NERVOUS ABOUT TRAVEL? YOU ARE NOT ALONE…
I’ve had travel fears. Even the most frequent traveler will have concerns of some kind. And yet, so many times these fears get dismissed as being all in our heads. Well, I’m here to tell you they are palm-sweating, heart-pounding, gut-wrenching real.
As a teenager, my friend Emily (an alias to protect the innocent) had big dreams of traveling the world.We talked about where we’d go and what we’d do when we got there. We made big plans.
As we got older, Emily was always first to get the inside scoop on any trip I took. Her excitement was almost palpable, and yet, the few times we made travel plans together, something always came up to prevent it. I later learned the reason. Emily had a deep-seated fear of flying.
No question about it, travel is easier for some of us than others. For fellow wanderers like me, the desire to travel overshadows any travel fears I might have, but for others like Emily, just thinking about a trip―even when she would desperately love to go―makes her break out in hives.
- NERVOUS ABOUT TRAVEL? YOU ARE NOT ALONE…
- Travel Fears are not imagined
- Travel Fears that keep wishful wanderers at home
- Travel fears: Fact vs Fiction
- 1. Travel Fears About Crime:
- What you should do:
- 2. Civil Unrest or Terrorist Attack:
- Do your homework:
- 3. Fear of Getting Arrested or Locked Up Abroad
- 4. Traffic Violations:
- Drinking and Driving
- 5. The language barrier
- 6. Fear of Getting lost
- 7. Fear of Flying
- 8. Fear of Getting Motion Sickness
- 9. Fear of Crashing & Plane Safety
- 10. It’s too expensive: travel fears and money
- 11. Fear of having a bad travel experience
- Dealing with your travel fears
Travel Fears are not imagined
The fear of traveling is known as Hodophopia. This phobia can manifest itself in many ways, but the end result, a hesitancy, and in some cases, a total inability to travel to new places, is the same. Some people with Hodophobia fear all types of trips, while others are afraid only of specific means of transportation.
While it’s best to consult a mental health professional for any phobia, there are also many things you can do to minimize the stress associated with some travel fears. In fact, some companies provide stress training for their employees who travel frequently.
Travel Fears that keep wishful wanderers at home
Fear of flying is just one reason people who’d love to travel end up staying home. Maybe you’re worried you’ll be the proverbial fish out of water in another culture, or you’re just not in to experimenting with different foods. Maybe countries with a language barrier leave you feeling anxious. Maybe you worry about crime. It doesn’t help when all the things we see on the news and social media seem to validate our fears.
My friend Emily was eventually able to overcome her fear of flying, and how she did it seems to work for many. Notice I said “overcome” rather than get rid of. That’s because most likely we won’t banish our travel fears altogether. But, like Emily, we can learn how to cope with them so we can go on all the adventures we’ve been dreaming about.
After all, there’s a whole big world to explore.
Travel fears: Fact vs Fiction
If it’s true that our fears are fostered and affirmed by real life examples and the stories we hear, it makes sense to separate fact from fiction.
1. Travel Fears About Crime:
Listen to the “Breaking News” on television and read all the horrific headlines and stories that abound on the Internet and it’s no wonder some wannabe travelers get freaked out.
I get freaked out. When everything we see says that trip you’d love to take may be unsafe, it’s natural to think twice. And it’s wise to be cautious.
We should be wary of known dangerous places and not go there. But at the same time, be sure to check out the facts. You shouldn’t let petty theft in isolated areas of a big city, or country, put you off.
Whenever I read or hear about some travel problem, I check the news source. If the source isn’t reliable, I check it out on my Government sites and then Snopes, my go-to site for finding out what’s true and what’s basically a pants-on-fire story.
In most cases, common sense will go a long way. On my first trip to Italy, I was warned thieves frequent the area surrounding the Vatican and I shouldn’t wear anything that would make me an obvious target. Sure. Okay. Not thinking this was a big deal―it’s the Vatican, after all―I wore a gold bracelet with authentic gemstones in it, because it had a fail-proof clasp.
I didn’t realize until we were on the way back to our apartment that the bracelet was gone. I never felt a thing. My bad. These thieves are professionals, and I should have listened.
What you should do:
Remember that tourist areas anywhere are prime spots for theft. So if you go, (and you must) be smart. Be aware of your surroundings and become streetwise. I’ve enjoyed the Vatican twice since my bracelet disappeared…without any further incidents because I heeded the original advice.
Keep your valuables safe and out of sight and don’t engage with strangers who might be aware you are a tourist carrying money, cameras and other goods. Better yet, leave the expensive jewelry at home. If you wear jewelry, make it inexpensive costume jewelry. The best protection against theft is don’t dress like a tourist and don’t act like one. And use common sense.
2. Civil Unrest or Terrorist Attack:
With the Internet and a multitude of social information systems, we are more aware of global events than ever. You may even be thinking of staying away from a place that has had a recent attack. Or not traveling at all.
It’s totally reasonable to be wary. It took a lot of courage to get me to travel right after 9-11, but I did it anyway because 1.) I didn’t want to let the terrorists win, and 2.) I realized that this time period was most likely the safest time to travel since security across the globe had been ramped up and people everywhere were on high alert.
The truth is, every city in every country has its share of crime and other social issues. I’ve never been in Paris when there wasn’t someone protesting something or some group was on strike.
A friend who lived in Paris for a time told me “It’s what they do; someone is always protesting something.” Democracy at work, she said, and that change of thought opened a door for me. These isolated strikes and protests have never affected my enjoyment and, in fact, they’ve made the experience more real.
Do your homework:
The Internet has an abundance of information that will guide you away from troublesome areas, and if you dig deeper, you can find out if those tall tales are even true or not.
The stories are similar in most every place that’s been struck by random violence. Facts show I’m 6 times more likely to be eaten by a shark (one of the rarest forms of death) and 260 times more likely to get struck by lightning than be in a terror attack.
I’m 407,000 times more likely to die in a car accident than a terror attack.The difference is our comfort level with the familiar. We drive all the time and nothing has happened yet, so we feel safe. I travel all the time, so I feel as safe as I do driving my car. Safer, actually.
So do your research on places that have had a series of attacks or are hot spots for civil unrest. Unless you’re doing a documentary on a Zombie Apocolypse or The Most Dangerous Places in the World, you’re not going to want to travel to those areas anyway.
There is never guaranteed safety, but many travel fears about safety can be lessened. Being aware and using good judgement will open the doors to many exciting places that are safer than driving your car to the grocery store at home.
3. Fear of Getting Arrested or Locked Up Abroad
We’ve all heard stories of tourists getting arrested for minor offenses and spending the next five years in a foreign jail, so, of course, we’re going to wonder about things like that. We don’t want complications when we travel, warranted or not. The truth is, much of the time those stories are highly hyped to keep you watching TV, or make you keep reading the sensational headlines in the tabloids at the check-out line at the grocery store.
That said, we should always be aware of the laws in the country where we’re traveling. The actuality of getting arrested are minuscule if you obey the law. The fear of getting arrested can be overcome if you don’t take chances with laws that could land you a stint in a foreign jail. So find out what the laws are wherever you’re traveling. Again, the best protection is research.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. As long as you’re not wading in Trevi Fountain at 3 a.m., or singing La Traviata while climbing the side of the Eiffel Tower, it’s unlikely you’re going to get arrested. Every country is different and it’s important to know and respect your host country’s laws, customs, and mores.
4. Traffic Violations:
If you’re going to drive a car in another country, learn their traffic laws. Even then you may make a mistake, but chances are greater that you will if you have no idea what to expect.
We once received a traffic ticket three months after returning home from Italy. We’d made a wrong turn onto a restricted-traffic street in Rome. Better research may have prevented that mistake. On the plus side, no one followed us with sirens screaming or threw us into the dungeon. We paid the modest ticket and all was well.
Drinking and Driving
You may not get arrested for failing to use your turn signal, but if drinking and driving is against the law, which it is in most modern countries, don’t drink and drive. Open bottle laws for vehicles are different everywhere, too, so if you don’t know what the country’s laws are, don’t take a chance.
Whether you have a fear of getting arrested in a foreign country or not, stick to the rules and obey the country’s laws. Don’t do anything you shouldn’t. It’s as simple as that. Read up on the local laws, make sure you’re aware of what’s acceptable behavior in public…and you’re golden.
5. The language barrier
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re talking with a few people and then a couple of them huddle together and begin conversing in another language? I have and it’s disconcerting. We wonder what they could be talking about that they don’t want us to hear. Right?
It’s uncomfortable. We’re all put off by things that make us uncomfortable. We like to feel we belong and that we’re one of the gang. Travel, unless we’re staying relatively close to home, magnifies the feeling of being different.
If we don’t speak the language, that’s like being the ultimate outsider. If your discomfort tolerance level is low, you’re probably thinking why spend your hard-earned money to go somewhere when you know you’ll feel uneasy. Well…you go because the magic always lies outside our comfort zone.
Think about it. Every time you face a challenge and overcome it, you feel pretty amazing. Right? You do it because you know you’ll be happy that you did…and because there’s a big exciting world out there to explore.
But that’s not all. It’s a mistake to think your experience will be less enjoyable because you can’t effectively communicate with the locals. Why? Because most of the time, you can.
The facts are:
- English is the language of commerce and the second language for many European countries is English. If you speak English at all, it’s likely someone else does, too.
- People travel more now than any other point in time. Most businesses in large European cities are used to dealing with tourists…and with the language barrier. They won’t fault you for not knowing their language, but they do like it when you try to learn a few practical words like “thank you” and “good morning”.
- Your Smartphone probably has a translator, and if you have Siri, she’s a big help. Ask Siri how much a €20 dinner is in American dollars and she’s on it.
- People have been communicating with a combination of hand signals and gestures for centuries. It works.
With technology, the world is getting smaller and smaller. You can find out where to go and what to do in any country by looking at an app on your phone. At the very least, even the smallest cities have a tourism office with staff who will be able to help you. No Wi-Fi for that app? Well, there’s a solution for that, too. Just ask Google.
Okay…one more final fact. Those people who purposefully talked behind your back in front of your face…they’re just plain rude. It’s not you, it’s them.
6. Fear of Getting lost
Probably not on any of our “fun things to do” list when on a trip. Especially if we have a schedule to keep or a train to catch. But the chances are, unless we always go to the same familiar place, it will happen at some time during our travels. The anxiety related to getting lost is so great for some people that they’d rather stay home than deal with it.
Fortunately, this is one of the easier fears to combat. Again, it’s technology to the rescue. Our smartphones come equipped with an abundance of features that will help even the most direction challenged…and I am one of them. Seriously. I have trouble finding my car in a parking lot when I go out to buy groceries.
But with all the new apps for travel, I’m no longer geographically or directionally challenged. My key fob will tell me where my car is, and my smartphone GPS will virtually tell me, step by step, what direction to go. It will even draw me a map and name the streets. All you have to do is be sure your phone is configured for the country you’re visiting, make sure you have the app, and that your smartphone battery is charged. Voila. Problem solved.
When I do get lost, (it happens) I like to think of it as an opportunity to talk to locals and see an area I hadn’t planned on seeing. It’s an adventure. In fact, some of my best travel memories have come from getting lost.
I’m serious when I say, ‘if you go to Ireland, be sure to get lost and ask for directions.’ You’ll thank me later. Now that I think about it, I should ditch the GPS once in a while just for fun.
7. Fear of Flying
Air travel can be daunting in and of itself, and for those who have a fear of flying, air travel is almost impossible. If you must travel for business, a fear of flying (Aviophobia) can make your job a nightmare.
People fear flying for a number of reasons and even us intrepid globetrotters experience some form of it on occasion. A lot of things cross my mind when I feel intense turbulence on a flight, and sometimes the things I hear in the news makes me think twice before booking a trip. But these types of concerns are very different than a deep-seated fear of flying.
Most lay people associate fear of flying with a fear of heights, but that’s not always true. Fear of flying can be related to one of several phobias, or combined with others: Claustrophobia – a fear of being confined, restricted, unable to escape; Agoraphobia – anxiety associated with having a panic attack in a place from which they can’t escape; Acrophobia – anxiety over being at great heights.
Other causes are:
I’m not going to deal with psychological issues or try to solve them here, but we can look at them factually.
8. Fear of Getting Motion Sickness
Motion sickness isn’t just something that happens to people taking a cruise. It can happen when a person is on, or within, something that moves. As a kid, I would get nauseous on carnival rides that went around in circles. I got car sick. And I still feel queasy looking down from the edge of a precipice.
Motion sickness comes from your brain not syncing at the same rate as your eyes. So, if you’re prone to motion sickness, you need to make sure what your body feels and sees is the same. Some say focusing on the horizon helps to sync what you feel with what you see. You can close your eyes or take a nap on a flight so you won’t see the movement. You can talk to your physician for medication before you go on that cruise…or simply go to the drugstore and get Dramamine for the trip.
9. Fear of Crashing & Plane Safety
According to Travel and Leisure magazine, the technology behind the design and safety of aircraft these days makes flying safer than driving your car. From the design of the aircraft to the training, experience, skill and judgment requirements for pilots and air traffic controllers, every decision in commercial aviation is filtered through its impact on safety.
You may be worried about not being in control because you don’t know the pilot or his/her competence. If so, take a look at the requirements your pilot has to fulfill in order to fly the plane. If so, take a look at the FAA commercial airline requirements for their pilots. Your pilot is eminently qualified, most likely far more qualified than the taxi driver or neighbor who’s driving you to the airport. For more information be sure to check out my blog “Your Flying Questions Answered by a Pilot” for answers to specific questions from Captain Bill, an experienced commercial pilot. Your fear of flying (or crashing) may not disappear, but it’s comforting to know you are in good hands.
And, according to THE WEEK magazine, your chances of something happening on the way to the airport are 1 in 5,000. Your chances of an airplane crash are 1 in 11 million.
Statistics sometimes go in one ear and out the other, but the facts are true, and if you tell yourself enough times, maybe it will eventually help. Meg Ryan in the movie French Kiss tried the flight simulator to help her fear of flying. It didn’t help…but it was funny. And in the end, she took the flight despite her fears.
10. It’s too expensive: travel fears and money
Fears about not having enough money can squash anyone’s travel dreams. But don’t let “the expense” put you off. There are so many budget-friendly travel options out there, and so many ways to make travel affordable, once you research this, it will be hard to choose where to go.
I know…getting there is only half the battle. What if you get there and things are too expensive to have fun? First of all, be realistic. Make sure the trip you’d like to take is within reach. I’m probably never going to be able to stay for a month in the penthouse at the most expensive hotel in the most expensive city in the world, so I can cross that off my list. Second, there are dozens of ways to shave the dollars off any trip, from scheduling your trip off-season for cheaper rates, to getting last-minute travel deals.
Travel deals are always popping up, so continue to research and read all the travel blogs you can find for travel hacks and cool ways to travel on the cheap. One of my favorite blogs for budget travel is The Budget-Minded Traveler. Check out the “Resource” section.
My favorite travel hack is to use my Capital One Visa card to buy everything…and I mean everything…to rack up the airline miles. I get one mile for every dollar spent. I get travel miles even while traveling. Those dollars add up and with my particular credit card account, I can get some of my travel cost reimbursed in cash or I can use the miles for another trip.
American Airlines will give 3,000 to 50,000 travel miles for simply opening an account and purchasing a certain dollar amount within a particular time period. That’s pretty easy to do if you’re charging everything. I don’t recommend this if you’re unable to pay the full balance every month.
11. Fear of having a bad travel experience
Let’s face it, spending money on a trip is money that could be spent elsewhere, so we want the experience to be the best ever. You may worry that your physical challenges are going to interfere and turn what should be fun into a bad experience.
Maybe you worry about all the “what ifs” that could happen. What if I lose my medications? What if I don’t like the tour guide? What if rowdy drunks on that tour to Costa Rica ruin my trip? What if get the runs or come down with a cold. What if I hate the food, and what if…what if…
Again…knowledge is your super power. Do the research on destinations. Keep a list of your meds and before you go, find out what to do if you lose them. Contact the tour company to learn the makeup of the people who usually take tours like yours. Bring along your Zicam and Imodium. For motion sickness – take nausea tablets, use natural balancing wrist bands and keep hydrated.
Change your attitude and think of the what-ifs as an adventure. Some of the most memorable and fun events in life are those we never planned.
Dealing with your travel fears
It’s easy for others to say you shouldn’t let your fears interrupt your travel plans. You know it’s not that easy. Still, if you really do want to travel, there are ways to get around your travel fears. I hope some of the information and suggestions listed here will help.
Remember, technology can be your best friend. The most current information is at your fingertips on the Internet. Make use of language apps on your smartphone to learn some of the basic lingo. Use airline apps to catch wind of the best rates on flights and the best times to fly. If you can’t get rid of your travel fears on your own and need professional help, go for it.
Take that first step to fulfilling your dreams. You won’t regret it.
Wait! What About Emily?
As for my friend, Emily, she’s gradually overcome her fear of flying anxiety by 1.) focusing on the amazing place she plans to travel rather than ruminating about “what might happen if”, and 2.) she’s become a research guru to learn what to expect during flight. She’s learned that sitting over the wing she’s less likely to feel the bumps that are all part of the experience. She’s learned that the noises she hears are simply the plane making adjustments and that flying is safer than driving to the corner store. And when she doesn’t want to listen to the noises, she wears a good set of headphones and listens to music instead.
For Emily, knowing that what’s happening on the flight is what’s supposed to happen, is half the battle. The other half was making the decision that she would not let her fear of flying shrink her life. Then she started with small trips, where she would be in the air only a short time, gradually taking it one trip at a time to longer trips.
Other coping mechanisms include a trip to the bar before the flight. That one drink is enough to relax Emily. She brings headphones to listen to music. She wears a sleep mask and, on longer trips, makes sure she’s very tired and will sleep a lot. She reads and does projects for work to keep her mind on other things. Or she chats with fellow passengers. It’s hard to think about your travel fears when involved in conversation.
Emily keeps busy on the flight, and while flying is still uncomfortable, she’s not letting her travel fears hold her back. She’s seeing the world and enjoying every minute.
Do your research. Focus on the amazing places you will go.
Be fearless and GoRoamin!