A reader emailed me recently asking for advice about how to mentally prepare for traveling – how to get over all those doubts and worries that almost always seem to surface when you’re planning a big trip. It’s a great question, but one that doesn’t really have a simple answer. Here are a few strategies I use for getting over some of the fears that have held me back in the past.
Know That It’s Always Going to Be Scary
I think one of the reasons why traveling continues to be a “someday” dream for a lot of people is because you can convince yourself to delay it until you have more money, more time, someone to go with you, etc. Whether you’re quitting your job to go on a long-term trip or even just taking your first solo vacation, the reality is that there’s never going to be a perfect time to go for it. I don’t think it’s really timing that stops most of us from traveling – it’s fear; fear of change, fear that you might fail, fear that maybe your trip won’t be as amazing in real life as it is in your imagination.
Stepping into the unknown is always going to feel a little bit scary, and traveling isn’t going to suddenly feel less intimidating if you wait long enough. If you wait until you feel “ready” to start traveling, that day is never going to come. Your first major trip has to be somewhat of a leap of faith.
Throw Your Hat Over the Fence
Every time I’ve pushed myself beyond my boundaries – from embarking on long-term travels with Brent, to my first solo trip – I’ve made myself go through with it by metaphorically throwing my hat over the fence. You’ve probably heard of this idea in one form or another – if the fence seems impossible to climb, throw your hat over to the other side and suddenly you’re forcing yourself to find a way over. This is pretty much my entire approach to facing my fears in life.
I book plane tickets, reserve guest houses, make arrangements with host families, and do whatever else I can do to be completed committed to following through with my plans – even when I still feel uncertain and completely unprepared. I think sometimes the only way to do something you’re scared of doing is to give yourself no other choice. Once I’ve already spent a few hundred dollars on travel arrangements, I’m damn-well getting on that plane regardless of how nervous I might feel.
No matter how much you prepare for traveling, there’s no denying that there will always be an endless number of “what ifs”. As someone who has survived a record-breaking typhoon in the Philippines, a run-in with squatters in Spain, and countless other travel disasters, I can tell you that even if everything goes wrong – you’ll get through it.
One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last few years of traveling is that I’m tougher than I thought I was. Some of your worst fears about traveling might become a reality, but you have to trust that you’re capable enough to handle those events if they happen. There are very few guarantees when you step outside your comfort zone, but one thing you can be sure of is that you’re going to at least become a lot wiser, braver, and more self-assured.