’re capable of. Pretty soon, you’ll be completely fearless when it comes to packing your bags and leaving home.

Know You’ll Have One Less Life Regret

Life isn’t perfect, and it never will be. It’s inevitable there will be opportunities you’ll miss out on and chances you didn’t take. The important thing is to limit these possible regrets. Don’t let the fact you didn’t travel be something you look back on one day and say, “I really wish I would have done that.”

If Worst Comes To Worst, You Can Always Fly Home

I’ve gotten this question many times before going on extended backpacking trips.

“But, what if you hate it in South America? You’ll be stuck there for three months!”

The truth is, I arrived to the continent on an airplane, and I can easily leave at any time using the same method. While I would only recommend leaving your trip early if you’re truly unhappy or have an emergency at home, the option to fly back is always there. If you’re a first time traveler, give yourself a few days to adjust to your new surroundings. Don’t bail at the first feeling of discomfort; however, be comforted by the fact you always have a possible exit strategy.

You should never let fear hold you back from traveling. Once you book your first trip and get over there, you’ll realize most of your fears were nothing to worry about in the first place.

[Images via Big Stock, Chris Hunkeler, Jessie on a Journey, puddy_uk]