How Can I Overcome My Fear of Traveling?
Too many people suffer needlessly for, while they desire to see new places far away, they always hold the question in their minds “How can I overcome my fear of traveling?”
Ten Countries and Counting
As a guy who’s been to ten countries personally and lived abroad for over four years, I have unfortunately known or met quite a good bit of people whose desires to visit here or other places abroad are overcome by crippling fear. What’s amazing is that even though I held similar fears and overcame them, it is still not always enough to motivate others to overcome their fear of going abroad.
I’m going to make three main suggestions for how you can overcome your fear of travel, or how you can help someone else to overcome their fears of going abroad.
Before we go into the suggestions, I want you to know that almost ten years ago, I suffered a surprise divorce and child custody filing by my wife of almost ten years, which effectively took my daughter from me (my best friend at the time, seriously!) and set about a chain of events that both crashed my life and changed me forever–for the better. These were by far the most challenging and difficult times I’ve ever faced in my life, and that’s saying something, considering how traumatic my childhood was. It was so difficult that even my best friend of almost twenty years couldn’t stand to see me the way I was and just avoided me altogether. Nevertheless, I managed to get my act together, go back to school to finish my degree, move abroad, teach English, and add five more countries to my list.
So, I guess you COULD say that because of my harsh life experiences, I was conditioned so that moving abroad didn’t seem as daunting to me. Well, maybe! I won’t rule it out because I do feel that it caused me to become VERY dissatisfied with many things–enough so to really look forward to leaving. Actually, I was so anxious to leave that even as I was sitting on the airplane to Tokyo with a great friend beside me, I still felt like I might not be able to go.
Thus is the Power of Fear
First off, realize that fear is not reality–it is fake. Created from our own ignorance, misguided notions, low self-confidence, or any variety of past experiences or conditioned, learned behaviors, fear stands up under one power and that is the power that we give to it. We ourselves both create and perpetuate fear. We make it and feed it. In order to overcome your fear of travel, you’ll have to take some specific, measured, and purposeful steps.
Suggestion One: Lean on a Stronger, Experienced, and Positive Friend
I still remember back when I was finishing up my last year at my university. I made a new friend there who was much younger than I but a highly talented artist. At first, there were times when I felt he was a bit too forward, but I came to realize it was just a combination of lack of experience and, in all truth, he was a lot like me. In other words, he was opinionated and wasn’t scared to express his thoughts when he felt like he understood what we were discussing. It wasn’t long before he was attending some local art events and other activities with me and a couple of other friends of mine, all of whom became friends with him as well (I have good friends).
One day, I invited him to attend a music concert with me in a larger city that was about three-hours’ drive from where we lived. I was a bit surprised when he expressed his nervousness at going, as he hadn’t been much of anywhere outside this area. Still, I urged him to go and was even providing the means of transportation. By this time, he considered me an active and social guy–which is quite funny because I used to be the typical, withdrawn and socially-opposed Pisces type until my complete destruction–so he mentioned it to his parents. They seemed ecstatic that he had a chance to get out of the city and spread his wings a bit, so to speak. Knowing that he was with a friend they’d already heard good things about, they were very encouraging. The result was that we had a great trip and not only enjoyed some amazing symphonic metal from Europe–something uncommon for most in the US–we got to meet the group, make unforgettable memories, and grow.
The following year, I made my move to Asia and my friend was brave enough to jump on the first leg of my trip with me and spend a week following me around in Tokyo, Japan as he enjoyed beautiful sites, snow, and his first time out of his country.
To this day, he still talks sometimes about how I changed his life. The funny thing is that I wanted to, even though he hadn’t directly asked me to do so. There were times when he did say things like “I wish I could be as social as you are,” or “I wish that I was as adventurous as you.” I guess I took this as my own personal mission to help him obtain that which he obviously wanted. I wanted him to get to where I was but as soon as possible, rather than waiting until something had derailed him twenty years later. He depended on me and I was there to answer the call, as I still would be.
Takeaways for Step One:
1. Tap a friend who is more outgoing and ask to go places with them.
2. Make it clear that your desire is to be more adventurous and brave like them–this will incline them to be endeared to you and help you.
3. Be sure to tell your friend to feel free to push you out of your comfort zone! I didn’t need to be told to push my friend–it was natural for me–but some might need to be told or given permission.
Suggestion Two: Start Out Small, Then Scale Up
I became a lot more active as I emerged from the flames of my divorce and trauma, not only going back to the university but expanding my artistic abilities in drawing, writing, film, digital editing for video and images, and getting involved with social events within and without my school. My friend slowly made his way into these circles and, as one thing led to another, eventually branched out to exploring beyond the city and even country–a process that took less than two years!
If I had asked him to go with me to the other city within a short time after meeting, no doubt he would’ve passed. If I had gone to Japan much earlier than originally planned, he would’ve laughed in my face. Perhaps he would’ve even said that such a thing would never happen. I wouldn’t have doubted it, as I used to think similar things myself.
You Are Not a Disappointment
You should feel proud of yourself already because you have taken the first steps toward killing your created fear by finding this article. Now, keep it in mind that you’re something to be proud of and far from a disappointment. Everyone has a different disposition but we can mold ourselves as we choose. Now that you’ve taken this first step and will be tapping a friend to help you with that travel fear, you can build on that foundation by branching out and venturing further away each time.
First, make a list of the places you want to go and do not think about how far they are. Rather, just make your dream list as you can think of them and THEN categorize the according to distance. If the closest locale seems to daunting for you to go with your friend, then pick a place closer–not too close–and plan an outing with your supportive bud. After this, you can plan another one at your first location or somewhere in-between. From there, you can scale up! See? It’s easy to overcome your fear of traveling when you’re actually traveling!
Final Suggestion: Study Before You Go, Then Share Your Experiences After You Return
The main thing that causes people to fear is lack of knowledge/understanding. You can easily decrease the fear of traveling to a new place or eliminate it completely by simply researching before you go! I’ve spent so much time in China and Japan since 2013 that I have confidence enough to travel freely without thinking much about what’s there (apart from what I want to see, of course!). I make my standard bookings and off I go. It’s said that the main cause of nervousness in public speaking is lack of familiarity with one’s topic. Translate this into fear of travel and you can see how the two are connected, right? I’d recommend watching some vloggers on YouTube who’ve been to the areas you’re scoping out. This is a great way to actually SEE the place and get a feel for what’s there and what to expect. Note: steer clear of the negative peeps! They are sprinkled here and there on the internet and can really sour your attitude about your chose destination if you’re not careful!
Be sure to share your travel experiences with friends and family–but only after there’s no turning back. I’ve seen many people share their “plans” but those plans never came to fruition because they allowed their fears to win out. Wait until you’re basically on your way and you’re no doubt to get a ton of support and friendly jealousy remarks, which feels great! Document your trip and share it with others. You may know this already but by sharing your experiences, others are encouraged to follow your lead! Be an inspiration and others will connect with you, which will boost your confidence and increase your desire to do it again!
Which city or location you choose isn’t as important as who you are. You can overcome your fear of traveling by simply integrating our simple tips:
1) Tap a Positive Friend as a Travel Companion
2) Start off Small and Close, Then Scale Up
3) Study Before You Go, Share Your Experiences
From WhichCity to you, congratulations on the new you–you’re already well on your way!