One of the biggest obstacles would-be globetrotters face is fear.
This is understandable. It’s normal to have a fear of traveling. After all, you need a lot of courage to leave the comfort and security of home for the unknown.
I know because I’ve felt this way before. Multiple times in my life I’ve felt extreme travel anxiety. In fact, I was so afraid to travel that when I first studied abroad that my parents basically had to force me onto the plane.
Fortunately, it’s not necessary to suffer like I did before your next trip. Leaving home doesn’t have to mean experiencing the symptoms of intense travel phobia.
Over the years, I’ve realized a few things that have made traveling much less stressful. Here are 9 thoughts that will help reduce—and perhaps even eliminate—your fear of traveling.
Overcoming Your Fear of Traveling
1.) You’re not the first person to travel.
This isn’t the 1400s and you’re not going to Mars. While your experiences will be uniquely your own, you’ll be following previously-taken paths.
Each year, millions of people travel to all corners of the globe without incident. Undoubtedly some of these people will be a lot like you, coming from a similar background and facing similar fears.
Knowing that you’re not alone—that you’re part of a wider community of fellow travelers confronting the same issues—can be an immensely comforting and empowering.
2.) You’re as capable of traveling as anyone else.
There’s nothing inherently special about the people who have traveled before you. They don’t possess some magical skills that you lack. By and large, they are ordinary people who’ve simply decided to live their lives more fully.
In fact, many world travelers are probably less prepared than you are. In many countries, it’s expected for young people to go on an extended trip away from home as soon as they graduate from high school. At the age of 18, they grab a backpack and set off to see the globe, often for months on end. If they can get home in one piece, so can you.
3.) The world doesn’t have to be a mystery.
The thought of venturing into the unknown can be understandably scary. As Steven Spielberg knew when filming Jaws, it's what you don’t see that's most terrifying because it creates a void that your imagination undoubtedly fills with your deepest-seeded fears.
Fortunately, travel doesn’t have to be a mystery. You don’t have to remain in the dark about the places you’re going to visit.
Thanks to the internet, it’s now easier than ever to educate yourself on the people and places you’ll encounter. Doing a bit of pre-trip research on forums, travel blogs, YouTube, or—if you’re feeling extremely old school—in a book, is often really soothing. I'm a big fan of using Google Maps pre-trip to get a visual sense for the places to which I'm traveling.
Knowing even a tiny bit about the local food, culture, and customs can greatly reduce travel anxiety. After all, it’s impossible to be afraid of the unknown when it no longer exists.
4.) Things aren’t as dangerous as you think.
News websites, TV channels, and radio stations like to make us think that the world is an incredibly dangerous place, filled with violence and chaos because they know humans are evolutionarily wired to find this type of coverage irresistible. After all, isn't it in our best interest to remain informed on all potential threats? As the saying goes, "if it bleeds, it leads".
Yet, this view of the world is misleading. According to all statistical measures, the world is safer now than it ever has been before. There are fewer acts of violence, less war, and more peace today than at any point in recorded history.
So what does this mean for the intrepid traveler? You’re less likely to die in a terrorist attack than you think, you’re plane probably won’t crash, and civil war probably won’t break on wherever you travel to.
Remember, the news is now essentially a low-light reel of human behavior on a global scale. Think about all the bad stories you’ve read about your home city our country. How often are those accurate? Do you feel unsafe at home? If you answered ‘no’, then why should you feel any different in these other places simply because something bad happened there once 5 years ago?
5.) You’re not too old to travel.
There is no such thing as being too old to travel. After all, age is just a number. It tells you nothing with certainty about your mental or physical well being. If your spirit is vibrant, there’s no reason why a 70 year old cannot explore the world with the same gusto that a 20 year old has.
From my experience abroad, it’s often the older travelers who have the most energy. I still remember being passed by an entire group of senior hikers while climbing up a mountain in Slovenia.
Even if age has caused a decrease in your mobility, you can still enjoy the benefits of travel. Your trip doesn’t have to be filled with scuba diving or white water rafting to be worthwhile. You can have just as good a time leisurely visiting museums or walking through central markets.
And if you’re worried about fitting in as an older traveler, you don’t need to be. Travelers tend to be an open-minded sort, always eager to meet others, especially if they have a good story to tell or a bit of wisdom to share—things best gained through a lifetime of experiences.
6.) You won’t be alone (if you don’t want to be).
Before I set out on my first solo trip abroad, I remember being quite concerned that I would feel alone the whole time. After all, I didn’t know anyone in the cities I was visiting.
Yet, I quickly learned that travel doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor. If you want to meet people, you can.
As I mentioned before, most travelers are open-minded individuals who are eager to meet new people while on the road. This is especially the case if they are traveling solo. This desire to connect with others is a big reason why hostels—complete with their on-site bars and activity-filled commons areas—have become increasingly popular with globetrotters.
In fact, it’s probably easier to meet people while traveling than at home. Without the myriad of distractions once faces in the day-to-day—Netflix, work emails, family obligations—life the road lends itself to quickly-formed travel groups, heartfelt conversations, and cross-cultural discussions. Someone you met just yesterday by chance can easily turn into your travel buddy and most intimate confidant for the next month. These interactions are some of the most impactful experiences you will have traveling.
Often, these people become long-distance, long-term friends. Even though you don’t see each other every day, your bond remains strong because it was forged through mutual experience and understanding. You visit one another, and travel together to faraway lands. But before that happens, you must explore, and explore you will—both your destination and yourselves.
Furthermore, it’s not as difficult as you might expect to meet the local people, especially if you’re traveling solo. By following a few simple rules, anyone can fill their next trip with memories of dinners spent chatting with natives in Barcelona or days of hiking with locals in Peru. [To learn more, check out our guide How to Meet Locals When Traveling]
Rarely do travelers find themselves involuntarily without company. If anything you’ll probably have to go out of your way to have alone time if you want it.
7.) You can find the money to travel.
It’s easy to get the impression that world travel is only for the independently wealthy or incredibly lucky. After all, the travel industry fills tv, magazines, and the internet with ads that promote a very specific kind of tourism: one filled with five-star hotels, luxury meals, and first class flights.
Fortunately, this isn’t the only way to travel. You can have a life-changing trip filled with budget accommodations, free activities, and discount transport. In fact, this is the way the majority of globe trotters travel.
When the price tag for a month-long trip decreases from $20,000 to $2,000—as it often does when you stop overspending on fancy hotels, restaurants, and flights—it becomes affordable to nearly everyone when given enough time to save.
Depending on your circumstances, saving money to travel may be really easy or it may be really hard. You may even first need to pay off some credit card debt or student loans. But when given enough time almost everyone can make it work.
Often the simplest things—like packing a lunch for work or skipping the morning coffee at Starbucks—can lead to big savings at the end of the money. For example, making coffee at home rather than spending $5 on a Frappuccino can save you over $100 in a month. [For more tips, check out our article 19 Amazingly Simple Ways to Save Money For Travel]
8.) You can find the time to travel.
Time is the most precious resource you have. You can never make more of it and you never know how much of it you have left.
Yet, even with our busy schedules, if you really want to travel, you can always find time for it. As we’ve discussed before, being able to travel means making it a top priority. It means deciding that travel is one of the most important things in your life, even if just for a short period. It means prioritizing time on the road over time in the office, gym, or on the couch.
Sometimes these choices don’t feel easy. If personal or professional obligations are hindering your ability to travel, you may need to set them aside for the time being. Yet, any temporary discomfort this creates pales in comparison to the long-term side effects of not following your dreams.
Even if you only have limited vacation time, you can still have incredible travel experiences. Not every trip needs to be an epic, six-month backpacking journey through Southeast Asia. Weekend getaways can be just as impactful if done well.
9.) The best way to overcome fear is to face it.
As helpful as the above thoughts can be for worried would-be globetrotters, the best way to deal with your fear of travel is to confront it directly.
When you intentionally avoid something that makes you anxious, it tells your mind and body that the fear is justified. While you may temporarily feel better, in the long run it makes things worse because as the fear grows in strength it becomes more difficult to overcome.
In contrast, when you face your fears, they lose their strength. You see them for what they so often are—irrational concerns based on a lack of information or experience. And once you confront one fear, it becomes easier to do so in the future. It’s not uncommon for once-hesitant travelers to channel the wave of positive energy and confidence they gain into overcoming other challenges in their lives.
When your fear of travel prevents you from fulfilling your dreams of world exploration, it’s important to examine them. And as we’ve seen, so many of the thoughts and beliefs on which our fears are based don’t hold up to scrutiny. They are either half-truths, misunderstandings, or flat out lies.
And while the symptoms of travel anxiety—butterflies in your stomach, sweating hands, shaking knees—might not feel pleasant, they’re actually a good sign. Being afraid before you travel tells you that you’re about to do something difficult. It lets you know that your mind and body are in for a challenge. It reminds you that you’re about to experience an opportunity to grow.
If you’re looking to prepare your mind for your next trip download my FREE guide The Traveler’s Mindset: How to Mentally Prepare for Journeys of Adventure and Growth!