The Fear of Travelling Alone as An Obstacle to Travel
The fear of travelling alone can stop us going.
It is an entirely natural reaction to a daunting prospect. However, how do we stop it interfering with our plans for future travel? How can we overcome the fear that's there in order to travel anyway?
Travel is scary for many of the same reasons that it is exciting: complete freedom, independence, new experiences and cultures, stepping outside of your comfort zone into uncertainty, leaving behind loved ones, being unable to communicate with others etc etc.
All of these prospects breach a deep seated, inherent, evolutionary instinct to stay within the relative safety of what is known and predictable.
In an effort to promote our well being, and essentially just to stay alive, our brain is constantly on the alert, scanning our environment for danger.
Consequently, alarm bells sound at the thought of walking away from what is known and safe, into the relative uncertainties of travel.
In this way, it is absolutely natural to feel some fear at the prospect of heading out on an adventure- especially if it is for the first time.
Essentially, it is not necessarily your fear that is getting in the way of you and your trip.
Rather, it is a human fear shared by everyone- you are not alone in how you feel.
For me, something about recognising the fact that my brain is simply doing what it is meant to and that my fear at travel is really only a natural, biological reaction to a potential threat, makes it easier to overcome the psychological discomfort that the thought can sometimes evoke.
It allows me to rationalise and think,
Remember, all this happens in your head and thoughts are not facts; thinking something does not make it so.
At a natural, biological level fear is going to be there within you because at a basic level you’re an animal that wants to stay alive.
Once we acknowledge this we have a foundation from which to rationalise.
But what can we actually do to prevent our fears from stopping us doing what we want to, such as travelling?
I think a good place to start from is always awareness.
Stop and ask yourself,
Perhaps it is saying goodbye to friends and family, or stepping into the unknown.
Maybe it is fear of being alone.
Or fear of feeling lonely and isolated.
Whatever it is, as tough as it might be, acknowledge and pay attention to it, then stop and don’t do anything else.
It can be hard to acknowledge our fears and so there’s power in simply recognising what’s happening and gently accepting it. All too often we can mentally punish ourselves for feeling the way we do.
Instead, try simply allowing it to be- knowledge and acceptance provide solid foundations from which to move forwards.
Challenge the fears you recognise
As humans we’re also adept at imagining negative repercussions of a confrontation with the object of our fear.
Consequently, we try to wrap ourselves in cotton wool to avoid it happening.
However, we can't sacrifice the present purely to protect ourselves from some imagined negative future event. With your travels, you might be tempted to put off our plans in the interest of safeguarding against discomfort.
Where it feels comfortable to do so, I’d encourage anyone to challenge their fears by embracing opportunities in the present moment.
I remember swimming in the sea in the pouring rain when I first got to New Zealand, having just been told by a friend that it was perfect weather for sharks.
I considered not going in and it took an effort to force myself to swim the 30 metres or so to a pontoon where I stood in the pouring rain, surrounded by ocean and mountains, laughing in awe at the experience.
For me, this is what travel is all about: challenging yourself to do things you wouldn’t normally do and growing as a result.
A sure fire way to really develop while you're away is to be willing to confront your fears as often as possible.
Of course, to get to this stage though you have to take the initial plunge into the unknown by jumping into your first trip.
Fear is a natural part of human experience and there are aspects of travel that trigger deep, evolutionary mechanisms in our brain designed to keep us safe. For anyone fearful of future travel, I hope this is a helpful realisation.
For fear that goes further than this, at a more individual level, try and be aware of what it is exactly that you’re afraid of and treat yourself with compassion when you realise what it is.
From a state of awareness, in the interest of seizing opportunity and living in the present, where possible take action to challenge the natural tendency to avoid that which we’re scared of.
By considering how short life really is and facing up to the fact no one knows what’s around the corner, we might get that final push we need to face up to our fears.
In this way, I hope your motivation to travel will become a reality. You won’t regret it.