Letting Go of Fear

The prospect of long term travel is exciting and terrifying, and as a result of the latter, for many it’s seen as a pipe dream.

My husband and I are currently mulling over the idea of taking a long-term trip. We know our motivations to make it happen, and we know the hurdles we have to overcome.

While exploring our laundry list of concerns, I realized that most of them stemmed from anxiety.

Most problems can be overcome in some way, but fear and apprehension often seem insurmountable. If you don’t recognize that fear is most likely the real root of your concerns, your travel plans will stop before they start.

I’m an incredibly anxious person – I manage to turn any slight concern into a paralyzing fear. If you’re anything like me, you use your fear as an excuse for not going after what you really want in life.

If you don’t recognize that fear is most likely the real root of your concerns, your travel plans will stop before they start.

Are your fears keeping you from traveling long-term (like me)?

Face Your Fears

In any discussion about long term travel, or any big life decision for that matter, is a list of pros and cons.

When we started really breaking our pros and cons down, we realized that all it takes is one good reason to make what we used to see as a negative, a positive, and totally doable. Many of the pros below actually started out as cons.

  • Lack of direction: We have no idea what we’re going to do next. I used to think of this as a detriment, but I soon realized that we could seriously make this work for us.
  • My father-in-law’s death: In addition to turning our lives upside down, this made the lack of direction we already had much, much worse. He was always a part of our plans, but his death has motivated us to lead the life we want.
  • We want a lifestyle change: New Jersey, while home, just isn’t for us. We want a quieter, slower, and less expensive way of life.
  • I want a personality change: I want to be more adaptable and comfortable going with the flow. I can’t think of a better way than to completely immerse myself in a world of unknowns and force myself to be okay with it.
  • We know what our end game is, but have no idea how to get there: We know we want to build our own house in the boonies somewhere. We just don’t where to settle down. We’re desperately hoping that traveling will help us come to a decision.
  • No kids! I know that a lot of people travel long term with children, but I don’t think I’m one of those women who could handle it.
  • No mortgage or financial responsibilities: Luckily, due to our stunted decision making skills, we’re renting our house. Our only real financial tie is a car payment, which we could get rid of if necessary.
  • If not now, when? Things are only going to get more complicated the older we get.
  • We love to travel. I feel most refreshed, alive, and engaged while we’re traveling. We both love adventure and new experiences and all it entails. Most importantly, we find travel to be an incredible bonding experience.

Our anxieties are varied and there aren’t many that we share collectively. While your pro column is important, your con column is also key:

  • Not having a “home”: After a bad day, we can’t retreat to our home where we’re comfortable.
  • Leaving behind loved ones and pets.
  • Having a medical emergency on the road.
  • No job security: This is my husband’s main concern. I’ve gotten myself out of sticky financial situations before, so this one doesn’t bother me. When you have to, you make it work, but I know this is a big concern for many people wanting to take the leap.
  • Long car drives and flights: This is the most anxiety-inducing point of frustration for me. I just can’t get over it as it’s a big part of my personality and who I am.
  • People: I’m worried that we’ll stumble across the wrong person/neighborhood/situation and get into trouble. Knowing that my husband will have to defend us on his own at an “away game” makes this much worse for me.
  • Unfamiliar territory: This might be exciting at first, but I can easily see it becoming terrifying.
  • International travel issues: Safety, health, and language barriers.
  • Anxiety about anxiety: I’m worried I’ll panic in the midst of a trip.

One day, your fears are nagging thoughts in the back of your mind; the next you’re in full blown panic mode. I believe that most anxieties are closely tied with lack of confidence, and if you address that part of the equation, most will fall away. Read on for help with those that I – ahem, I mean you – can’t quite seem to shake.

I believe that most anxieties are closely tied with lack of confidence, and if you address that part of the equation, most will fall away.

  • Realize that you’re an intrepid traveler: This is all about confidence. Think back to previous trips, both good and bad. You can (and have!) handled anything that came your way. It also helps to think of past explorers and travelers- they were contending with real danger.
  • People do this for a living (by choice!): This is especially helpful when it come to modes of travel. When I start to get nervous on flights, I think about the stewardesses- they’re just working through their shifts and running out the clock, just like we do on the ground. Once on Interstate 80 in Wyoming (a very desolate stretch of highway), the only thing that kept me from losing my mind was thinking about the truck drivers passing us. They do this every single day.
  • Statistics (usually): This is what most people look to, and it works most of the time. Other times, it makes me want to curl up in a ball and never leave the house. Use this one at your own risk.
  • Trust your traveling partner: My husband isn’t scared of much, and I look to him to quell any fears I may have. Sometimes, it’s infuriating, and I can’t imagine why a certain thing doesn’t scare him; other times it’s a major source of strength. I know I usually don’t have much to fear when he’s nonchalant about it.
  • Work out worst case scenarios out loud: Do it with someone else in the room and have them give you feedback. When you’re overanalyzing something you’re scared about, it usually doesn’t sound so crazy in your head, but once those ideas are out in the open, you’ll realize just how ridiculous they sound.
  • “When forced to make a decision, most people with do the right thing.” Spoken by the late Senator Merlino of New Jersey, it helps to remember this. Of course, there are people out there who wouldn’t give you the time of day but there are far more people willing to help you. You’re never alone on the road, and people all over the world are largely good.
  • You always have a home: Try this – think of 5 people you could stay with if the proverbial shit hit the fan. Didn’t take long, did it? I also read once that a good way to ground yourself is to point at your belly button. Home is right there, within yourself.
  • We live in the digital age: Worried that you’ll miss your family? They are literally a skype call away. Of course, this isn’t the same, but remember that we live in a time where you can book flights quickly if you’re feeling too home sick. Always have a reserve cash supply saved for this purpose. Just knowing it’s there will comfort you.
  • Plan well: Worried about medical issues? Get a full workup before leaving home and take care of any lingering problems. Buy travel insurance. Worried about vaccinations? See a physician that specializes in travel medicine. Scared of a language barrier? Take time to learn key phrases. There is nothing you can’t do if you plan well, and…
  • Inundate yourself with information: When I’m embarking on a new hike or travel activity, I research for hours. Being armed with information and knowing what to expect (to a point) is incredibly comforting and gives you a much needed boost of confidence, but…
  • Realize you can’t control every situation: Part of the fun of travel is the unexpected, even if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t usually like the unexpected. Realize that you can’t plan for everything, things WILL go wrong, and just try to deal with them the best you can when it happens.
  • QUIT WHINING: Not much else to say here. You’ll never do anything if you don’t realize that every single thing you do (not just during travel) could lead you to a bad experience. There will never be a perfect time, and if you keep waiting for it, you’ll be waiting forever.

I can find a reason to be fearful in almost any situation, but what scares me more is not living the life I want to. We made a decision to travel long term some time ago, even if we didn’t realize it. In the words of Amelia Earhart, “ The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity.”

I can find a reason to be fearful in almost any situation, but what scares me more is not living the life I want to.

So suck it up, pull up those bootstraps, and hit the road – we’ll see you there.

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Photo credits: SurFeRGiRL30

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