If you want to get the most out of your next trip—if you want to use your time on the road to learn and grow—courage is an indispensable thing to have.
In fact, courage may be the most important thing trait a traveler can bring with them.
As Paulo Coelho once wrote, “Traveling is never a matter of money, but of courage.”
But what exactly is courage?
Simply put, courage is the ability to do something despite fear. It’s a conscious choice to confront danger, pain, intimidation, or uncertainty.
To travel you need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. You leave the perceived security of home for the unknown—but rarely dangerous—existence that is life on the road.
While this can seem uncomfortable at first, the long-term benefits make being courageous well worth it.
What Does it Mean to be a Courageous Traveler?
The courageous traveler knows that things won’t always be easy. They understand that exploring themselves and the world means to inevitably encounter discomfort, fear, and intimidation.
The courageous traveler also knows that the only way to overcome these challenges is to confront them; that it’s not the emotion you initially feel that matters but rather how you respond.
Sometimes they proactive seek out uncomfortable situations and sometimes they accidentally find them. But no matter what happens, the courageous traveler respond with mental and moral strength.
How to Become More Courageous (During Travel and in Life)
There are a number of things you can do before, during, and after your next trip to develop courage.
1.) Know what fear is (and isn’t).
A large part of being courageous is understanding what fear is and isn’t.
At the most basic level, what we consider to be fear—the sense of terror that washes over our body—is really just a cocktail of chemicals released by our bodies when there’s a *chance* (not a guarantee) of danger.
Evolutionarily, it made sense for our ancestors to be extra sensitive to potential dangers. After all, even if 99 out of 100 times that brown spot in the distance is a rock rather than a bear, when the cost of misidentification is death, it’s not worth it.
But today we rarely face such serious consequences for a lack of fear. If anything, fear—at least the way we perceive it in today’s society—often does more harm than good to your body.
Unnecessary fears cause stress which often leads to a number of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and mental illness.
Unnecessary fears can also prevent you from truly living. It can keep you from asking that special person out on a date. It can cause you to cancel a trip to an exotic locale. It can cause you to avoid going after your dreams.
So learning to handle fear properly—to comfort it with courage when necessary—is vital to our quality of life and emotional wellbeing.
2.) Be clear about what you’re afraid of.
The only way to overcome your fears is to know what they are.
Sometimes this process can be challenging. It often requires asking yourself some difficult questions like:
-What have I been afraid of in the past?
-What am I afraid of now?
-What might I be afraid of in the future?
Once you’ve identified your fears, write them down on a piece of paper. Are there any fears that you can face at home? If so, start the process of making courage a habit by crafting a plan that will allow you to confront that fear.
3.) Just start.
Courage is a muscle that only grows when used. To become more courageous, you need to start being courageous.
As Aristotle wrote, “Excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become…brave by doing brave acts.”
The more you succeed at being courageous—and the more you see the benefits of overcoming fears—the more motivated you are and the easier being courageous becomes.
4.) Accept anguish.
Being courageous is about taking risks and accepting the possibility that things could go wrong.
Know that you very well might be uncomfortable or in anguish at some point as a result of being courageous.
Yet also remember that the pain and discomfort that may arise when you are courageous is temporary; the memories and glory you create from success is permanent.
On your death bed, you will undoubtedly regret way more of the things you did not do than the things you did.
5.) Look for opportunities for courage.
Life often tells us what we need to act on to improve our situations.
Next time you feel regret, anger, or jealousy, ask yourself what these emotions might be telling you. What issues does your subconscious want you to solve?
6.) Practice framing.
Framing is the act of reshaping how you think and feel about something using words.
It can transform a seemingly impossible task into an approachable challenge.
In general, the more everyday you can make events sound, the calmer you will be.
For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of climbing to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro you could repeatedly tell yourself that you’re simply going for a hike.
Likewise, if the prospect of a three-week backpacking journey through Japan is intimidating you, simply label it as a ‘stopover in East Asia.’
7.) Create a powerful alter-ego.
One way to develop more courage is to create a powerful alter ego or ‘virtual self’—kinda like your own personal super hero—that welcomes fear and uncertainty.
If you want, you can even give this character a compelling background story. Perhaps you studied with gurus in India or trained with the Navy SEALs.
Develop a ritual that allows your everyday self to transform into this powerful alter ego. Maybe you put on a special cap, rub a mystical stone you carry in your backpack, or whisper a few magic words to yourself.
When you know you’re going to face a big challenge, do this ritual and imagine yourself becoming your alter ego.
Even though you know this is just play, you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to be courageous when you feel as though it’s the norm for your character rather than the exception.
8.) Know that it’s still OK to be afraid.
Being courageous doesn’t mean that you won’t ever worry or be afraid.
As Nelson Mandela said, “Courage [is not] the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Don’t get upset at yourself when you feel the common symptoms of fear—butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, a sense of uncertainty.
Instead, welcome those feelings as proof that what you’re doing is hard, and therefore worthwhile.
After all, the only time you can ever be brave is when you fear is present.
9.) Remain clear headed.
According to Aristotle, courage is the middle ground between cowardice and recklessness.
Courageous people move forward with conviction, in spite of their fears, when it’s the right thing to do.
They don’t take unnecessary and reckless risks to try and prove something.
10.) Giver yourself a moment.
When you find yourself in a challenging situation, give your body and mind a moment to process everything before responding.
Often our initial instinct is to freak out, especially if we’re confronting something that’s scared us in the past.
But when you give yourself a moment to reflect—to see things as they really are rathe than how you think they are—then your fears often fade away.
11.) Celebrate your wins.
Being courageous in the face of fear and uncertainty isn’t always easy. So when you successfully overcome these obstacles, be sure to celebrate in some way.
Share the news of your success with friends via a phone call, text message, social media, or a letter (don’t worry about coming across as boisterous—true friends will be happy, and perhaps inspired, by your accomplishments).
Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a fresh cup of fruit, a glass of your favorite wine, or an episode of your favorite TV show.
Or just spend some time internally appreciating the scale of your achievement.
As you can see, courage is indispensable if you want to get the most out of your next trip.
Courage is what allows you to push past discomfort. Courage is what keeps fear from taking over. Courage is what you use to overcome intimidation. Courage is what leads to personal growth and discovery.
Interested in becoming more courageous and bullet-proofing your mind for travel? Get your free copy of The Traveler’s Mindset right now by clicking here. It’s packed full of exercises based on the latest scientific research and personal experience that are guarantee to transform how you see the world while getting you ready to make the most out of your next trip.