Fighting Fears

By Jennifer Miller on November 11th, 2015
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I can’t tell you the number of times it’s happened:

Standing at the top of the cliff, video camera in hand, watching the kids leap fearlessly the forty or so feet to plunge out of sight in a veil of bubbles and explode from the surface screaming with joy. I had the conversation one more time.

“WOW! That’s amazing! You’ve been traveling for four years with your family?! Those are your kids?! So cool. I wish I could do that, but….”

She filled in the blank with yet another fear.

I’ve heard them all, I think. Every “reason” for remaining locked in a life she does not love is linked to an underlying fear. A fear that keeps her prisoner.


“But if we’re very truthful with ourselves, the vast majority us don’t have reasons, we have fears.”

Now don’t get me wrong. There are reasons not to live your dreams. One man I respect very much put his on hold for a good decade to care for his ailing parents. He’ll never regret that. But if we’re very truthful with ourselves, the vast majority us don’t have reasons, we have fears.

What are your fears?


fear falling

The thing about the real fears, the deep fears, the long standing, habitual fears, is that they aren’t simple. It’s not as easy as counting to three and jumping off of the high dive, is it?

Did you notice that I just called some fears “habitual?”

Have you considered that? That being afraid, or allowing the fears to immobilize you, can actually become a habit? Think about that for a second: Have you let that happen? If so, how? What are the habits you’ve allowed to develop that are fear based and keeping you from moving forward?

How do we overcome these fears? Do the people out there “doing it” not have fears? Is it realistic to think that those fears will evaporate and we’ll all of a sudden be filled with bravery?

How do we stop sabotaging ourselves by the things swirling around in our heads?

Rational fears


fear rational
There are two sorts of fears, did you know that? The rational and the irrational. Somehow, the irrational tend to outweigh the rational in our minds.

“These are all things that are genuine concerns to be taken seriously and planned for. They are fears that we all face when we leave conventional life behind and reach for a dream.”

So, what are rational fears? What does it make sense to be afraid of?

  • Fear of homelessness?
  • Fear of health concerns or emergencies?
  • Fear of the inability to keep food on your plate, or your children’s?
  • Fear of educational deficit for your children?
  • Fear of failure?

These are all things that are genuine concerns to be taken seriously and planned for. They are fears that we all face when we leave conventional life behind and reach for a dream.


“When we overcome those fears, they are magically turned into building blocks toward living our dream instead of big boulders keeping us away from our dreams.”

They are rational fears.

And they are surmountable. They are “problems” that can be “solved.” They are not reason to turn tail and run. They are obstacles to be overcome. When we overcome those fears, they are magically turned into building blocks toward living our dream instead of big boulders keeping us away from our dreams.


Irrational fears


fear alone
This nebulous cloud of evil lives inside every head and is highly personal. These are the demons we were handed in childhood, or built for ourselves, or borrow from our over-wrought neighbor who is so “helpful” in our planning.

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of loss
  • Fear of looking stupid
  • Fear of what others will think
  • Fear of ridicule
  • Fear of hard work
  • Fear of actual success (now what?!)

These are the fears that play like tapes in our heads in the dark hours of the night.


“These are the demons we were handed in childhood, or built for ourselves, or borrow from our over-wrought neighbor who is so “helpful” in our planning.”

“What will my friends think? What if everyone sees me fail? What if I spend all my money and get nothing for it? What if I end up living on my Mom’s basement couch with my three kids? What if I have to declare bankruptcy if this business fails? What if I have to come crawling back to my job? What if it doesn’t work? What if my kid gets sick and dies in some god-forsaken place? What if I get my dream and I hate it, then I’m gonna look dumb!”

And on and on it goes in an evil merry-go-round, keeping us right where we don’t want to be: in the status quo.


Newsflash: Everyone has these irrational fears. Everyone.


fear high

Fighting fear with facts



Too many of the fears we have are irrational. They’re based on “stories” we’ve heard, or watching too much Fox News. They’re the fantastically drastic fears of losing life and limb that breed sleepless nights and are born from our sincere desire to control all of the variables and our dependence on the “known” quantities for comfort.

For example: He’s completely comfortable traveling in Washington DC, but is terrified by the prospect of spending six months in Mexico City. It’s dangerous. There are drug wars. Everyone knows that. The reality is that Washington DC is four times more dangerous than Mexico City.


“The reality is that Washington DC is four times more dangerous than Mexico City.”

Many of our fears can be addressed in this way, allowing us to think rationally, and make choices based on data instead of night terrors.

She’s afraid to give your child the freedom to go to the park, or ride his bike alone around the block because of the fear of abduction, or “stranger danger?” Of the 800,000 children reported missing in the USA each year, 115 are stranger abductions, 50 of those will return home unharmed within 24 hours. This means that your massive fear of abduction for your child equals a 0.0000625% chance of coming true.

Fight your fears with facts. When you run the numbers instead of reacting from an emotional place, it gets a lot easier to set aside that fear and move forward.

Fighting fear with plans



Another set of fears falls into the, “What will I do if…” category.

  • If I run out of money?
  • If someone gets sick?
  • If someone is seriously injured?
  • If we aren’t having fun?
  • If I fail completely?

Many of these fears can be combatted by planning properly: Develop your income streams, set aside money for the worst-case-scenario, look into healthcare options, insurance, and medical evacuation. You can put into place contingency plans for your big “What if’s.”


“Fight your fears with facts. When you run the numbers instead of reacting from an emotional place, it gets a lot easier to set aside that fear and move forward.”

Fears often diminish in proportion to the level of preparation you’ve put in up front.

Fighting fear with experience

I belong to a group of traveling families online. Each week there is some new member who posts a laundry list of fears. Each week the older members of the group respond with, “Relax, give it time, it’s okay, this is normal.”

“There are things that we worry about that we simply can’t have perspective on until we’ve lived through it.”

There are things that we worry about that we simply can’t have perspective on until we’ve lived through it. Remember all of the things you were terrified about before your first child was born? Remember how silly it all seemed by the time your second was born? It all works out. You get through things. You figure it out as you go. You can’t plan for it all, and you do the best you can with what you have. You know that now.

Getting a Grip


fear grip
So what are your fears? What is holding you back from taking the leap? What are the rational ones? What are the irrational ones?

Make lists: long, thorough, exhaustive lists of everything you’re afraid of. Then start pushing through. Consider what you can do to prepare for the rational ones. Educate yourself on the irrational ones. Talk to people who’ve done what you want to do and shine the light of experience into the dark and fearful corners. Preparedness is the antidote to fear, remember?

What separates the Dreamers for the Doers at the end of a lifetime is the ability to push past fears, prioritize the rational ones and swallow the irrational, moving forward.

Fear is common to man. The question is, can you get beyond it?

You can.

Ready to tackle your fears and plan your RTW trip?
Read more about overcoming fears and obstacles to make your dream of traveling the world come true:

Photo credits: maxim ibragimov, hikrcn , dmitrymoi , Mikael Damkier , Jackie Smithson , Sjale