My big issue with fear and travel

coping with fear and travel

I’ve been trying to finish this post for a month. I don’t think I’ve ever struggled so much trying to put in my words how I feel about fear. But I’m going to try, let’s do this…

Does anyone else have an annoying voice in the back of their head that only appears when it wants to cause you doubt, discomfort, or most importantly, fear?

Nope, just me then? Fabulous. Hearing voices (just one voice guys, I’ve not completely lost my marbles) at the ripe old age of 27 and admitting it publicly? Even better.

You want to climb that mountain? Voice in my head – you definitely can’t. You’re not strong enough and you’ll probably fall off it. Want to go to Iran? Voice in my head – who do you think you are? You’re not a brave journalist. Dream of publishing a book? Voice in my head – you know that no one is going to read it, right? You’re a terrible writer. Why bother trying? GAH.

Thanks so much, I really appreciate the support. Not.

coping with fear and travel

I don’t really know how this happened, but somehow over the past few years, fear and doubt have crept into my life in a way that I have never experienced before. And you know what? It fucking sucks.

I used to jump into everything life offered me with complete abandon. Now? not so much.

I’ve jumped off huge bridges, skydived, climbed really sketchy trails and eaten anything anyone put in front of me. And it wasn’t just physical stuff too; it didn’t even occur to me not to try and make it with my blog or move to Spain after graduation or quit my job to travel. I still traveled even when I had literally no money to my name, knowing deep down that things always sorted themselves out in the end. For the most part. Ah to be young and reckless again.

And while I had plenty of terrible travel fuck ups over the years, things always worked out. I have always believed that fate smiles on those who take chances.

But what happens when you start to worry more and take less chances? Oh crap.

Please tell me I am not the only one who is going through this. I need community.

coping with fear and travel

But somewhere down the line, I started to become more afraid of things that never scared me before. Whether it was something physical that I now considered dangerous or going after a dream that seemed too impossible, fear has carved itself its own little goddamn studio apartment in the back of my head and made itself at home.

While I can’t pinpoint exactly when this transformation happened, I think was around when I turned 25 and quit my job. Also, for those of you who have put up with me on this blog for years, you might also remember that was the time I fell off a camel in Jordan and almost broke my back.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I *think* that might have something to do with it. At least with being afraid of physical adventures. I am certainly now terrified of camels as well as falling off things, that’s for sure. But also I am becoming more cautious with trying new things (especially physical things) and also going after my dreams.

coping with fear and travel

For example I have been approached about writing a book a few times, and what have I done? ZIP. I’m terrified. TERRIFIED.

Age, I imagine, is also a key player. Isn’t that what people are always saying? You grow more cautious as you grow older? Well, I reckon the journey to becoming fearful doesn’t matter as much as what the fuck am I supposed to do now?

Seriously guys, WHAT NOW? Do I just warmly embrace my newfound caution and fear, or try and get over it? Or attempt to strike a healthy balance between the two.

coping with fear and travel

Tangent: Now, I’ve just finished the most amazing book that talks about living with fear and how to still live a creative life – it’s called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (who wrote Eat, Pray, Love) – and oh my giddy god is it phenomenal.

In fact, it’s so good it’s the first book I’ve read since Harry Potter that I’ve intentionally read slowly just to savor its amazing message. I bought it on my Kindle, started it on a flight, then bought a hard copy at the airport after I landed because it was so good I needed to hold it and smell the paper. Then I read it again. It gave me shivers.

I don’t normally read nonfiction, but seriously guys, if you consider yourself to be a creative (or you wish to be), put it on your reading list NOW. You can thank me later.

coping with fear and travel

Jacket by Parajumpers

Anyway, in the book my fellow Liz talks about how to deal with fear. Perfect timing or what guys?

In the beginning she talks about how it’s important to live a life based on curiosity than on fear. Makes sense, right? I like to think I’ve always been a curious person. I always want to see what’s around the corner, want to know why things are the way they are, and am eager to try new things. For the most part.

However, fear has decided to join the party and often now gets in the way of my bigger curiosities. I want to see what’s at the top of that mountain but I’m afraid I can’t get there so I don’t try. Or sometimes I’ll compromise and climb a smaller mountain.

Confession – I’ve become a bit of a wuss. I’m afraid every time I put on my snowboard. I’m afraid every time I try something new. I find that I really have to force myself now to try new things.

I really noticed when I was in Canada in January. I could have had the opportunity to go ice climbing and I didn’t because I was afraid – I didn’t think I could do it, and I thought I was too weak. Upper body strength HA.

What have I become? I would have jumped all over that ice waterfall 3 years ago.

coping with fear and travel

Well, fear is complicated. Obviously.

These physical fears of things I don’t think I can do but are completely within the realm of reason are driving me nuts and holding me back. I’m determined to conquer it this year if I can, and I reckon Liz Gilbert has the right idea.

Fear will always be there. It’s not a question of becoming fearless but learning to accept that fear is there, it’s part of your life and it’s not going anywhere, but it should NEVER be in charge or have a say in making creative decisions.

It’s time to be brave, guys.

coping with fear and travel

At the same, just to make things even more complicated, I’d like to think that travel has helped me deal with fears over the years. For example, there are some things that never occur to me could be scary that I do all the time because I’ve gotten so used to them traveling.

The obvious example to this is the fact that I travel the world alone. As a woman.

In fact, I think that’s something that truly surprises people and when I share that little tidbit to folks I meet on the road, I am often met with skepticism and the usual “wow aren’t you afraid?”

coping with fear and travel

Every time I log on to my computer I am reminded constantly that we live in a screwed up world. Everything is negative, and travel is often discouraged. And don’t even get me started about women traveling alone. I swear I’ll never hear the end of it (MOM).

I haven’t been afraid to travel alone for as long as I can remember. I don’t know if I ever was afraid actually. The first trip I took was by myself to Paris in 2007 for a weekend. And I only did it because no one else in my study abroad program would come with me. Well screw that, I wanted to go to Paris so I was going to take myself to Paris!

Now that I think back, I was only a bit afraid when I ended up missing the last night bus to the airport where I was planning on sleeping, and I ended up walking the streets all night around the bus station because I had no where to go and couldn’t afford a hotel. And even then, thinking back, I reckon I was just tired.

coping with fear and travel

But I digress.

Every trip I took taught me something. Every fuck up I had on the road taught me a lesson. I suppose in a weird way it taught me confidence, not something I have in abundance, that’s for sure. But I am confident with my ability to travel.

I learned to deal with travel fears early on, and now I need to learn to deal with my other fears, mainly the fear that I am not physically capable of doing something I want, like a hard hike or improving at snowboarding. But also how to deal with my fear that I won’t be able to go after my big creative dreams.

coping with fear and travel

I think people who travel are inherently brave at heart. You pretty much have to be to step out into the unknown, right?

Like Liz Gilbert says so eloquently, you need to be brave to live a creative life, fear is the death of creativity.

Well I don’t know about you guys, but I want to live the most imaginative, creative possible so I need to learn to deal with all this fear and negativity and to learn to believe in myself again and believe in my dreams. One step at a time.

So when that ice wall popped up again on my trip to Finland in March, I knew I wasn’t allowed to wuss out twice, so I went for it.

coping with fear and travel

Since then, I’m working on getting fitter by joining a gym in Wanaka (and doing group fitness, something I’ve never done ever) so that I’ll feel stronger and more comfortable doing more physically demanding activities when I’m traveling and being adventurous around New Zealand. I think if I feel stronger I’ll feel more confident trying out these things.

And now I’m working on going after some of my biggest dreams and ambitions with my blog, writing and photography. If I don’t do it now, when will I?

2016 will be my year, what about you guys?

Can you relate to dealing with fear and negativity? How do you cope? Any tips for me? Please share below in the comments!

coping with fear and travel

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240 Comments on “My big issue with fear and travel

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  1. Really appreciated this post, Liz! But I always appreciate when someone is open and honest and authentic, as you tend to be in your blog. 

    That said, it’s interesting for me to read this. I’m 29, so I’m two years older, but this definitely reminds me of when I was 26, 27, 28. I’m starting to think that it’s just that life stage for us, maybe especially as millennials. 

    I feel like the older I get, the more I expect to get to this end point or something where I have things figured out. And I do have more things figured out, but as we evolve, so does life. So do our problems or issues. So does complexity. We can handle more but at a different depth. 

    Maybe the way to think about it is the difference between learning to swim in the shallow end vs. in the ocean. In the shallow end, it’s fun — you know nothing is going to happen. It’s secure. It’s exciting. In the ocean, there are all sorts of unknowns and the danger is greater. You feel like you should be fine because you’ve been swimming your entire life, but the stakes are higher and it’s just all around more complex. 

    I think as people, we go through several adolescences. But after our first, we think: okay, that’s it: I’m an adult. But little do we know that it happens again and again. Because I think fear often comes about when it’s time to level up or challenge ourselves differently or grow (adult puberty!).

  2. I love your honesty here, and I can relate to it because I have been a worrier for as long as I can remember. My Mum and Nan always tell me that even at 5 or 6, I wouldn’t want to do something on the playground in case I hurt myself. Weirdly though, as I’m getting older, I find I’m becoming less of a worrier.

    I wonder if years of worrying and things not being as horrendous as my brain tells me they would be that I’ve mellowed a little, and the chill part of me is saying, “Look here, Evil Voice, none of that bad stuff has happened. I’m not stupid, so chill and let me get on with this.”

    This September, I’m going on a solo trip to San Francisco and Canada. I’m meeting a friend in SF, but I’ll be on my own in Canada. Am I a little nervous about being on my own in a foreign country? Definitely, but I trust myself that I won’t take any stupid risks. I think choosing to focus on curiosity is a good way of looking at it, and it’s something I’m going to keep in mind.

  3. Love your honesty. I think fear becomes more common in our lives with experience. You have a more concrete idea now of what could go wrong, not just some vague sense. You are also more established than when you began, and thus have more to lose. I try to focus on the concept of courage, not bravery – taking action even while fear is present, not without it. I also try to honestly evaluate my abilities (physical and mental) so that my self-efficacy (what I believe I can do) matches pretty well with what I actually can do. Props to you for working through this, online!

    Also, just wanted to let you know that your episode of House Hunters International is currently on Netflix 🙂

    1. Hi there Liz,
      I loved reading your last post about fear. I totally understand how as we get older the things that used to be a no brainer, suddenly become something we hesitate to do. I just wrote a blog post last week about post travel blues and what I have realized is that I am far less fearful when I am traveling than when I am home in my regular life. I find that routine almost breeds fear and uncertainty. Right now I am really trying to live in my travel mentality and bring it to my every day life. Live with more confidence and more willingness to try new things. Have you ever noticed when you travel you don’t wear a seat belt or do things that you would commonly do at home? I would love to be a guest blogger on your blog. You are inspiring!
      Thank you,
      Heather

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