Why It’s OK To Be Scared To Travel

by Stephanie Walsh · 17 comments

in Travel Thoughts

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It’s OK to be scared to travel.

Traveling, whether for the first or umpteenth time, can be very scary, especially if you haven’t done it for a while.

I get scared before I travel, almost always. In fact, it seems like the more I travel, the more fear I have. I don’t know why. I remember setting off on adventures around Europe with friends when I was 19 and 20 years old, without so much as a second-thought or ‘what if’ passing through my mind.

Struggling To Challenge The ‘What Ifs’

Not that I am now very old or wise in my 25 years , but I feel like I am less carefree and, perhaps, less naive about the world as I embark on new adventures, unsure about what the next few days, weeks or months will have in store for me.

What if something bad happens to me, or at home, while I’m away? What if I don’t like where I’m going? Will it be worth it all? Am I running away from responsibility? Will people think I’m just avoiding reality by travelling so much? Will I be able to make enough money on the road to sustain myself? What will I do if I run out of money?

These incessant nagging worries run through my head before every trip. I worry whether I am making the right decision. I worry that everything could fail and I’ll have to come home with my tail between my legs, admitting that I took the wrong decision, or that I wasn’t able to sustain myself, or that it wasn’t what I had imagined.

I have had these fears of travelling as recently as two months ago, before I set off for Santiago, Chile from my hometown in Ireland. A 33-hour door-to-door solo journey lay ahead of me. I was going, as usual, for an indefinite amount of time, unsure of when I would see my family again, and I had little more than a few hundred Euro in my bank account. Foolish? Maybe. Irresponsible? Probably. Scary? Definitely.

Thankfully, I didn’t see quitting as an option. In the end, there were too many good things that overshadowed any fear I had. However, several times right before a trip I have thought of quitting; of running away and wishing to just go hide under my blankets, safe and warm in my childhood bedroom. Nothing could harm me there. Nothing could go wrong. Even as a 25 year old woman, I still feel this irrational longing when I let fear overcome me.

Safe at home in Ireland, I will not be forced out of my comfort zone. I will not be challenged…I will not do anything. And that’s the problem.

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

It’s so easy to stay in your comfort zone, especially when you’re faced with insecurity, uncertainty and fear. When I am feeling scared, I try to remember previous trips; the wonderful memories, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had. No one ever regrets travelling. I try to remind myself that, usually, from the moment I step outside my front door, the fear slips away and excitement takes hold. I just need to summon the courage to open that door and close it behind me.

Everyone tells you; ‘Stop being afraid! Just go travel!’

I do one of these two things; I travel, but I don’t fully let go of my fear. Instead, I let my fear motivate me. It keeps me alert and aware of the fact that something big is about to happen. It makes me feel alive again.

You don’t feel fear sitting at home watching television, because you are not pushing yourself to experience the world.

Yes, travel can be scary and that’s ok. 

But stagnation, boredom and mediocrity as a lifestyle is scarier.

Fear causes stagnation in life, love, travel and careers.

Fear takes hold when you stop moving, when you stop living and when you stop challenging yourself.

Fear takes hold because you allow yourself to think about what could go wrong, instead of what could go right.

Fear paralyzes you, until one day you wake up and realise it has stopped you from living out your dreams.

Fear ultimately causes regret

So just go. Go hand-in-hand with your fear, embracing it and using it to push you forward rather than back. But just go.

Because regret is something to be far more fearful of than fear itself.

***

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

Dale Carnegie

 

Have you ever been scared before a trip? What did you do to overcome your fear or has it ever kept you from traveling?

Photo Credit: Daniel Weinand

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Naomi April 14, 2014 at 9:56 am

I think it’s more unnatural to have no fear whilst travelling. Travelling at times is so unbelievably scary, I don’t have words to describe it (I was going to write a lovely vulgar expression but I thought best not to!) But what I do know is it’s the fear that pushes me to travels because most of the time the rewards you reap are second none!
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2 Naomi April 14, 2014 at 9:57 am

*travel and *second to none even! I clearly haven’t had enough coffee today.
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3 Stacey April 15, 2014 at 6:53 am

Thank you for posting this! I was recently having a conversation with a friend where I was telling her that it was okay to be scared and admitting she was scared (of anything) would help to make her feel less scared. I might show her this post actually!

I am going to answer the prompt honestly: I have been scared before a trip. I’m going to set off to South and Central America and I am really scared when I think of it.

However, the fear is going away slowly. The more I read and the more I learn the better I feel. I know that the area is not as dangerous as people make it out to be and the people who talk up how dangerous a place is that they have never been are telling you in their own way that they are too scared to go there and want you to share their fears and sympathise with them.

In the past I have travelled Europe, Asia and North America extensively. I was never scared before setting out for any of these trips, I was mostly just nervously excited.

I did deal with other people being scared for me, but that was different to facing your own fears – and overcoming them.
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4 Mandie April 15, 2014 at 8:31 am

Thanks for posting so honestly! The fear does increase as you grow older. I remember setting off across the US as a 20 year old with a few hundred bucks and everything I owned packed in my car. No job lined up or place to stay and I had no fear at all. Now it’s completely different. I worry constantly “what if I can’t make a living being location independent? What if I fail? What if I run out of money?” I use the fear to motivate me – to work harder, learn more, write better. Then I just stay focused on my upcoming adventures. 🙂
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5 Leigh April 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm

I was scared shitless about taking my trip. Like any fear though, the only way to get over it is to just do it and then you realise it’s not really all that bad. I can think of so many fears in my life that were like that for me. We can all frame fear however we want in our minds but at the end of the day it’s doing that will really get you over it.
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6 The Travel Sisters April 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm

On the positive side, your fear probably makes you a well-prepared and more present traveler. As long as you use it to your advantage and not let it keep you from doing what you love it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We find that once we actually arrive at our destination any concerns we had pre-trip tend to disappear.
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7 Maria April 22, 2014 at 8:02 am

“You don’t feel fear sitting at home watching television, because you are not pushing yourself to experience the world.” I like this one!
Stepping out of my comfort zone is the thing that hold me back from many things not only travels and adventures but so much more. In the past few years I’ve been trying to step out of it and every day is a challenge but I learn and it’s worth it. Sometimes I still get back and choose to be comfortable but this moments are less than before.
Nice article! Good luck and greetings from Bulgaria!
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8 Michela of Rocky Travel Blog April 28, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I completely agree that fear takes hold when you focus on the negatives instead you can use its power to push you in the right direction. Very nice post!
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9 Marcell May 2, 2014 at 9:03 am

I’m 3 weeks away from going to South America too – 1-way ticket and hardly $1,000 equivalent. When I booked that airline ticket, it took me an hour to do the final deed – butterflies? Nope, more like a flock of condors circling in my stomach.
Been on the road now for about 14 years and still get well nervous before every trip and during certain stages too – like you said, keeps one sharp…plus fear/nerves is what generates the adrenaline we thrive on.
This is probably why we seldom do exactly the same thing travel-wise twice – bit more comfortable with it and not out of the comfort zone anymore.
Safe travels 🙂 might bump into you in South America.
Cheers
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10 Alicia May 3, 2014 at 6:38 am

I have always been scared before a trip because there are a lot of people to discourage me and to prove them wrong, I always travel when they say do some productive thing rather than traveling.

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11 Marta Kulesza May 3, 2014 at 10:00 pm

“Because regret is something to be far more fearful of than fear itself”. What a great way to end an article. I agree with you 100 %. I always have some negative thoughts before I embark on a longer journey. Mostly about my family. I am scared that something might happen to them whilst I will be far away, but then if I continued think this way I would have probably never left home:)

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12 Suki F May 6, 2014 at 8:21 pm

I ALWAYS get scared before traveling. I have done it a bunch of times but I still get scared. But when you look back to it, it is actually one of the perks of traveling.
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13 The Guy May 7, 2014 at 8:21 am

Whilst I think as whole most people don’t regret travel I’m sure there is the odd trip some people would rather forget.

Overall though I agree with the sentiment that travel will make you a more rounded person, worldly wise, smart, aware, plus someone who can really connect with the world.

Whilst you seem to have more fears than before is this because you are taking on new types of trips? Either way, I suspect the adrenalin and caution raised may make the appreciation at the end even greater?
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14 Dana @ Karon Beach Resort Phuket September 17, 2014 at 2:19 am

I would like to think that having this kind of fear is healthy and it can only mean that we’ve developed a mature thinking since we are no longer naive and ignorant. After reading this article I can say to myself that it is okay to be scared to travel.

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15 Andrew January 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

I’ve travelled by myself before for 1+ month, however I’m starting to feel nervous when trying to commit to the idea of travelling full time and trying to make a living on the road, any advice to getting over this initial fear?

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16 Ellen April 19, 2016 at 8:28 am

Found a flight to Europe with airline of my choice, for an amazing price for summer, great connections, been to Europe 4 times before this and not dangerous destinations, know my dates, have wanted to go to these festivals for over a year and now procrastinating about booking it…it’s fear!! A voice is saying “why am I doing this, “maybe I should be saving money to buy a house” “is this a waste of time/money” “maybe I should grow up”. Hmm, interesting…

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