I’m going to say it, admit to it, own up to it – I’m a timid traveler. I am an anxious traveler. Sometimes I am a flat out fearful one.
I can spin you a hundred scenarios of death and destruction. I can point out everything that can possibly go wrong, and then event a few more that are impossible, but still frighten me.
I am anxious about traveling by myself. I worry about a lot of stuff when I’m traveling. I worry about being out too late. I worry about eating alone in a restaurant. I worry about missing planes and trains and buses and sometimes even ferries. I worry about weather and sneezing and finding a laundromat. I worry about losing my tickets, losing my passport, losing my way.
I am, in short, a timid traveler. In fact, sometimes I wonder how I ever get on the plane, how I ever get to the airport. I am always amazed that I have been the places that I have been, amazed that I continue to go. I have to, often, remind myself that in the term timid traveler, the traveler part is more important to me.
Fear is a monstrous thing. Anxiety is the devious and mean offspring of fear. They conspire to keep us huddled in a corner, denying our dreams, giving up on the things we dearly want to do. They whisper in our ears about perfect safety, about the perils and dangers that lurk out there.
But I’ve come to realize that there is no perfect safety. I could wrap myself in layers of bubble wrap, live only in ground floor units, never walk in the rain, avoid all possible electrical outlets and never, ever take a shower again. And I’d be somewhat safe. Bored, dirty, and probably really miserable, but somewhat safe – though, I should note – not perfectly safe.
I get this at a visceral level, I really do. And at this point I could pull out a truck load of statistics to show you how safe travel is. I could (and have) tell you how unlikely it is your luggage will get lost. I could (and have) point you to crime statistics that tell you how safe your destination is. I could call out reports on airline safety, on hotel safety, on the number of lost or stolen passports.
But I doubt that they would help. Because when we are anxious we seem to put ourselves in the category that best reinforces our anxiety. So if I tell you not to worry because really, less than 1% of all checked bags are lost, you are immediately going to assume that you will one of them.
No, fear will remind you of your cousin’s friend who had her purse stolen in Barcelona. Anxiety will add that your co-worker’s daughter was ripped off by that cab driver in Prague. Together they will discuss the terrible story of the woman in Rome who got off a bus to find that a thief had cut the straps of her purse taken it without her noticing. In short, every negative, scary, horrible anecdote – real, exaggerated or flat out imagined – will be replayed in the graphic detail.
I know, because I am a timid traveler and I have been through all of this. More than once.
So I talk back to fear. I talk back to the anxiety. Because I got past them once and I got to London and Paris and I felt so…liberated. I wasn’t so timid anymore. I didn’t do it on my own, though. I didn’t get on that plane without a lot of help. Without people encouraging me, educating me, being excited for me. I let them be my voice to yell at those twin demons until I found my own voice.
If you want, if you need it, I’d like to help you do the same.