Overcoming Travel Fears

We had just disembarked at the Las Vegas airport and could already hear the slot machines dinging in the distance. It was our first trip together on a plane and my girlfriend’s first voyage to Sin City. She turned to me and said “I didn’t tell you this earlier, but this is the first time I’ve been on a plane in 20 years.” I was floored. She explained that she had a fear of flying and didn’t want to tell me because she knew how much I traveled and thought it might be a deal breaker. So, she sucked it up, pulled off the perfect acting job and a miracle occurred. She overcame her fear. Since then, she’s been all over the world and done all kinds of “scary” things.

Pretending not to be afraid turns out to be the biggest cure for travel phobias. The first time I jumped out of a plane, I made jokes and acted like I wasn’t really concerned about becoming splattered on someone’s driveway. Come to think of it, it only worked until the point where I actually jumped. Then I had to be pushed. Okay, bad example. Think about what scares you about traveling to another country. Our biggest fears are usually ones where we imagine the worst scenario possible. The good news is… statistics are in your favor. Its highly unlikely that the most terrifying thing possible will ever happen. So quit being afraid.

Here’s a list of the four most common travel fears and why they really shouldn’t be a deterrent to your dreams of exploring the globe:

Fear of Flying– Snakes on a Plane might be one of the dumbest movies ever made, but everyone has heard of it because it took two of the most common phobias: aerophobia and ophidiophobia, and put them together (with a little claustrophobia thrown in for good luck). Flying is still safer than road travel and gives you more options of places to go. I know you ‘ve heard that, but think about it. It’s true. You’re safer in the air, than on the ground. It just seems scarier because you don’t do it every day and someone else has the steering wheel. Most aerophobes I know, have just not flown in so long, that they’ve created an irrational fear. The best cure: go somewhere on a plane.

Not Speaking the Language – Not being able to order a hamburger or tell the porter where to drop your luggage, might fuel your nightmares, but you’re luckier than you think. English is the most popular foreign language in almost every country in the world. When all else fails, there’s always that ONE guy that is happy to show off his international abilities in front of the local onlookers and get you back on the right track. A few years ago, through a series of long taxi rides, I ended up lost in some strange city in China with no clue of where I was or how to explain where I was going (tip: get someone to write the address of the place you’re staying in Chinese if you’re ever there). After 5 frustrated taxi drivers and quickly darkening skies , I just started asking people on the street if they spoke English. It only took a moment to find the one guy that could fix everything including organizing a ride back to the town we were staying. If you can’t find an English speaker, you can always fall back on a skill you learned as a child: Charades. Better yet, make it easy on yourself. Use a translation app.

It’s Not Safe– Much of the world is actually safer than America. I feel much more comfortable leaving my wallet on a table in the Middle East than I do in the states. I walk around dark streets in Europe and feel more secure than I would in a New York subway. There’s more people running around with handguns in the US than any other country (300 million, more or less) and that doesn’t seem a little scary? How do you feel about taking a trip to New Orleans or Baltimore? They’re considered to be two of the most dangerous cities in the world, along with St. Louis and Detroit. Paris, London, Rome and every other city in Europe isn’t even on the list.

I Can’t Afford to Travel– Many traveler’s fears are  tied to unknown variables like travel costs , which is why all-inclusive resorts are so popular. It’s important to realize that no matter where you go, there’s different levels of restaurants, accommodation, and transport and it’s not that difficult to find something that fits your travel budget. Vacations don’t have to be five star accommodation. You might find a jungle hut on a beach in Thailand for $5/night. You could choose to cook your own food. You can opt for local transport. Many countries in the world have much lower costs than what you’d pay to travel domestically. If you’re from America, you’re doing better financially than most of the population on the planet and what may seem like very little money to you, might feed a family in that country for a week. If you do a little research, you CAN afford it.

The four most common travel fears really aren’t that scary when you put them in perspective. There’s really not very much to be afraid of at all. Unless of course there’s snakes involved. And that’s a whole different story! 

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