Illustration by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel.
By Sherry Ott / Ott’s World
Your heart races, you start to sweat, and a state of intense fear overcomes you; this is terror. I’m one of those people who hate watching scary movies, I never go in haunted houses (thanks to some scarring incidents as a kid), and I don’t watch shows about ghost hunters.
Chances are that if you are contemplating taking a career break or doing long-term travel, your journey to achieving your travel dreams are full of terror and fear. Sure, no one is calling you telling you they are inside of your house, but they just as well may be — the feeling is the same. The majority of people who leave their jobs, take a career break and do long term travel have experienced it. But the question is, will you let it stop you?
Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger. (Photo: Sherry Ott)
Everyone has Travel Fears. If we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. The key word here is ‘legitimate’. Often we fear situations that are far from legitimate life-or-death situations, and thus hang back for no good reason. This is why most people never take that long-term around the world trip or career break they dream of.
The 4 Travel Fears
If preparation for long-term travel was a haunted house, there would be four main rooms that’s you’d pass through on this creepy ride.
- Financial: I don’t have enough money to travel for months, you have to be rich to travel.
- Societal: What will others think if I leave my job to do long-term travel — my family, friends and peers won’t be supportive.
- Career: I will ruin my career with a gap on my résumé. Employers will think that I’m lazy and not serious.
- Safety: It’s too dangerous to travel to foreign countries. What if I get sick, hurt, kidnapped, or my things get stolen?
You may relate to one or all of these fears to varying degrees. But an important first step is to recognize that these hurdles and thoughts are really stories you have created about yourself. They are not necessarily true, but they can have self-fulfilling consequences.
It is 100 percent certain that your decision to take a break to travel will feel completely half-baked and you will think you will fail at it.
Best Case Scenario and Positive Thinking
We dream up all of these horrible scenarios of never getting a job again, or being broke and destitute, or being kidnapped abroad, and the one we respond to is typically the one that is the most vivid and horrifying because it’s easier to imagine. Yet we push aside our less vivid fears — such as staying in a stressful job that slowly kills us or ruins our health.
It’s easy to imagine the worst, we do it all the time. However, I challenge you to think about “What if everything goes right?” for a change. That’s right — just close your eyes and think about those perceived fears and hurdles as opportunities.
A Positive Spin to Travel Fears
- Financial: I can learn how to better save and budget money, which will benefit me/my family in the long run. I will also realize that I don’t need as much money as I think I do to be happy.
- Societal: Others will love hearing my story of following my passions, and I will inspire others to do the same.
- Career: By traveling longer and more in depth, I will be more knowledgeable of the world and its cultures, a better communicator, able to work in a variety of environments, and demonstrate great flexibility that will make me stand out in interviews and cover letters.
- Safety: I will learn ways to remain safe no matter where I am in the world and will see that how people and places are perceived in the media is not necessarily true for entire countries.
There is always a way to over get hurdles — always. Positive thinking is just a start.
Time is On Your Side
Keeping your fears all bottled up inside makes them turn into irrational, horrific monsters. Simply confronting and talking about your fears over time is another way to climb over the hurdles.
Research the Fear
Another way to overcome the fear is to educate yourself. It’s easy to jump to conclusions; it’s hard to do research. Instead of letting the fears spiral out of control, stay calm, do some research, and see if your fears are real or not. Find out what it costs to do a year long trip. Find other people who have done what you want to do; contact them and ask questions.
Push Through Your Fear
The key is to get used to the sensation of fear. Because this won’t be the first time on this travel journey that you will encounter it. In fact, know that this is only the beginning. There is inherent fear in traveling, fear of being alone, fear that you will get sick, fear that you will be robbed, fear that you are lost, fear that you are running out of money, and in a cruel twist you will even have fear about returning to your home when the travel is finished. Anticipate and embrace the inevitable sensation of fear. It’s not easy, but it must be done to get anywhere. You’ve been doing it your whole life from the first day you went to school, to the first time you dove off of the high dive at the swimming pool, to the first time you went into a haunted house by yourself; why can’t you do it now?
You can see this entrance to a castle in Costa Brava Spain as exciting or scary —it’s your choice. (Photo: Sherry Ott)
Don’t Forget (or Listen to) the Naysayers
In addition to you holding yourself back, your friends, family, colleagues, and media will tell you that your plan won’t work. Those people will also tell you to work your butt off until you are 65 and then live your life. If you think that’s the answer, then fine, believe the people who tell you travel won’t work. But seriously — when did you start listening to what others tell you to do? You are no longer a kid or a young adult. You can make your own decisions, take your own risks, and craft your own life. Make sure that you surround yourself with people who think it will work, and who think it’s a damn good idea!
Don’t balk at the sensation of fear – push through it. It’s only then that you will realize that travel is not to be feared!