Embrace Fear and Start a Life of Travel
Do you ever find yourself sitting at your desk daydreaming of quitting your job to travel abroad? As you mindlessly listen to yet another meeting about XYZ, your mind strays to a life of wandering through South America or living and working in some cute Italian village. As a woman over 30, is “hitting refresh” to travel solo around the world ever a thought your mind drifts to when given the freedom to do so?
But then, when you confess your crazy visions of life outside the cubicle to a close friend, you realise that you could never do it. Fear of what would happen to you outside of the comfy confines of your little world paralyse you. Embracing fear to travel is just not in your DNA.
Where would I go? Would anyone go with me? Is it safe for solo female travelers to explore the world? Do other women over thirty travel alone? What will others think? What about my job, and my apartment and my life?
The thought of quitting your responsible life to go travel can be scary. Doing this when we are twenty-three and floating between school and real life is much more conceivable. But considering doing this as a woman later in life can be terrifying. The carefree, daredevil mentality we had in our twenties is long gone and we are more than ever conscious of making life choices that are in line with the path we’ve taken until now.
We are expected to be planning for retirement and living as responsible members of society. It’s a time for mortgages are to be paid, corporate ladders are to be climbed and comfort and stability to be enjoyed amongst social circles we’ve spend our lives building and solidifying.
Still, the nagging thoughts keep arising. I really think my soul could do with a year of living in Nepal or I’ve always wanted to go teach English in Japan and get to eat sushi all day, every day. Maybe I could get a sabbatical for a year or just leave this job I haven’t been happy at for a while.
Yet, whenever these alluring ideas pop up, you shove them back down. Your palms get sweaty and your heart races at the very thought of even just looking at flights. Forget living so far from your people and not knowing what will happen to the life plan you had all figured out. That damn fear blocks you from being able to turn these daydreams into tangible life plans.
Getting Acquainted with Your Fear
Fear is something everyone deals with. It is present at many of our major crossroads and also tends to show up for activities like public speaking or going on first dates.
Big life choices and decisions also come with their fair share of scariness. Finally making the decision to quit a “successful job” to pursue your dream of living by the sea or figuring out a way to start working remotely so that you can sell your home and live and work from a campervan while you explore the highways of the world are scary decisions to make.
Fear of what will happen blocks us from ever just deciding to do it. We get caught in a hamster wheel of endlessly wondering if it’ll be a good decision. What if I decide to leave and I don’t like it? What if I get lonely? What if I miss my job and want to come back? What if I miss my home? If we let them, all the what if’s can take over our thoughts until we convince ourselves that it’s a bad idea.
All that, even though that at the bottom of our souls, our intuition knows what’s right for us. It knows that if we finally are brave enough to make the choice, put the plan into action and quit our job or leave our home, we would be taking steps towards a creating a life that could truly fulfil us.
Embarking on a journey of world travel which forces you to leave your job, leave your home, leave your family, friends and all that is known and comfortable to you is undoubtedly a situation where fear will be present. Especially as a woman in her thirties, forties, fifties and up, with real responsibilities, leaving it all behind to travel on you own. The idea isn’t to avoid having fear there with you when you decide to take the leap, because fear will always surface. The idea is to be ok with fear being part of the adventure.
Why I Call it All Good Fear
Get to know this new travel companion of yours. I’m sure you get scared sometimes in your day-to-day, but like most, you try to avoid it and keep it at a safe distance. But if it’s fear that is stopping you from creating the life of your dreams, you’re gonna have to start spending some quality time with that fear of yours. Become comfortable with being afraid.
It’s important to distinguish the difference between good fear and all-consuming, not-worth-the-risk fear. We are given fear as a useful tool to help us avoid danger, like real life-threatening danger. Fear will stop us from doing things that are most likely to get us killed or terribly hurt.
When I went on my second date with my man, he picked me up on his motorcycle to take me on a drive around his favourite neighbourhood. Although this plan sounded amazing, I was a bit scared of the motorcycle portion of the evening. When I told him that I was scared, he got worried, until I explained about good fear. Once he got what I was saying, he threw me the helmet, told me to hop on and off we went. Sure, I had to take a deep breath as the light turned green, but it was clear to me that the butterflies I felt in my belly were the good kind. The risk of getting on the bike versus the reward of a possible amazing evening classified it that way.
Develop the ability to distinguish between the two.
For me, good fear makes me grin. Not a laugh or a smile, but like a subtle, unavoidable movement on the side of my mouth. Although I do get some of the same symptoms as I do with not-worth-the-risk fear (like sweaty palms and thoughts that obsessively over assess the situation), these effects often feel lighter and more manageable. As I mentioned on my motorcycle date, I can usually breath through good fear.
I tend to just call most things that scare me good fear to make them more manageable. After having a few dramatic encounters with rabid street dogs over the years, my fear of dogs has become increasingly paralyzing. Yet I still call it a good fear.
When confronted by an angry growling canine face, I try to bring myself out of my mind, and into my breath to help me decide what to do. Once out of the situation, I don’t avoid all places where I could encounter leash-less dogs, I just accept that as someone who likes hiking and being out in nature, I will have to come face-to-face with barking dogs sometimes and that’s ok. The risk is worth the reward of getting to experience beauties of the world.
Embracing Fear and Letting it Join the Adventure
The important thing is to recognize that fear isn’t in control, you are. It can’t stop you from resigning from your job, or from buying a plane ticket. It sure as hell can’t force you not to get your passport renewed or to put your things into a storage unit. You are the one who will be doing these things.
And I can tell you, although fear might stand by your side as you take each step, it will not get a choice in the matter. Only you get to decide what you do.
If you decide to want this bad enough, you gotta get comfortable with having fear be along for the ride. Then, once you start getting used to its company, fear stops being such a pain to have around.
To help me embrace my fears I like to remind myself that no matter what, I’ll be ok. Like in the dog situation, the worst that can happen is that an unknown dog bites me, which has happened. Although that wasn’t a fun situation, I went to emergency and got a few rabies shots, but then that was it. I would never be willing to give up traveling to places with street dogs or hiking in nature just to avoid that happening again. I just remind myself that even if I’m scared, even if I’m bitten, I’m still ok.
I love to travel, and explore the world, so if that means doing it with my fear hitchhiking a ride, then so be it.
Then, the more often I confront my fears, of the dogs, of the motorcycles, of being lonely, of the unknown, the easier fear become to carry in my backpack. I’ve even given it its own little place right between my courage and my desire to live a life that fulfills me.