Facing Fear When Traveling
Fear. What is it? According to the dictionary, it's a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, ect, whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
We all experience fear, it's important we do under certain circumstances - it's meant to keep us alive. However, in this day and age fear has become a household name as stress levels rise with impeding demands for work, paying off debts, and maintaining relationships. Stress is easily a result from fear, but a lot of it at the end of the day is truly unnecessary. I'm finding as a solo traveler - a traveler in general - when you start doing things that really scare you (like traveling the world alone) many of these unnecessary fears begin to seem less threatening - you can at the very least begin to rationalize them differently.
Taking the leap to experience a new kind of fear.
When we travel we finally have a moment to push all of our everyday fears to the side, and you may possibly experience real fear, appropriate fear, the fear of; where is my next meal coming from, will I know how to get where I am going, and will I be able to rest my head in a safe place tonight? I write this with a grain of salt - if you have money you can find food to buy, but language barriers can make a simple task like ordering a meal become more daunting. We live in an age with the wonderful Google Maps to guide us nearly anywhere in the world, but what about when wifi isn't available (believe it or not some places don't have it, at least when you're getting around to and from.) If you stay in hostels like I do, you really never know who you're going to be sharing a room with... it could be any number of persons with any number of motives. But, instead you swallow all of that. You admit to yourself that you're going to have to figure this out because it is the only option - and you do. As time goes on and as you travel more you become beaming with confidence and find a lot of the time things go your way. For the record, that doesn't mean they always do, but you still find your way.
Learning to embrace new fears helps you to grow out of your current ones. We are human, and for whatever reason it is incredibly easy for us to get wrapped up in our own minds, being held hostage to a mindset of uncertainty and doubt. Often we'd rather stay put with being comfortable than embarking into questionable situations - but those are the situations that allow us to grow, that help us evolve to our best selves. I wasn't sure at first if I should follow the stranger I just met into the mountainous, wilderness of Norway to climb a mountain, but after I did, I climbed a mountain in Norway.
It's about trust, it's about us.
You have to learn to trust strangers, which especially in my opinion is a tough concept for American's to grasp. We are taught to never speak to strangers, and although as young children this information is used to protect us, it does us a great injustice as adults. Our media offers no help by teaching us that having a fear of nearly everything is normal. Fear the homeless, fear the immigrants, and fear your neighbors too while you're at it - fear what is different from you. If I had to emphasize one thing I've learned from my travels, it would be that people are mostly good and are willing to help you. Maybe I've been lucky, and maybe other travelers who've experienced bad encounter's would disagree. But I truly believe the world is a human network of love and knowledge as long as you're surrounding yourself with people and experiences who support that ideal.
People constantly ask if I'm afraid to travel solo or to travel as often as I do. I'm always happy to answer this question because for me it's an easy answer. From common fear's like flying or a fear of death, I'd be lying if I said I was ever without fear. As I said before you need some fear, but I've learned to face it, embrace it, and push it to the side and say instead, "I can do this." There shouldn't be a greater fear of travel than walking out of your front door each day. There is no safe ground, after all. I believe life wants you to experience it, and that most always begins with "yes."
My tips for facing fear when traveling:
- Most people are willing to help you if you just ask. Get over your fear of asking for help since that's really what you're afraid of.
- Getting around is not as hard as you may think. Your phone is a very useful tool when traveling (especially if you have an international plan with T-Mobile - you can practically use it like you're at home.) But, pick up a map of the city (they're usually free) and keep it with you wherever you go. You never know when you may need it - give it a good look over and make friends with it.
- Be smart. We all know there are people in the world who seek the opportunity to take advantage of others. For some of these people it may be in their minds their only chance at survival, but you can beat them to the punch by being aware of their tricks beforehand. Pick pocketing is a huge problem in most major cities. Always keep your belongings close to your body and not easily accessible for another person's hand. Some pick pocketer's are actually pretty impressive, I would know first hand! (You can learn more about safety and awareness in my upcoming E-course, 'Certified Solo.')
- When going out on the town for drinks, go in a group, or at least a duo. Make sure your phone is charged. Know your route to and from where you are staying and always, always keep your drink with you.
- For the people considering going solo - being alone is uncomfortable for a lot of us, certainly in a completely foreign place, but you will realize how capable of a human being you are if you just go for it. You will meet people, you will make friends, and you will find people who are doing exactly what you are doing - many have even been at this travel game for a while.
Think positive! You're traveling to have a good time and experience new things, so live it up.
Upcoming Travel:// Off to Japan, the motherland, October 24th, 2016 with my mother, her sister, and my grandmother. // I'll be in San Diego for New Year's Eve shenanigans.