Fear and Travel
For as long as I can remember fear and travel have been inextricably linked. No matter how exciting or fun a vacation was there has always been an element of fear. Perhaps it has to do with my propensity to be scared of, well just about everything, but for most humans, travel, despite its many positives is rife with the unknown. This sense of mystery is no doubt a part of what makes going to a new place so enjoyable, but it can also be downright terrifying.
As a child most of my trips were spent visiting family and although I came to know the places we visited quite well there was always a little (or sometimes big) knot in my stomach as we entered a new country. New places are full of opportunity and excitement, but they also mean opening yourself up to a wide range of unfamiliar experiences. Nowadays the innate discomfort of traveling to a new place has also been exacerbated by an increasingly violent world. It’s easy to look at a city and only see the dangers it presents, however in reality even your own home has dangerous elements.
In recent years I have slowly begun to feel a little less scared of travel and a little more open to the unknown. As I’ve gotten older it has become clear to me that the positives undoubtedly outweigh the possible negatives of exploring a new place. Sure, it’s scary and you never really know what could happen, but it’s also an experience you’ll likely never forget.
With that in mind here are three key travel practices that have helped me offset the inescapable discomfort that comes with venturing into an unknown locale.
One of the most important elements of becoming more comfortable with the unfamiliar is trust. Always travel with people you know you can rely on, otherwise the trip will become even more difficult. Having someone to talk to or hold your hand (literally or figuratively) in difficult situations can make a world of difference. If you’re traveling on your own, trust your own instincts. Don’t doubt yourself while you’re away. If you’re alone your senses are probably going to be heightened so have confidence in your ability to read situations and solve any problem you may run into.
Even if you’re not worried about traveling, planning is a key part of preparing for any trip. Familiarize yourself with the culture, climate and landscape of the place you’ll be visiting. You’d be surprised how many uncomfortable situations can be avoided if you simply take the time to gain a deeper understanding of the place you’re in. Be humble and kind and always acknowledge that you may not be fully aware of all the cultural norms, especially if you’re in a place that is quite different from your home.
If you’ve done sufficient research about the place you’re visiting you should know enough about it to allow yourself to be a little spontaneous. Maybe choose a neighborhood you’re interested in and explore with no set plan. Getting more comfortable with unknowns on a smaller scale will help you become more at ease with the larger and scarier unknowns. Plus, the best experiences are always unplanned, so allow yourself to be free and fully immersed in this new place.
Travel can be a life changing experience, but it can also be extremely scary, especially if your personality lends itself well to stress and anxiety. However, with a little preparation and bravery any trip can be fun! There will always be unknowns and traveling will likely always be a little fear inducing, but in the end it’s almost always worth the risk.