A New Year’s Resolution: Get Over Your Irrational Fears
At this very moment I’m in a bus headed for Honduras, the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere. In the bus with me are my most precious possessions: my husband, my children, and my parents. The last time we were in Honduras, we had one of our most frightening travel moments. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that our children were instructed to hide behind a shipping container and keep their heads down.
Nonetheless, we are returning, and the bus is a rollicking full of laughter and fun as my four teenagers, joined by their cousin and Hannah’s newly arrived boyfriend, continue their multi-continent party with the wild abandon of youth.
Are we afraid of a repeat performance?
Mindful, yes. Afraid, no. The statistics are overwhelmingly in our favor, even in the most dangerous country on this side of the planet.
We meet an enormous number of people who express envy at our lifestyle, the adventures we’ve had, and the education we’ve provided our children. We also meet more than a few folks who swear they could never do it, for a laundry list of reasons, some of which are 100% valid, but most of which are rooted in fear of one sort or another.
There are two sorts of fears: the rational, and the irrational.
Rational fears those that are are the easiest to deal with because they represent the things that are somewhat likely to happen. They can almost always be minimized through careful planning or increased education in some capacity. They are the fears that are sometimes worth changing plans over, and the fears we can combat through action and overcome, in one way or another.
Of the many I’ve heard articulated, there are five that seem common to most of us.
Travel is dangerous
- I’m far more likely to be killed in a car wreck than I am a plane crash.
- Risk of death by firearm is almost twice as likely in New Orleans than it is Guatemala, where I’m living now.
- My children would be in far greater danger attending school in America than they are galavanting around Central America .
I sent a 14 year old into Guatemala City last week, a nine hour round trip, to retrieve his grandparents from the airport; on his own, with less concern than I had sending the same child to a shopping mall in New Hampshire last winter. Why? Because this is his world, he knows how to travel safely, he speaks the language, he “gets” the third world thing. The mall? Now that’s a worry; that’s out of his element, having been raised in the world instead of a neighborhood.
If you’re kept up at night by concern for the danger of travel, do yourself a favor and arm yourself with statistics. The numbers are comforting, and instead of counting sheep, you can count success stories.
I’ll run out of money
Pay your own way. Save your money. Earn your journey. Recreate your careers, like we did, if you have to in order to keep going. Work your ass off. Your “job” may not go with you, but your entire skill set does, so does your creativity, your determination, and your motivation. Put those to good use, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll truly run out of money or options. We have hundreds of fantastically successful and passion driven traveling friends who are examples of the many ways to make it happen.
If you’re terrified about the money, combat that fear with a liberal and consistent application of the 7 P’s and WORK.
**Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance
Planning is too complicated
I freely admit that my life is a logistical nightmare a significant portion of the time. Booking flights, finding ground transportation, accommodation, and the daily needs of six people on a long-term tour isn’t easy. Coordinating the divergent schedules of my oldest three teens, who often are off in their own directions with the overall travel schedule of the family, finding the time for the three of us with real jobs to work, and the three boys’ educational plans, add in the occasional need to proctor university exams, and of course, the usual travel drama surrounding visas, language acquisition, adventure travel, packing logistics, and well, you get the picture.
Are you hyperventilating yet? I have a PhD in spinning plates.
If it’s the logistics that are keeping you from going, find the people who’ve done what you want to and enlist their help. If you don’t know anyone, or don’t know where to start, send me an email, I’ll help you. Or get in touch with the folks here at BootsnAll. Their entire company goal is to help get folks on the road for a trip like this.
Don’t stay home just because you can’t figure out how to get out the front door.
I might get sick or die
At the risk of beating the same drum: people get sick and die at home, too. If you were to run the numbers, I suspect that you’d find that the vast majority of illnesses and deaths occur at home, not abroad. Allowing your healthcare fears to keep you from your travel dreams is silly.
Stack the deck in your favor by getting the proper immunizations (check out the CDC recommendations.) Follow reasonable healthcare precautions. Clean your food well. Pack a decent health kit. Get travel insurance, and make sure it includes the clause for emergency evacuation and expatriation of remains. Continue with your routine healthcare (this can be done anywhere in the world easily enough). Drink bottled water, and get out there. Yes, you’re going to get diarrhea. If you travel long enough you’ll probably get a parasite. You’re likely to need a stitch or a bone set if you walk in the world long enough (because you’re likely to need that at home eventually, too!)
It makes no sense to live your whole life without living your dream because you’re concerned about the health risk… only to get old, and lose your health at home.
Apply the 7 P’s, minimize the risks and live the life you dream of.
I don’t have time
We can spend that time in any way that we choose, but it definitely is a choice. There’s not one right way to do life, and I support each individual’s right to craft life according to her own passions and interests. If that keeps a person in the house his grandfather built from cradle to grave, then that’s a beautiful thing. However, if your passion is to travel, and you’re not traveling because you’ve got a fear related to time, then be very aware that the clock is ticking, and every moment wasted on less than your dream is a moment you’re not getting back.
Here’s one last observation regarding fears:
From where I sit, taking three generations of my family into the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere seems an entirely safe and reasonable thing to do as a post Christmas party.
Because I’ve been where we’re going before. I know that, while the statistics for the entire country might be unsettling, this particular corner is relatively low key. I speak the language. I know the cultural quirks, and we’ve taken the appropriate precautions.
When you swallow that big lump, prepare the best you can, and then just get out there and do it, you find that it wasn’t as scary as you thought, and in fact, it was kind of fun. Like that roller coaster ride that terrified you at the amusement park when you were a kid.
Having overcome one fear, you’re then empowered to tackle the next. One by one, you build your experience, you build your skill set, and you build confidence in your ability to roll with the punches, even when the unexpected happens, and you find yourself stashing children behind shipping containers because of incoming choppers and the threat of gunfire.
Incidentally, there was no gunfire, because, of course, the worst almost never happens, and even our most rational fears almost never come true.
Read more about overcoming travel fears: