Why your fear of traveling shouldn't stop you from taking the plunge
We fear change but how else do we know what we are capable of? Fear is natural, but it shouldn't stop you from traveling. Here's how to find your footing and overcome it.
Nov 29, 2019
Janaina Colomba is a writer, traveler, and creative inspired by the beauty and wisdom of people and places. Her personal mission is to bridge cultu...
As a long-term traveler, I often receive messages and emails from people telling me how much they want to travel, but how scared they are to actually take the plunge.
I get it. It's easy to scroll through Instagram and be captivated by all the beautiful images. You let your mind wander about what it would be like to buy a one-way ticket and actually visit those places, but then you start to think about what happens after getting on that one-way flight and the anxiety starts to creep in.
What if I run out of money? What if I won't actually enjoy traveling? What if I won't be able to make any friends on the road? What if I feel lonely? What if I can't get a job when I return? What if something happens to me?
I've been there. Several years ago, I was obsessed with the idea of traveling. I saw myself exploring the bucket list destinations I read about in travel blogs, and constantly dreamt about designing a life on my own terms that would fulfill my longing for adventure. But for as much time as I spent thinking about travel, I couldn't actually put my fist down and do something about it.
Fast-forward to today and I'm traveling the world full-time as a digital nomad, doing work I love while visiting the bucket list destinations I'd always dreamt of.
It's simple — I decided to stop letting my fear of traveling get the better of me.
No matter how many excuses I gave myself — that I wasn't ready, that I didn't know what to do, that I couldn't do this by myself — I knew that what was really holding me back was my fear.
As glamorous and exciting as travel can seem, taking the plunge to do so involves a certain level of discomfort.
And here's the catch — that discomfort doesn't really ever go away.
People often say that the hardest part of doing anything is taking the first step, but in an effort to remain transparent, I'd have to disagree. Taking that first flight is challenging, but it's not until you've stepped off the plane that you realize there is no turning back, and that despite your best intentions, you're in for a very unpredictable ride.
There's a reason travel changes you for the better; it's challenging. One of the biggest misconceptions people make about my nomadic lifestyle is that I've conquered my fear of traveling and am now "living the dream."
The reality is that I'm constantly working on finding my footing and feeling less afraid.
If you've been dreaming of taking a trip and your mindset keeps holding you back, here is my advice for dealing with fear.
How not to let fear stop you from traveling
- Realize your fear is inhibiting you from fully living
- Responsibilities are relative
- Think of travel as an opportunity
- Create a personal bucket list
- Plan a budget
- Establish community
- Look at the odds
- Stay true to yourself
- You made it this far
- You can always come back
Tips for overcoming your fear of traveling
1. Realize your fear is inhibiting you from fully living
It's natural to fear change. Most often, a fear of traveling isn't about the actual travel experience — it's about the dramatic change that goes hand-in-hand with deciding to step outside of your comfort zone.
Curated blogs and picture-perfect Instagram feeds aside, the hard truth is that traveling asks you to experience the world differently. Regardless of whether you travel for a month or a year, take a modern sabbatical from work or quit your job to start traveling long-term... change is inevitably involved.
And in my opinion, there's no better way to find out what you're capable of.
Think of it this way — almost everyone who has traveled will report back to tell you how travel changed their life.
When you travel, you're no longer obligated to play out the various roles you've become accustomed to fulfilling. This gives you the freedom to rediscover and reinvent parts of yourself that you've silenced.
Fearing what's on the other side of your comfort zone is natural, but don't allow it to keep you playing small.
2. Responsibilities are relative
Most people will name "responsibility" as the main reason they can't travel.
Ultimately, travel is a privilege, and there are absolutely scenarios where "responsibility" is a valid reason for staying home.
However, if you're afraid of traveling and keep using "responsibility" as an excuse to keep you from taking the leap, consider that your responsibilities are relative to the life you're living.
When I first got the travel itch, I convinced myself I couldn't plan the trip I'd been dreaming about because I was too invested at home. I had a job, a rental contract, and a car. It took me a few months to realize that these were all responsibilities I had chosen... and that I could just as easily un-choose them.
And that's exactly what I did. I sold my car, ended my apartment lease, bought a one-way ticket, and quit my job — in that order.
Since then, my responsibilities have fluctuated tremendously, but I definitely never imagined that I'd end up re-defining my idea of responsibility to one that now encompasses my own version of success and personal fulfillment.
Living the digital nomad lifestyle is definitely filled with more uncertainty than that of the 9-5 grind, but it's worth it. I'm able to design my life on my own terms, work for clients I love, and travel where I want... for as long as I want.
Ask yourself if "responsibility" is tied to your sense of comfort or if it's what you'd choose for yourself if you were given a choice.
3. Think of travel as an opportunity
Travel is a privilege. More than that, travel is an opportunity to explore and experience the dynamic spectrum of our human existence.
Recognizing travel as education is a powerful way to overcome fear.
Think of all the ways travel can offer value to your life and if you're still unconvinced, consider opting to do a work exchange. If you're afraid taking a travel break will create a gap in your resume or hold you back in professional life, this is a great way to ensure you're getting the maximum value from your experiences abroad.
Worldpackers offers incredible exchange experiences around the world, including opportunities to work with NGOs and other social impact programs, develop digital skills, and even learn about permaculture and sustainable living.
I've done a couple Worldpackers experiences in Israel and Mexico and can say without complete confidence that the company's visionary leadership in the collaborative travel movement is truly unparalleled. If you're afraid of traveling, I highly recommend using Worldpackers to ease your way in.
You'll be an expert traveler in no time.
To learn more about the benefits of membership, check out the complete Worldpackers traveler's guide for Verified Members.
4. Create a personal bucket list
A huge part of traveling is giving yourself permission to do the things that fuel your joy.
Consider the experiences you dream of having in this lifetime... and write them down.
Help yourself overcome your fear of traveling by physically writing out some your top bucket list experiences pertaining to travel and adventure.
Once you've got your list, aim to tick off the "easiest" experience first. For example, when I made my first bucket list, the first thing I checked off was "buy a one-way flight ticket." Most of the other experiences listed wouldn't have been possible had I never gathered the courage to board that initial plane.
After I did that, everything else became more accessible.
5. Plan a budget
One of the easiest ways to let your fear stop you from traveling is to tell yourself that you don't have the money to do so.
But you don't need to be rich to travel. Fact.
In 2017, I visited over 20 countries and spent less than $10/day, including all transportation costs. When the year began, I'd already had my fair share of budget travel, and was tuned in to the very best budget-savvy hacks to travel smarter.
That being said, I still planned a budget, and when that budget became tight, I used Worldpackers to save on accommodation in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I networked, got my feet back on the ground, and started a small freelance business from my laptop... all while immersing in local culture and enjoying two magnificent cities.
Plan a budget and stick to it. Use resources like Worldpackers to get to know destinations like a local and save money while traveling.
6. Establish community
You aren't the first person to do this! There are thousands of other travelers out there who have done what you're dreaming of, and better yet, who are doing it right now!
Chase your bucket list goals and establish relationships and community with like-minded people who support your dream. If you're concerned about making friends while traveling alone, stay in a hostel, or better yet, do a Worldpackers exchange.
7. Look at the odds
This is especially important to remember when your thoughts start trailing off into the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. Instead, think about what could go right.
Things can go wrong anywhere, and bad things do happen. But so do good things! Focus on positive outcomes by journaling about your intentions for your trip. Read inspirational travel stories and follow Instagram accounts and travel blogs that are in alignment with the higher purpose you're seeking.
8. Stay true to yourself
Consider your reasons for traveling, and remember that ultimately, you're doing this for you.
Judgment is inevitable, just don't let it cloud your vision about what you want.
9. You made it this far
Even if all you've done is write your bucket list, you've made a huge step in the right direction. If you're constantly browsing travel magazines, daydreaming about remote destinations, and browsing flight search sites to find cheap airfare every other night, don't stop now!
You're almost there. Take the first step!
10. You can always come back
If you take that one-way flight and realize spontaneous travel isn't for you, it's perfectly okay to go home. If you travel the world for a year and realize you want to go back to a traditional office job, that's a good thing — you've learned something about yourself.
No matter the scenario, it's always okay to come back.
Every experience is a learning experience, and traveling is no different. In fact, the whole point of travel is to learn. If you've used travel as a means to expand your horizons, you've succeeded.
In recent years, traveling has finally started to become more socially acceptable. Nonetheless, whenever I talk to people about my nomadic lifestyle, they still tell me they wish they could do what I do. When I ask what holds them back, the explanations I hear are almost always related to fear.
Traveling involves change, and change is scary — there's no doubt about it.
But how else do we know what we are capable of?
The more you travel, the more you will grow. You've probably heard that traveling makes you more open-minded... because it's true. A trip abroad expands your worldview, connects you to your global community, and empowers you to be your most authentic, forward-thinking self.
Traveling will make you more adaptable. You'll become better at thinking on your feet, and you'll be a better problem solver, planner, negotiator, and more.
See travel as an investment in yourself, and be utterly shameless in your pursuit of making the most of all the value it provides.
Worried about responsibility? Always maintain what is most important to you and you won't go astray.
Travel is a game-changer, and those willing to overcome fear will reap its never-ending rewards of self-discovery, growth, and liberation.
It's your game now — so play hard.