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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237 Comments on “My big issue with fear and travel

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  1. Thanks for the honesty. This is so relevant to me right now it’s unreal.

    I’ve always been a worrier but after an issue where my mum was rushed to hospital while I was on a trip to Copenhagen and the recent passing of my gran, I’ve now suddenly starting worrying that something is going to happen to someone while I’m away. I’ve got a 5 week trip away coming up and I just keep thinking what if. I know it’s me overreacting to everything that has happened and I know when it comes to going away I’ll be fine.

    Just remember you’re never alone when you feel like this and to remember the amazing reasons why you love travelling and love challenging yourself.

    Feet Meet World | feetmeetworld.com

  2. As someone who has struggled with anxiety my entire life (including a phobia that can be debilitating at times) I have found that the best and most productive way for me to deal with fear is to embrace it. I heard a quote one time (I can’t remember who said it) that “courage is not the absence of fear but the decision that something else is more important” and THAT has resonated with me in a big way. I’m still afraid of things but I know that in order to live the big life that I want to live, I have to do them anyway. My desire to explore, adventure, travel, etc. is SO much bigger than my fear of doing all of those things.

    Great post – I appreciate your honesty!

  3. Awesome post! Loved it and it really spoke to me…it was like you were describing how my brain works with fear. I will be taking a page out of your book and be more adventuress in 2016!

  4. I think the more you grow up, the more aware of you are of your surroundings. All of a sudden, even the simplest of things can be scary.

    It’s up for us to challenge that a bit. Thinking and doing out of the box things, even if only once in a while, can make miracles for our general well being and like you say, to live as imaginatively and creatively as possible!

    1. I have to agree with Bruno B. In addition to becoming more aware of our surroundings; inevitably the more we grow up, the more loss and heartbreak we experience. That’s when the true adventure begins.

      Can we allow the fear and pain from injuries, job loss, heartbreak…the aging body… to move through us and keep us open?

      Can we remain curious to our open, free-spirited selves? I’ve been in your seat many many times as I’ve continued to adventure through life and keep my soul and spirit open.

      Through my varying cycles of up and down, inspired and not, open and fearful I am finding that in my down moments my curiosity dissapears, which dims my light of inspiration further. In those times I find that I am being called to let go even more. Let go of who I thought I was; let go of what is hurting me, let go of fear.

      The more I can bear witness to myself and let go… the more I discover that sometimes, the adventure lies not in getting back to who I was, but discovering who am I to become? I am ever changing and always evolving. Sometimes I am not familiar with who I am becoming and when I can get beyond the terror of not recognizing myself and let go of my past, I am learning that the loss of my previous self doesn’t at all mean that the best of me is gone. I dare to believe that the best of me, my full potential, continues to grow. Sometimes that means out growing a part of myself that I actually loved, to become anew.

      Hopefully some of this will resonate with you and as you regain strength from your fall and from that terror of leaving the “secure” job you will discover that as you face these terrors and let them go, they will slowly build within you an expansion. And at the end of each day, that expansion of what will come next is inevitably something to be curious about.

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