What are you afraid of?
Being alone? Feeling crowded? Flying? Dying? There are lots of reasons people are afraid of travelling.
When I was 13 I watched the movie Brokedown Palace; a story about two women in Thailand who have drugs planted on them by a stranger and are accused of smuggling. Both women end up in a Thai prison in the most horrific conditions with little hope of ever getting out. The film terrified me. To think that completely innocent people could end up in such a position and be treated so terribly and be kept a prisoner for life, when they did nothing wrong. At that moment I announced to my Dad that I would never step foot in Thailand for fear of it happening to me.
I had a similar reaction when I realised how big the spiders where in Australia. I’ve always been scared of spiders. But when I read ‘Some eat small birds’ in an article alongside a picture of what looked like giant crab but was actually just your average Aussie garden Spider, Australia was added straight onto my list of ‘No Go’ countries.
As I went into my late teens an even bigger fear hit me – flying. A few years after 9/11 I watched the movie Flight 93, about the plane that was brought down by it’s own passengers to prevent one of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I was traumatised by this film. Had it been a made up story it probably wouldn’t have affected me as much, I could have told myself ‘Nah, that would never happen’ but it had happened, and watching it knowing all those people had died in such a way, terrified me. From then on I had it drilled into my head that a plane crash would be the most horrific way to die.
All these things, my fear of flying, my fear of certain countries and their rules, their nature, basically meant that travel would be limited and there was just no way I was ever doing the backpacker thing. Ever.
And yet I did.
As I grew older and I watched more travel documentaries, more films, as I read travel blogs and heard first hand stories off my friends, I knew I wanted to explore the world. I knew I wanted to pack a bag and go on my own adventure. The more I discovered about Thailand – it’s islands and it’s gorgeous beaches – the more I knew I was going to have to go there myself to see it and experience it. Yes I was terrified – of the people, of the police, of the huge difference in culture and in rules. Yet the culture difference between the UK and all the countries I’ve visited is now one of the things I love most about traveling. Why would I want to travel thousands of miles to have the same experience I could have at home? I’ve learnt that as long as I’m safe, careful and smart, I’ve no reason to worry. And I’m so glad I got there in the end. Thailand is a wonderful country.
In order to get to the other side of the world I knew I had to fly. Flying is something I know I will never fully enjoy. I enjoy the airport experience, but I will never sit on a plane and feel completely relaxed as we take off. Never. To this day my hands still tense up, I feel my toes curl and my eyes shut tight, one eye slightly opening every now and then to peek out the window and check the wing is still in tact. But as much as I hate it, I love it, because all those planes and all those long haul flights took me to some of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. And they’ve also been my red ruby shoes and taken me home again. And that’s what I have to tell myself everytime I board a plane. That it’s worth it. And I’ll be there before I know it.
I’m still afraid of Spiders, in fact most bugs, it’s a fear I’ve had since before I can remember. But after living in Australia I can handle the little ones. I’m still scared of them, but I can handle little moths, Daddy Long Legs and little Spiders. How did I do this? I just did it. Unfortunately when it comes to fears that potentially prevent you from travel, you just have to be brave and get on with it. This was my biggest fear when I landed in Australia. Not ‘Will I find a job?’ or ‘What if we run out of money?’ It was ‘What if I get stuck in a room with a Huntsman?’ But I couldn’t let that prevent me from an amazing adventure. Trust me, there were some horrific moments in Australia involving giant beetles and enormous FLYING cockroaches, and yes I shrieked and cried and got the boys to get rid of them but then I just got on with it. They didn’t stop me from living wherever I was living or make me want to go home. And do you know what? After nine months in Australia I didn’t have one single nasty encounter with a big fat Spider. Not one.
Ultimately, any fears you have about travel, try and be brave and push them to one side. It will be worth it for the adventures you will have in return. So not to be all cheesy and quote Nike, but when it comes to Travel, Just Do It. Stop worrying about the problems that might or might not occur and Just Do It. You might find that, a bit like me, travelling itself can conquer the travel fears you have. It may not seem like I’ve conquered my fears, because yes I’m still scared of giant foreign bugs and yes I still fear for my life when I fly, but I didn’t let these things stop me from making my dream of traveling come true. And that to me is conquering my fears.