Facing our Fears when Traveling

Aren’t you afraid?

It’s a question many of us regular world vagabonds get asked, in one way or another, on a pretty regular basis. A couple of weeks ago this hit home to me again, this fear or fascination (or both) that people have about other places in the world, when I came upon a blog post by the Millers on this very topic.

Tony and Jenn Miller and their four kids have been traveling the world for years now. In 2008, they sold their house and most of their stuff and took off — they blog about their journey at Edventure Project. In the blog post titled “Aren’t you AFRAID?” they address the questions they get asked all the time, like:

Aren’t we afraid of the political climates in less than first world places?

Aren’t we afraid of terrorists in “Muslim” places?

Aren’t we afraid that our kids will get into trouble or be harmed?

Aren’t we afraid of not knowing where we’re going or where we’ll sleep tonight?

Aren’t we afraid of being taken advantage of?

Aren’t we afraid of having stuff stolen?

Aren’t we afraid of our kids not growing up “normal?”

Aren’t we afraid of running out of money and being stranded somewhere?

Wow, that’s a lotta fear. To see what the Millers answered to these and other questions, check out the post.

I have gotten versions of a lot of these questions over time, as well. But to me, it’s really like asking:

Aren’t you afraid to LIVE?

Getting ready to board down a live volcano!

Getting ready to board down a live volcano!

Honestly, I find all these questions about being afraid of what happens in foreign places when you travel to be just plain silly. Yeah, I could be mugged or lost or taken advantage of or lose my money or get sick when I’m halfway around the world — and I could just as easily have all these things happen to me at home.

And, it’s all a matter of perspective. When I travel, I meet many people around the world who view the United States as a very scary place. They mention 9/11, all the mass shootings that make the headlines with regularity every few months, the violence of our movies, etc. and they ask me:

Aren’t you afraid to live in the U.S.?

Of course, there is an element to staying safe and exercising proper caution, not being reckless or taking unnecessary risks. But that’s true anywhere, all the time.

Again, it’s just a thing called LIFE.

As my travel writer colleague Joshua Berman wrote in his recent excellent article for the Denver Post, facing your fears can reap remarkable rewards. There is something exhilarating and powerful about doing the things that scare you, whether it’s while traveling or in your own backyard. As Joshua wrote:

Travel is powerful like that. It is full of risks and rewards and unexpected transformations. But first, the risk.

If it’s a proper journey, some element of fear is healthy. So is acknowledgment that there will be bumps in the road — or that the road might be completely washed out and turned to mud and rubble.

The word travel comes from travail, which means, “to torment, toil, strive, or journey.”

Accepting some torment and toil, or at least being gracious when obstacles appear ahead, I have found, is part of being a relaxed, effective traveler.

So is taking that first step.

About to go on my first dive. Nervous!

About to go on my first dive. Nervous!

If you’re thinking about traveling somewhere that scares you, or traveling by yourself (which is almost always “scary” in some part, just in a testing-your-self-reliance sort of way) remember that it is also VERY liberating.

And empowering, rewarding and kick-ass. And it always helps us to learn more about ourselves.

And then check out this Huffington Post article called “Scared to Travel Alone? Here’s how to prepare yourself.”

And go. Have an adventure!

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