“In my experience from speaking with and coaching numerous wannabee-wanderlusters from all over the world, the most common thing that I hear is the expression of fear.”
Even though all of these people would love nothing more than to travel, their worries hold them back. One would think that the exciting pull of the whole wide world out there waiting for them would outweigh the emotional barrier to entry, but no – it’s the reverse!
While the majority of the work to overcoming one’s fears is a personal endeavor, I know firsthand that sometimes what it takes to move past a fear of the unknown is the convincing, honest, truth told by someone you know personally or whose experience you trust. This is because a large factor for why those fears exist in the first place is simply a lack of exposure.
Even I initially struggled with my desire to travel full-time, though I had traveled a lot already and knew in my heart that it was what I wanted (and needed) to do more than anything. For me to get my head in the same place as my heart, it took some Q&A with a good traveler friend and reading persuasive travel blogs to ultimately empower me to commit and execute.
Now that I’ve traveled to 51 countries, I’m happy to share with you the facts from my personal experience that I hope will help to dispel those many fears and perceptions:
Traveling is expensive; it’s a luxury
When most people think about travel, they imagine indulgence: five-star resorts, elaborate three-course meals, being pampered in a spa, pre-arranged tours, guided private transportation, maybe even first-class air travel.
In that vein, yes, travel can certainly be expensive and luxurious, and if that’s your style, then go for it – but pay the price.
However, as a generalization, travel is neither (except for the fact that having the freedom and privilege to travel is a luxury).
Depending on your country of residence, travel can be more affordable than your normal cost of living back home! On a monthly basis, I spend 1/3 of what I used to spend back in New York City. When traveling in regions across the world, my daily budget ranges from $25 – $50 per day, all inclusive. I guarantee that that’s less than, or equivalent to, how much you just spent at the convenience store or on dinner alone.
I bet it comes as a surprise when I tell you that I’m actually saving money by traveling. Yep, it’s true. I’ll share my how-to’s in my forthcoming online course.
The world out there is dangerous, it’s too unsafe to travel
Ah, one of my favorite myths to bust!
I have never, ever, experienced any instance of threat or danger while traveling. I’ve also never experienced any animosity toward my nationality.
While it’s true that there are sadly areas of great ongoing conflict (I mean on the scale of war) that do indeed make it currently unsafe to travel to them, in comparison to the vast surface of the planet, those areas are few and far between – and you won’t be going there (during wartime, anyhow).
Regarding terrorism, these days a terror attack both is and isn’t largely unpredictable. I say that it is not because international authorities are active in preventing a good number of potential attacks, and I say that it is because they unfortunately can’t catch everything and in those instances, it’s really down to a matter of luck – of being in the right place at the right time – and that includes within your own country and city. You should be vigilant, but you can’t lock yourself up in your house.
Unfortunately, much of our perception of the world outside our walls comes from media coverage, but as we all know, good news doesn’t get ratings.
It’s important to remember not to make generalizations from what you see or hear – just because an event happened someplace does not mean that that place is unsafe and off limits to travel to.
Countries and cities are big places, prominent acts of local violence are few, and if they do occur, they’re more likely to be one-off and/or in isolated areas where they wouldn’t affect you or even register on your radar. Just like when you watch your local news at home.
Lastly, it’s also necessary to realize that the security status of a place changes over time and from generation to generation. For example, Medellin wasn’t a safe place when my parents were younger, and as such they continue to think it’s not safe, but the city has since turned itself around and is completely wonderful to visit now.
What’s crucial regarding safety when you travel is that you are aware of current events and local politics. Ask the locals if any areas are off-limits – they know better than your friends and family back home, and they’ll be honest with you.
I’m a woman, I’ll be a target for assault
As a woman traveling solo for the past year-and-a-half, I have never once felt targeted or at risk for assault.
It’s true that female independence and equality is not the norm in every corner of the earth, but it’s becoming more so.
Every girl that I have met or seen while traveling is traveling alone. They/we may end up traveling for a time with new friends met on the road, but for the most part, they all set off to explore on their own, and do so.
Because Western women have gained the confidence to travel solo so extensively, the mere act of doing so doesn’t surprise locals as much anymore. Nary even an immigration officer has so much as blinked an eye at the fact that I’m ‘unaccompanied’ – even in traditionally ‘macho’ cultures.
That said, you still must recognize certain places, such as the Middle East, where the local perceptions toward women are more strict, and comply accordingly.
I also believe that every woman must take responsibility for their own safety:
- do your research beforehand. Know if local risks exist, even if that just means being prepared for catcalling.
- act confidently. If you’re going someplace, know where you’re going and go purposefully.
- if you have a bad feeling about something, don’t continue with it.
- be aware of your surroundings.
- don’t walk alone at night or in under-populated areas.
- if you need a ride, take official transportation. Don’t hitchhike alone (or at all).
- don’t wear suggestive or revealing clothing in cultures where it is not natural to do so.
- don’t get so drunk or high that you put yourself at risk, and always guard your drink.
- don’t aggressively flirt if you don’t have intentions of following it through.
I’ve never traveled before, I don’t know what I’m doing
Let’s be honest, do any of us actually know what we’re doing in our daily lives? No – we make it up and figure it out as we go along!
If you’ve never traveled before or it’s been awhile, don’t worry! There is an endless amount of advice available for FREE online before you go and in person once you arrive.
Buy or download a guide book, read travel blogs, join a Facebook group, Google your question or destination. You don’t have to prepare extensively, it’ll all work out.
Once you arrive, there are centrally located tourism information offices if you need them, and various locals, staff at your ho(s)tel, your AirBnB host and your fellow travelers will be more than happy to offer their insight and help you out.
If in doubt, just do as the locals do!
None of my friends can go with me, and I’d be too lonely were I to travel without them
Leave ‘em behind!
Their loss, your gain. Traveling solo has been the best decision I have ever made and the most rewarding experience I have ever had. Period.
Though I can tell you, in fact, I promise you, that you will never actually be alone. There are SO MANY people traveling at any given moment, in any given location.
I famously (within my circle) went to the ‘far extreme’ of Patagonia, thinking I would be one of few people there, only to be one of thousands on just one day in Torres del Paine National Park. I snapped a pic of the throng when I arrived and sent it to my mom, with the caption: “See Mom? I’m not alone!”
From your seat mate on the airplane, to your bus mates, to your fellow remote workers at the café or co-working space, to the countless engaging locals you’ll encounter daily, to your immediate new besties from the hostel for a night on the town or an activity, to the bartender that will strike up a convo with you, you’ll find that you’ll be harder pressed to find alone time than travel companions.
I’m serious, you’ll be so busy having so much fun with your new friends that you’ll be consciously seeking out a quiet corner just to process your experiences.
Not convinced? Think you’re too shy or awkward to approach strangers? Travelers are a super friendly bunch. We’re all like-minded, we all have interesting stories, and we all want to meet the new faces around us.
Have no fear!
You could do everything you could do to prepare yourself, but the best way to overcome your fears is to JUST GO. As soon as you touch down on that foreign soil and you take in the way of life with your own eyes, you will immediately be put at ease. Safe travels!
About the Author
Jessica Yubas is a seasoned digital nomad (50+ countries & counting!) and Go Remote School instructor. She has led a location independent lifestyle since 2015, and became a digital nomad because of her passion for travel and desire to pursue a more balanced quality of life.
Jessica thrives on helping other like-minded people transition to remote work and location independence, and can’t wait to start teaching her courses on travelling and working remotely through Go Remote School.
Be sure to check out her course on Go Remote School, How To Be A Productive Remote Worker While Traveling.