Fear: The Enemy of Travel

It never ceases to amaze me how much fear people have about traveling.  I’m tempted to just roll my eyes and think, “silly ignorant Americans,” but then I realize I too once shared that fear of traveling.  We fear the unknown and for most Americans, the unknown is the rest of the world.

Of course we can thank the media for some of that fear.  If we were to believe everything we see on the news we’d never leave the house.  Apparently airplanes crash regularly, the entire world hates Americans, the French hate tourists, terrorists are everywhere, and a woman can’t travel alone for fear of being kidnapped and turned into a sex slave.

Really, people?

Like I said though, I was too in this situation.  I was 23 when I booked my first ticket to Europe with a friend.  I wasn’t too nervous since I had somebody to accompany me but he had to cancel his trip about two days before it was set to begin.  Suddenly I was alone with no itinerary, a bad weather forecast and a news report that a bomb was found under train tracks somewhere in France.

I was scared as hell.  I stayed up all night before my early morning departure.  Packed and ready to go, I sat and weighed all the options.  Really, there weren’t any.  Either go, or don’t go and eat the $600 I paid for my ticket.

In the end everything worked out well.  The weather was clear as can be, the exact opposite of the forecast.  No trains blew up and the French were actually pretty cool and respected my semester of college French that was so bad it should have been laughed at.

I’ve been reading a great book recently by Seth Godin called Tribes.  It’s not about travel, it’s about marketing in this new digital age but yesterday it started to make me think about the fear I see all the time with people who have not done any traveling outside of their comfort zone.

Talking about the workplace or various positions of leadership, Godin says that fear is the biggest obstacle slowing or stopping people from succeeding.  Most people are very comfortable doing their same, often meaningless, job for years on end if there is no risk.  They fear thinking outside the box, doing more than is required from them, or speaking up when their opinion not popular.

Could you imagine if that wasn’t the norm?

Overcoming the fear

How does Godin recommend for overcoming the fear?  While he is talking about the workplace, these same concepts can be applied to anything in your life, especially travel.

First, talk yourself out of being afraid.  It’s amazing what some positive reinforcement can do, even if it is internal.

Second, understand that fear will always be there learn how to recognize it.  This is often more difficult to do than it sounds.  Do you act differently when you are afraid?  Maybe you stutter, start sweating, or simply give up under the pressure.

Third, once you accept that fear will always be present, learn how to drown it out.  You know how to recognize it, now learn how to ignore it.

Are you ready?

Probably not.  Are we ever ready for anything life throws at us?  That doesn’t mean you have to be afraid of the unknown though.  Embrace it, live it, and enjoy it.

Get Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin“Tribes is a must read for all of us. It’s up to each one of us to lead in today’s new kind of world.”

—Former U.S. senator Bill Bradley

Buy Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us at Amazon

17 Replies to “Fear: The Enemy of Travel”

  1. The only really scary thing about travel is that a lot of people don’t do it, and our world is frighteningly close-minded because of it.

  2. Hey Jeff,

    I so needed to read this today. I’ve traveled quite extensively independently, but still find fear creeps its ugly head from time to time. Thanks for the “get over it” factor. Happy Travels, Jen

  3. I completely agree with JoAnna – travel is amazing because you return with completely open eyes. Nothing worth doing was ever without fear. It’s best to embrace the butterflies and use the fear to your advantage. Thanks for a great post!

  4. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Kind of funny. Fear of the unknown stops many people from traveling or doing what they love to do. For most people, its the “fear of how will I pay my bills without a new job line up if I move to another state or country,” the fear of not being able to communicate with others in another country,” “the fear of driving or traveling alone to unknown places,” or “the fear that will lose our old friends because we’ve changed so much.”

    Embracing the unknown can be very rewarding. After all, what do you have to lose. At least you can say that you’ve moved around a few times, perhaps to another country. You can say that you’ve visited foreign countries that the media depicts as the most awful, scariest places on Earth. Just go for it and see what happens…

  5. Fear holds many people trapped. It’s like a super glue that you can’t or think you can’t remove. Life’s too short to stay in a job that is not challenging or is not your heart’s desire. Staying in city/state just because your family lives there is crazy. Believe me, I moved away and I’m glad I did. I struggled with moving away, but I’ve found out that that’s common for those use from the Midwest. Apparently, there’s some kind of tie that really binds us even if the family isn’t “healthy” for us.

    Slowly but surely, I’m learning to move forward with my life and do what’s right for me and no one else. I’ve been thinking about moving again. Maybe even to a new country even if it’s the UK or Canada (not too far from U.S.). Who knows what I’ll do, but I’m not letting F.E.A.R (False Evidence Appearing Real) stop me anymore…

  6. My mother is ALWAYS worried I’m going to be kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. Not sure where she got that idea, Law & Order maybe. I don’t have very much fear traveling abroad but I think she does the worrying for both of us.

  7. Just wanted to say thanks for all of your great comments ladies. They’re extremely insightful and I hope people that read this post scroll down and read what you have had to say so far.

    Here’s to great travels regardless of the fears we may hold inside of us.

  8. I had a moment a few months back where I was about to head to Italy on my own, 23 years old and scared to the point of staying in my comfy little bedroom. A good friend sat me down and told me I was going to have the time of my life, and I didn’t really believe him, but he was right!

    The first day was awful, I got lost, couldn’t find my hostel, and sat in tears in Milan wondering what the hell I was doing. Then I found the place, made a friend or two, and saw so many great cities at my own pace. I even got myself on a night train from Rome to Bari, didn’t get kidnapped or even harassed as expected, and look back on the whole thing as a massive learning experience. I think I have just as much chance for something awful to happen in my hometown as I do anywhere else, might as well be eating gelati in Venice if it is going to happen!

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