Travel, in its truest form requires some sort of courage. If you’re wondering what courage is needed to get on a plane and jet off to some amazing destination for a week of sightseeing, let me remind you that I’m talking about travel and not a vacation.
Ask any traveler who ventures out of his or her comfort zone, gets off the beaten path and travels deep into cultures, and he or she will admit that their adventures demand courage and a strong willingness to overcome fear. Winning over our worst travel fears takes years for some while for others it takes just a handful of positive experiences. The point is that we cannot surrender to fear and let it hold us back from living life to the fullest. It’s important to remember that fear is as human an emotion as any but the power it has over our actions is always under our control.
I’ve always been open about my own fear of heights (and speed and spiders, seriously I have a list). I somehow managed to switch my mind off just before I ran over the edge of a hill to take off during my first time paragliding in Queenstown. Once in the air, I was so amazed by the spectacular view of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables range that all trace of fear had just disappeared. Would I do it again? Of course but it’s not like I’m completely over my fear.
In this post, I asked travel bloggers from around the world about their worst travel fears. From heights to water, they get candid about their fears and how they’re working towards or have succeeded at overcoming them to get the most out of their travel experiences.
Margherita Ragg – The Crowded Planet
I know you’ll think I’m crazy looking at this picture, and you’ll probably think I’m even crazier if I tell you that I used to be afraid of heights. For many years, this was a real problem. I couldn’t look down a balcony without hanging onto the bannister and climbing onto places like the Eiffel Tower made me real nervous.
Starting 6 years ago, I’ve tried to overcome my fear of heights little by little. First, I exposed myself to what made me nervous, like climbing to the top of towers and looking down, while telling myself ‘this is safe, I must be calm’. Then, I took up rock climbing and discovered I really liked it, even though I still had problems with heights every so often. Bungee jumping was the last hurdle. I was terrified when I did it, but LOVED the experience. Since then, I haven’t been afraid – I hope my fear is gone for good.
Emily Luxton – Emily Luxton Travel Blog
My biggest travel fear is quite a small thing, one that a lot of people might consider silly. I’m a very shy person, frustratingly so, and for me, meeting new people can be incredibly scary. I don’t even like to order for myself in restaurants, and sometimes the idea of talking to someone new makes me so overwhelmingly nervous that I’ll do anything to avoid it. When I travel solo, meeting people and making conversation is something I really struggle with – and often my shyness gets in the way of me having fun making new friends. Being quiet and awkward can come across as rude, too.
The more I’ve travelled, though, the more I’ve managed to overcome this fear – although even today it still seizes me, often at very silly times. Thankfully, for the most part I’m able to cope with my shyness, and these days I don’t find meeting new people anywhere near as difficult as I once did. I’m still as shy as ever, but I have learnt to ignore those fears and get on with it, and now I have a huge list of new friends from around the world. Travelers are usually awesome people, and it can be so easy to make friends on the road it’s almost ridiculous!
Mimi McFadden – The Atlas Heart
Since I was in middle school I’ve dealt with something called General Anxiety Disorder or GAD. When I was a young teenager, I was on the path to becoming one of those old ladies that wouldn’t leave her house in fear of, well, everything. The epiphany that this could be my future was when I realized I needed to start facing my fears, because all I wanted was to live, and live adventurously.
One by one I took each fear or anxiety I had and faced it head on. Traveling on my own, and that simple moment when I decided to jump into the unknown, was the turning point when I knew that I had trumped the majority of my lingering fears.Even though I may not be fearless, I act like I am. I have just as much fear as the next person when it comes to something like jumping out of a plane, but I’ve learned how to control that fear and make it into something magical. My fears are what constantly force me out of my comfort zone to try as many new things as possible, and for that I am grateful for them.
Carly Box – Cross That Box
I’ve only discovered a fear of heights since I’ve been traveling. I’m not sure what changed or what might have subconsciously happened to me for this to be a new problem.
We recently climbed the infamous ‘Dune 45’ in Namibia. I felt good about it and hadn’t even considered heights an issue until we got about 20m off the ground. Then it hit me. I felt a crippling surge throughout my whole body. My chest went tight and I had no ability to look anywhere except at the ground in front of me.
I had to sit down so I felt ‘safe’ before continuing up the Dune. At the top I could barely look and enjoy the view. I didn’t take photos and just wanted to get down on flat ground. I was disappointed. I felt like I’d missed out.
My partner also has a fear of heights but it’s not as crippling as me. We find this a challenge because the brave one can’t talk the other one around. We know that we have to try and challenge this fear. We are also really adamant that this doesn’t hold us back. We’re not scared of much, but this really does something to us!
The next time there is an activity that involves heights we are determined to work through it together. Breathe, heads up and enjoy. Trust in what we are doing and trust in the people around us.
Rachel Sasser – Trailing Rachel
My biggest travel fear by far is being lonely. When I first arrived in Argentina to study abroad, I sat alone in my hostel bed wondering if I’d made a huge mistake by committing to five months in a foreign country. I spent several pesos calling home to my ex-boyfriend and mom, and I checked Facebook an unhealthy amount. Of course, I soon made great friends with whom I am still close, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Sometimes though, that fear of loneliness creeps in while I’m planning my future long-term travels.
This fall I’m heading around the world without my boyfriend, starting in Colombia. I actually just booked the flight. Even though I’ve saved for over a year and fantasized about quitting my job to take off, I still freak out a bit when I think about my trip. It’s not the traveling alone or even eating alone that gives me anxiety. I’m worried about those lazy (hungover) Sundays when all I want to do is lie on the couch with my boyfriend, some take-out, and TV. What am I going to do on the road?! But then I remember how much I want to do this and how easy it was to make friends abroad. And if all else fails, a comfortable hotel bed with a television won’t ever be too far away.
Alouise Dittrick – Take Me to the World
When I was a kid I wanted to be a mermaid, but I never did well with actually swimming. As an adult, I cannot swim, and while I would not say I am afraid of water I am apprehensive around it. There are destinations, and activities that look amazing but seems pointless for me (personally) to visit. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia looks amazing in photos, but why would I go there if I can’t swim or scuba dive?
My ‘fear’ and inexperience around water has affected the types of trips I take. Usually, I prefer urban travel, but a few years ago I went to Mexico for a family wedding. One day we took a day trip to a cenote (a sinkhole filled with ground water). The water in the cenote is quite deep, and I thought this would be an experience I would not get to do. Then I saw that they had life vests. While, I felt ridiculous being an adult in a life vest it was worth it to float around in the crystal blue waters. Maybe visiting The Great Barrier Reef will be possible one day.
Stef- Food & Photos RTW
I am scared of heights. I hate going over bridge when you can look through it to the ground. It makes me completely nervous. Sometimes I can overcome my fear of heights and sometimes I don’t. It just depends on the day. For example the other day I was too scared to jump from a high swing into a river or from a waterfall. I had a bad day and just knew that I couldn’t do it as much as I wanted it. I knew on another day, I would just go for it. I usually try to extend my boundaries by overcoming fears. But this day, I just couldn’t and I knew it from the first minute.
And then on the other hand I did a skydive a couple of years ago and loved it. I jumped into the water of a cenote from a for me very high point.
Everything totally depends on how you’re feeling that certain day. And that’s fine. You don’t need to always be that tough and fearless person. But I can guarantee you that when you overcome your fear once, you will be so proud of yourself and you will dare overcoming your fear during more occasions in the future.
It’s definitely worth giving it a try and you shouldn’t leave out those experiences completely just because of fears. Listen to your heart, trust yourself and simply do it.
Laura Goyer – The Culinary Travel Guide
I have the most irrational fear of queues – especially if there are ropes or some other type of barrier to keep the line orderly. It doesn’t bother me if I’m waiting with a friend, but if I’m alone, I can’t help feeling like I’m trapped. In my day-to-day life, I don’t do long line-ups. I go somewhere else or go back another day. No big deal. But when I’m traveling solo, that’s another story.
Airport lines are pretty much unavoidable. Ticketing. Customs. Security. Ugh. By the time I get to the screening gate, I’m usually pale, sweaty and terrified that an over-zealous TSO will think I’m up to something more sinister than a run-of-the-mill panic attack.
Queues at major attractions are also a problem. Waiting for over two hours to take the elevator up the Eiffel Tower was almost unbearable, and the one to the Cathedral Towers at Notre-Dame de Paris was so long that I skipped it entirely (a decision I later regretted).
The only thing that really helps is to find a distraction, usually on my iPhone. If there’s Wi-Fi, great. If not, I edit photos or play a few rounds of Threes. But here’s the thing. No matter how anxious and uncomfortable I am in a queue, I’ll never let it stop me from travelling. I know things that are worthwhile are rarely easy.
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What is your biggest travel fear and how do you deal with it? Do you let it stop you from doing things or do you stare it in the face? Share your story in the comments below.