Although many seasoned travellers seem to be ballsy, fearless, and braver than a guy in shorts in the middle of Winnipeg’s winter, I have a sneaking suspicion that just may be a façade. I’m not about to attempt to take that away from anyone, because it’s something I admire and respect – we all have fears, concerns, or worries, and if we let them stand in our way, we wouldn’t do anything. Travellers, perhaps more than couch-potatoes or homebodies, go out of their comfort zone on a regular basis, and eventually just get used to it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still have reservations!
I must admit, I have a few travel fears of my own, and I think the first step to overcoming them, is to talk about them. Below lies a confession of sorts, in an effort to shed my fears, or perhaps just build up a stronger facade.
Anyone who knows me is well aware of my complete petrification of snakes. I’m utterly terrified of them, can’t look at them, be in the same room as them, or even see them on TV or in photos. My fear of them even contributed to not being hired for a job last year (but really, I don’t want a job that may require me to drive around with one in the back of my car…sorry, but no).
So what does this fear have to do with my travels? Well, if you look through my track record of travelling, I’ve mainly stuck to urban destinations. While that may be subconscious, or perhaps just a casualty of being a true urbanite, it nonetheless has the ability to directly impact my travel decisions.
For instance, my cousin was at a restaurant in Vietnam that offered snake blood from a personally selected snake, and when my brother went to Thailand a few years ago, he told me that in the forests of Chiang Mai there were giant pythons swirling in the trees, waiting to drop on the hiking paths below, and that crazy Thai men came up to his friend in the streets of Bangkok and wrapped a boa around his shoulders…for a laugh. Oh, and that there are snake fight pits all over the city. Now, my brother is a malicious little thing, and I wouldn’t put it past him to make it all up just to watch me freak out, but I’m still a bit iffy about Thailand. I’d really love to go, and the beaches seem gorgeous, but I’ll be honest, I don’t completely trust that I won’t encounter those devil reptiles somewhere in that country. I’ll just have to put my research skills to good use before I go and make sure I know what to expect.
Worse than Thailand, in my opinion, is Australia. I’m bloody terrified of that country, but I’m absolutely dying to go there. I want to see the cities and the harbours and the reefs and Uluru and … everything, really, except for their plethora of venomous, freaky-deeky snakes. Every person I know who has been to Oz has been asked by me: Did you see any snakes? That’s all I want to know. They all have. My cousin saw one wrapped around the ledge of the balcony when she was leaving a bar, and my aunt’s friend had one quickly wrap itself around her ankle when she was on the path outside her rental home. Unacceptable! The terror! I think I’ll be able to manage in the cities, but knowing that they’re literally everywhere in that country definitely makes me shiver a little. I plan on hitting up Oz sooner rather than later, but I won’t lie when I say that the snakes make me nervous. Really nervous.
Not pre-booking accommodation
My other main travel discomfort (it’s not a fear in the same way that snakes are…) is not pre-booking where I’m going to be crashing, especially for the first night. This is mostly because I don’t want to waste time searching for accommodation when I could be out exploring my destination, and also because I like the guarantee of a nice bed in a hostel/lodge/B&B/hotel that has good reviews (especially for cleanliness), and I don’t really like sharing a bathroom. Sorry, I’ve grown up a touch, and my days of dealing with other people in my loo are over. Considering all this, can you see why I prefer pre-booking? Perhaps not. I am, however, getting better at it.
This summer, my friend and I met up in Dubrovnik, and since we planned this all rather last minute, didn’t have anywhere to stay. Arriving the day before me, she sourced out two great hostels (one for the first two nights and one for the latter two) that were clean, affordable, private, and had great owners. I actually wasn’t too nervous about it all, because I trusted her – we’ve travelled together before and have the same standards, and we were clear about our expectations, requirements, nice-to-haves, and budget. This experience definitely helped me start to get over this whole I-have-to-have-a-place-booked-everywhere-before-I-go complex. Who knows, maybe next time I’ll try it … destination dependent.
Getting over travel fears
Alright, so those really are the only travel fears I have that could debilitate my travelling experience, and I’m almost over one of them! Sure, I have other concerns, but they’re no different than my concerns at home, so I don’t feel as though they qualify on this list (ie. creepy men at night, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, theft/burglary/robbery, and out-of-control crowds).
Getting over these fears is important, but if you can’t get over your travel fears, whether it be travelling alone, not knowing the language, traveling at night, take some steps to overcome them so you can begin to build up that facade that will help you enjoy your trip more. If you’re worried about doing a big trip alone, take a small trip before (even as close as a couple hours drive away from home) just to get used to the independence and decision making required for solo travel. If you don’t know the language, the easiest thing to do is to pick up a phrasebook, learn a few key things, and ask your hostel manager/concierge/B&B host for tips. Concerned about traveling at night? Don’t do it. Some overnight trains and buses (in certain areas) can be super dangerous, while some aren’t too bad. An overnight train ride from Nice to Bordeaux didn’t frighten me, but the one from Prague to Krakow certainly tried to. After hearing not-so-nice things, we booked a private cabin, but were still afraid when we had to open the door in the middle of the night for passport control. It was all good, but hey, you never know.
The reason most people don’t travel (aside from financial reasons) is because they’re too afraid to leave the comfort of their own home and go out and explore the unexpected. If you let fears, concerns, and worries consume you, you’ll never leave your driveway. It’s only natural that we have trepidations before setting out on a journey, no matter how big or small, but the easiest thing to do is to build up that façade and not let things get to you.
I doubt I’ll ever love snakes, or want to be within sight of one, but I know that if I want to explore more of the world, I’m going to have to accept the fact that they’re out there, and if I’m that afraid, there will just be some places I probably shouldn’t go. That doesn’t, however, rule out the entire country. Just things like the jungles of Thailand, the anaconda lair that is the Amazon, and the outback Australia, and to be honest, I’m okay with that. See you on the beaches and in the cities.