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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

232 Responses to My big issue with fear and travel

  1. Marly June 4, 2016 at 9:50 pm #

    Hey Liz,

    It’s not strange or surprising, and it doesn’t sound foreign to me either. I have traveled all around the world over the last 10 years, always by myself. Never feared anything or anyone, and fortunately (coincidentally?) nothing bad ever happened.

    Until one night a couple years ago when I was mugged at gunpoint. I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago that this negative experience has really got me thinking, and has changed the way I see the world. Not to sound melodramatic or anything, but nowadays when I am walking somewhere at night, I almost literally jump when I hear a sudden sound. The WORST thing ever is when I spot someone running in the streets. I always immediately assume they are up to no good.

    Now, since about 2 years, I have a partner who travels along with me. And strangely enough, I worry more about him (6 foot 6, can beat anyone kind of guy), than I have ever worried about myself. I tell him all my well-meant travel advice and ‘common sense’ tips over and over.
    “Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket”, “Travel on public transport with your backpack on your belly” etc, etc.

    Even besides my scary experience, I really just think it has to do with AGE. The whole thing about developing fear and letting it paralyze you. For me, the ‘turning point’ came at about the same time as it did for you. I think I was 25 when this happened, I am almost 30 now.

    My theory is that, as we get older, we think more and more about all the things that could go wrong, and the risks that are involved, and the consequences we might have to bear if things do go south, instead of just thinking about the rush of doing it (and thus jumping right in even before really realizing what you’re doing).

    Don’t worry, it’s probably a good thing to be sensible about “stuff”.
    Just don’t let fear paralyze you. Try to always ‘balance off’ the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, and ask yourself “what’s the worst that can happen?”. If you can live with the answer to that question, GO FOR IT.

    But NEVER ever let yourself be pushed into something you’re not convinced you want to do. Don’t do anything against your will. And if you think the risks are too high, or otherwise not worth taking: Don’t do it!!
    (And DON’T feel bad about ‘chickening out’, or beat yourself up over some ‘missed opportunity’. Things happen for a reason, and if they were meant to really happen, the opportunity will show again! Just like with your ice climbing experience in Finland!!)

    Good luck telling yourself “you can do it”! Always believe in yourself, don’t rely on other people to give you strength. 🙂

    Marly
    *Fellow female solo traveler around the world

    • Joel Shapiro June 9, 2016 at 5:38 am #

      Statistically, the most dangerous part of the flight is the car-ride to the airport. But once on a flight to Stockholm, my plane filled up with smoke and we had to make an emergency landing. When you’re holding the hand of the stranger sitting next to you and thinking you’re never going to see your family again, you know you’re in trouble. Luckily, we made a safe landing and I continued my trip on another plane. But ever since that incident I’ve been deathly afraid of airplanes, to the point where I’d rather stay home than get on one. So what you’re experiencing is perfectly normal and just your inner self telling you that you’re not a cat and you don’t have nine lives — just one. Thrill seeking isn’t the only way to enjoy yourself.

  2. Benedikte June 9, 2016 at 6:01 am #

    Hi! Just need to leave a comment here. You are a great blogger and I find myself back at your blog whenever I am going traveling myself. I love how you can post these honest and somewhat vulnerable posts among the badass descriptions of your adventures. I think that is why I come back – because I feel that I know you a little bit. So i guess I just need to say thank you for giving me great inspiration. And thanks for letting us all in on these thoughts.

    • Liz June 16, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

      Thanks!

  3. Stephanie Be June 29, 2016 at 6:02 am #

    This is so touching and inspirational. Thank you for sharing this- it’s so powerful.

    • Liz June 29, 2016 at 9:56 am #

      Thanks!

  4. Carrie July 16, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

    Wow how crazy I stumbled upon this today. I am 26 and was reflecting on my recent feelings of “fear”.
    I also am a female who has been traveling alone for years. I’ve even hitchhiked across the US and had a great time!
    But now suddenly as I’m getting ready to apply for my working holiday to New Zealand for the first time ever I’m feeling anxiety and second guessing myself. I really have no idea why and have spent a lot of today reflecting on it.
    Your post helps me to not feel so alone! Thanks!

  5. sherifa alkhamis July 20, 2016 at 6:06 am #

    dear liz your words touched me in every way i face the same thing everyday I’m currently a student i always doubt myself and have fears I’m not smart enough not good enough what if something bad happens i hate fear in every way but just like u said its always there and I’m trying to publish my first post not comfortable withe the idea of people reading my stuff !

  6. abhijit @ Day trip to Agra August 5, 2016 at 1:28 am #

    This was unforgivable trip for you and it’s adventure trip and you know very well .if you want adventure than fear also there..Thanks

  7. Cash book August 17, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    fear of traveling abroad is always and it will be there when you are traveling first time..

  8. Elgie August 19, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    My favorite author, Catherynne Valente, wrote about an amazingly fearless child in her book, The Girl Who Civumnavigated the Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. In writing about the main character she says, “All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.” It might be a work of fiction, but I find her writing very poignant and comforting. Sounds like your heart is just getting too big to make bigger risks.

    • Liz September 12, 2016 at 8:52 am #

      Thank you, I loved it.

  9. Joshua Hildreth August 19, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

    Hi Liz,
    I really connected with your post here. Its interesting how traveling (and hiking mountains) can be synonymous with fear. Mountains aren’t so much my fear, or even traveling, but the unknown is a big one for all of us. I admire you quite you job to travel. I plan on doing that someday (yes, it’ll happen). When you begin something new, just like hiking a mountain, your brain starts to fight you and tells you all the reasons why you can’t do it. My solution is to always try and think less, but that has gotten me into trouble :). The way you described fear creeping back into you life, is something I think all of us experience. You have to just feel the fear and do it anyway. Age has something to do with it for sure. For me, my big mountain, my unknown was starting (or still starting) a business. Its three years in the making and its still now profitable but it has been an adventure in itself. It has brought me many great experiences, especially because it is built around what I love most-adventure!! Here is the latest big push to expand: psychedlife.com/24-7. It hasn’t been easy. It probably will never be, but a least I’m doing what I love. I heard a saying once that stuck with me: “Life doesn’t get easier, you just get better.” Somehow that comforting. Life has a funny way of making us into better versions of our self.

  10. Art Travel Eat Repeat September 10, 2016 at 4:52 am #

    I’ve definitely experienced this and you’re definitely not alone. I find the older I get, the more I start to worry about the future (that pesky future…always looming). I’m in my 30’s now and I’m thinking about things like saving for retirement, having an emergency fund, blah blah blah…boring stuff. On the other hand, I live to travel and I believe a life lived without fun and adventure isn’t a life worth living. It’s about taking calculated risks I think.

  11. Abe September 16, 2016 at 6:44 am #

    Great, Keep up the good spirit!, we are all with you.

  12. Ben September 19, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    I think fear is the hardest thing about travel sometimes. Once you get out there and do it, you generally love it but it’s fear which can hold us back.

    When I was in Tibet, hiking up mountains was scary and you don’t know if you can make it but once you start the fear leaves as you are living in that moment.

    Great article

  13. Laure September 22, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this powerful article with us. This is so inspiring, so moving.
    Just keep doing your amazing blog
    Thanks 🙂

  14. Vinita October 20, 2016 at 10:20 pm #

    Thanks this is what I need it 🙂 I am a newbie travel blogger and somewhere my fear of traveling specially solo traveling is the main focus point to recover.THis blog inspiring me to just go and explore and vanish your fear:-).

    NOW I HAVE MANY REASON TO FOLLOW INSPIRING PERSON LIKE YOU.

  15. angela October 25, 2016 at 2:20 am #

    Hi Liz,

    Thanks for sharing this. Fear increases with age, for sure, but if you channel it wisely, it will not stop you from achieving your dreams. I think one topic is your fear of physical activities and a different one the fear of intellectual, creative endeavours, like writing.

    Regarding the physical fear of falling or not being capable of performing some activity, I would actually confront camels. Go back to (Egypt, was it) and ride a camel again. An American friend of mine had a similar experience in Siberia with a horse. She actually forced herself to ride a horse again and it did help. She kept travelling and moved to Kabul. Then to Myanmar. Now she has settled in Copenhagen after around 12 years working abroad.

    Regarding the creative endeavours, I can only recommend “War of Art” (by Steven Pressfield) to you. He talks about fighting resistance and winning your inner battles to achieve creativity.

    The experiences you have gathered through your travels and the maturity you have achieved over the last years travelling are maybe now sinking and that is why these fears are emerging? But think about all the skills that you have develop in the last years, too, like resilience against adversity, that will definitely help you to achieve your creative goals 🙂

    But overall, yes, youth comes together with a lack of doubts, a lot of energy, a lot of ignorance (that is why one is not afraid sometimes 😀 ) and all these things fade away a little with time. Having said that, I am sure you will manage to remain active, brave and unique for your whole life if that is what you really want. (Self analysis and reflection needed here). Do you know the 16personalities website? It is based on Myers Briggs model and it works quite well. Give it a try and see what you get out of it.

    Big hug!

  16. Manoj Keshwar October 25, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

    We can only feel fear when we see something and up your hands that we can’t do this if really want to face fear with eyes than we have to take chance. You are so dare and you take chances to feel what really fear is called.

  17. Tsitsi October 30, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    OMG Liz, you totally spoke to me with this post. I have recently noticed that about myself. My fear has increased as I have got older. I have bungee jumped, sky dived, hiked up a couple of mountains but recently I felt like my heart was going to leap out of my chest going over a stable bridge designed with ridges so that you can see the water underneath.
    I have also realised that I get more anxious when I go to unfamiliar environments about meeting new people. However it seems like an unfounded fear because if I am forced into the environment and have the first conversation I loosen up and get to chatting to more people which makes me more comfortable. I think you are definitely right-if the curiosity exceeds the fear you are more likely to take action.
    You spoke briefly about dealing with your travel fears at the beginning. Do you have a post where you have spoken about these in the past and how you thwarted them? I am looking to do a long solo trip and would be interested in finding out what other female travellers thought of prior to their travels, their experiences and how they dealt with their fears.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and I will definitely be adding ‘Big Magic’ to my reading list. it sounds like the kind of book I need to spur me on to taking the right actions.

  18. Brian November 5, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    First of all: Brave post. You are an amazing writer.

    Second, I just bought that book you recommended, and now I’m curious if you really like it, or it was a hidden ad? 🙂

    Either way, I bought it, and I’m gonna read it 😉

  19. Shannon November 17, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    Awesome, inspirational post! I think fear is totally normal, we all have it and we all have to find our own ways to overcome it! That voice inside our head is the voice of reason I think, sometimes worse at times, but we need to push that little voice out of its comfort zone to try new things. You’ve done amazing things and have had an amazing journey traveling, just keep pushing!! You’re awesome! xx

  20. Jessica November 24, 2016 at 9:25 am #

    YES! I have been dealing with very similar fears. And as you said, a lot have to do with being able to conquer or take on a challenge. Ones that deep down, I know I can accomplish (like hiking that mountain, or solo camping somewhere new) – most often I can even kick ass while doing them! But it is taking that first step that seems to be the hardest part.

    The difficult truth is that we have been trained to fear: society doesn’t have a long history of encouraging young women to bag peaks and raft rivers. We’ve been inundated with the consequences of taking risks since we were young. So when we do attempt new challenges, we are not only facing our personal fears, but overcoming how we’ve been trained to react to new, “scary” situations. And that ain’t easy, ladies.

    I’ve started by letting one fear conquer another: I let my fear of missing out on an awesome experience squash my fear of attempting a new challenge.

    I am still working on living with fear, but every day I am getting better. I start with the small things (eg. opening up on a strangers blog), and gradually work up to the bigger stuff.

    Reading blogs like this, and finding rad individuals, such as yourself, motivates me. So thank you, Liz. Lets all encourage each other to chase after adventures and take hold of our creative ambitions. Fuck fear – let’s do this!

  21. Emma November 29, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    Someone at The Travel Bootcamp Gold Coast told me about this post, and I’ve just had a read. She (eek… I can’t remember her name) told me she could really relate to what you had written, and so can I.

    The saying “once bitten, twice shy” comes to mind when thinking about how past experiences shape the way we see things.

    I remember being scared I wouldn’t be able to breathe at the top of Jungfraujoch, so I didn’t go up with the two people I was travelling with… boy do I regret that! The chances of me not being able to breathe were pretty small! (I’ll have to go back).

    I regret not hiking to the top of the Atlas mountains in Morocco with my friend because I was concerned my knees would give way… what a load of tosh!

    I’ve become more hesitant of flying as I get older – more scared of turbulence and crashing. But I guess my desire to get to somewhere new is always stronger than the fear, because I still get on planes with glee.

    There are plenty of other examples too, smaller, more everyday ones.

    But there have been a couple of turning points for me. The most important was on my first trip into the West Bank from Jordan in 2005. The day before I was going, I was on the Dead Sea and I could hear booming noises. My overactive imagination started believing bombings were happening on the other side of the Sea in the Palestinian Territory. I was so hesitant about going the next day, that I was on the phone to a friend in London who reminded me I REALLY wanted to go. (I should point out here that I studied Middle Eastern politics at uni, but none of that everyday knowledge seemed to quell my fears). In the end I went… and it turned out there were no bombings, and everything was great (the sound I’d heard was construction work further along the Dead Sea that I couldn’t see from where I was).

    I try to remember that incident every time something comes up that scares me, because usually the fear is all made up in our heads. It’s hard sometimes though, and age has certainly made me more weary of things, but I always try to remember that time I almost didn’t go to the West Bank, a place I had wanted to visit for so long.

    And by the way, go to Iran, it’s amazing! I went earlier this year

    • Liz December 1, 2016 at 9:40 am #

      awesome thank you!! Glad you can relate, I’m dying to go to Iran!

  22. Erika November 30, 2016 at 6:50 am #

    Liz, I can so relate, I was always terrified of traveling alone but I think you may have inspired me to try a solo trip. Thanks!

  23. Dhaval December 14, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

    It’s not strange or surprising,I can so relate, I was always terrified of traveling alone but I think you may have inspired me to try a solo trip. Thanks!

  24. Sukhdham Yatri Bhavan December 22, 2016 at 10:50 pm #

    Yeah, I have also some issues with the fear of traveling. But I did overcome them by travelling.

  25. Samantha December 26, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    I’m leaving for Spain to meet a man who could possibly be the love of my life on Tuesday. He lives in the Middle East and I live in the US (we met in Las Vegas a couple of months ago and have spoken everyday since, maybe “love of my life” is far fetched but I do miss him) and have never been to Europe before. I’m so nervous! This eases my anxiety thank you for writing this blog. Ive always wanted to travel but I guess I just needed the push. Worst case scenario that things don’t work out between him and I this has helped me come out of my comfort zone. Already planing trip to Mykonos for the summer.

  26. Kacy January 18, 2017 at 2:45 am #

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I struggle with this often. For me, I think it kind of rubbed off from growing up with my mom and then in recent years it’s been amplified by friends my age passing or just turning on the news. Reading this every once in a while definitely helps put my fears in check.

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