Some people have very little inhibitions when it comes to travel. They pick up and go at a moments notice and perhaps without even a fully thought out plan. While others want to travel but may have travel fears that are keeping them at home.
If you are one of these apprehensive folks, I understand your concerns but would encourage you to strategize ways to still get out there and explore this great big world we live in. The more of the world you see, the less scary it will seem.
To start you off in the right direction, I’ve outlined five of the travel fears I’ve heard from others or have even felt myself and tips on how to overcome them:
Fear of not knowing the local language
Fear: I won’t be able to understand anything the local people are saying to me. All of the street signs, menus, public transit signs, shops, etc. will be in a different language.
How to Overcome It: Unless you are multilingual, there are going to be many countries where people speak a different language than you. Knowing this ahead of time, you can take steps to prepare yourself so that you are able to communicate with others even if it is only in a basic way.
Look up and learn some key phrases before you leave home such as Hello, Please, Thank You, Where is … ?, Bathroom, and Do You Speak English? You can also download translation apps such as Google Translate where you can type, speak, or even take a picture of the phrase and it will translate it for you so you can either read or hear what the translation is.
In my own experience, being able to speak at least a few phrases of the local language can go a long way when paired with non-verbal communication like pointing. I’ve also found that just trying to use a local language, people are more open to helping you. Check out more tips on how to travel to a country where you don’t know the language.
Fear of getting lost
Fear: I won’t know where I am, will go the wrong way, and never be able to find my way again.
How To Overcome It: Everyone gets lost from time to time. When I’ve found myself a little turned around in a new place, more often than not a local will be more than willing to give you directions or in some cases, take you directly to where you need to go! To help ease your mind, it’s a good idea to bring a paper map of the destination you’ll be visiting. That way you can have an easy way to ask a local where you are and figure out where you need to go next.
If you’re staying in a hotel, stop by the front desk or concierge to ask for directions to where you’d like to go. I also always grab the hotel’s business card which has their address on it. I can then hand that to a taxi driver and get taken right to the front door.
And of course, there are always apps like Google Maps or MAPS.ME where you can download your location map ahead of time on wifi and still access it while out and about where you may not have service.
But don’t be too upset if you end up lost. Some of my best and happiest travel memories are from getting a little lost and off the beaten path – just try to do so safely.
Fear of logistical mishaps
Fear: What if I miss my flight? Or the train I was supposed to take is delayed? How will I figure out what to do?
How to Overcome It: Even the best-laid plans hit logistical hiccups that are out of your control. The best thing to do is first, take a deep breath. Second, try to find someone that works for the company you were supposed to be traveling with whether that’s a gate agent, train conductor, or ticket seller. They may be able to give you a few alternative ideas of how to get to your destination and in best case scenario, help you book it.
To also help avoid panic if your travel plans have fallen through, do your research ahead of time. Are you able to get to your next destination via taxi, train, or bus? Is there another airport in the area that you may be able to catch a flight from? Or is the best solution to hunker down wherever you are, find a hotel for the night, and wait until tomorrow. Keep note of your options in your travel journal or on a list in your phone.
Fear for my safety
Fear: If I travel to a new place, I’m going to be pickpocketed or taken advantage of.
How To Overcome It: Unfortunately, crime can happen anywhere (even at home!). And yes, being a tourist can put a target on your back for thieves and other unsavory types. But if you keep yourself aware and take a few steps to make yourself a little less conspicuous, you can avoid most unpleasant situations. First, you should do your research on the area you will be staying in. Look at travel forums like TripAdvisor and travel blogs to find out the safer neighborhoods to stay in or visit.
If you’re going out at night, ask the hotel front desk, or host if you’re staying at an AirBnB, if the neighborhood is safe to walk around in after dark or if they’d recommend a taxi service. When in crowds, put your camera or other expensive electronics in your bag so they aren’t out on display. You also don’t want to keep all of your money and travel documents like your passport all in the same spot. If you are pickpocketed, then you won’t be completely without money or ID.
Rule of thumb that works abroad as well as in your hometown – if you’re feeling uneasy about a situation, get out of there. If you’re uncomfortable, take yourself out of the situation and get to somewhere where you feel safe.
Fear of traveling on my own
Fear: I’ll be lonely and bored if I travel by myself.
How To Overcome It: Traveling solo can be one of the most freeing and revelatory experiences. On my own solo travels, not only have I learned about new cultures and seen new sights but I learned a lot about myself.
I would not call myself an extrovert but I am not a wallflower either. Without any real effort, I’ve met the nicest people while traveling alone just by striking up conversations naturally when opportunities present themselves.
Another great bonus to traveling alone is that your travel plans can be very flexible. If you decide you don’t want to do something or start to get bored, no problem, just don’t do it. Go do that other thing that caught your eye instead. There’s no one that has to agree with your change in plans except you.
Go out and see the world!
There will always be something to be afraid of but don’t let those fears keep you from experiencing new things and exploring the world! Another option to help ease your travel fears is to book a group tour.
This takes care of all of the fears I’ve listed above – you won’t necessarily need to know the local language as your tour guide will be able to speak for you when needed. It is harder to get lost when you are traveling with a group and a guide. If there are logistical mishaps, the tour company will figure it out for you. Your guide will know which neighborhoods are safe and which ones to avoid and will let you know if you’re going into a situation where there may be pickpockets like a city market or popular square. And finally, you’ll meet other travelers with similar interests so even if you book a tour on your own, you’ll most likely leave the trip with new friends.
Life’s short … don’t waste your time being afraid when you could be making unforgettable memories!