My big issue with fear and travel

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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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259 Comments on “My big issue with fear and travel

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  1. Liz, you always have a way of writing exactly how I feel. I turned 25 in February and things like skiing on a black diamond have become impossible for me to overcome mentally, let alone physically. I’m reading Big Magic right now and I’m definitely seeing some truth to it. I’m also graduating with my Masters reallyreally soon and I’m letting fear get in the way of all of my post-school plans. I really needed to read this post today, so thank you!

    You are 100% not alone in this. If you ever want to chat, know you have a blogger friend here. 🙂

    1. Wow, so glad it’s not me! I notice it a lot when I am snowboarding, for me it’s become a total mental sport where I literally have to psyche myself up before a run~

    2. Amanda / Chasing My Sunshine, I mentioned to Liz in my post a bit further down, a book about fear and skiing that you might be interested in. The Yikes Zone: A Conversation With Fear – by Mermer Blakeslee. It’s the pre-eminent resource for both those in the ski industry and recreational skiers alike. Super good read and lots of case histories and little gems and a great formula for dealing with fear on the slopes! 🙂 Jane

  2. I feel ya. I was always a HELL YES AM I DOWN FOR WHATEVER until I got married last summer. All of the sudden, I have dreams about planes crashing (my husband is a pilot), about illnesses and about all of the bad stuff that can happen – something that never crossed my mind before age 30. Call it a late quarter life crisis, finally having my head out fo the clouds or all of the bad media everywhere. I don’t know, but I don’t like it.

    Definitely putting that book on my list then. And ice cream helps. One thing I clearly haven’t worried about is eating too much sugar.

    1. Catherine, I feel exactly the same – my partner and I are going on a 14 month round the world trip starting June 27th, we quit our jobs recently, rented out our flat and I’ve been thinking exactly the same things, every little thing escalates. What if I don’t like travelling and miss home? What if we’re ill when we’re away, what if this/that etc.

      Don’t think I’ve worried so much before I was 30! But trying to be more positive and curious!

      Thanks for your post, Liz.

  3. I love reading your blog and checking out your travel pictures, and I know there’s tons of other people who support you in that way. But maybe in this case you need to take a break and seek professional help.

    I’ve dealt with not being able to work like other people because I had serious planning and concentration issues. Got help and it appeared I have ADHD. Learned to deal with it and now I can use it as a strength. 8 years later I suffered from al lot of mental and physical tiredness and inexplainable pain – it appeared I was seriously overworked. Had I not sought out help, I would feel like the same terrible Charlotte still.

    The sooner you tackle something like this, the sooner you’ll feel like your old happy self again. Don’t let these nasty feelings fuck up your dream!

    Lots of love,

  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that book!! It also spoke to me when I was going through some rough times, discovering the same fears that you talk about. I remember recently, I went to Nicaragua, traveling internationally for the first time in 2 years. Even though I was with my brother, enough time had passed that traveling internationally was no longer something I was used to or as comfortable with, unfortunately.

    Of course, the only solution is exactly what you said! To push through it and get used to it again.

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