Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.Marie Curie
The world’s a big and crazy place, no doubt about it. And things happen from time to time that seep into your consciousness (media is, for the most part, everywhere) and if the event occurred in a place you’ll soon be traveling, the knee-jerk reaction is fear, worry and planning around that destination so you can skirt any potential financial or physical trauma. Don’t be embarrassed, it’s natural reaction.
Unfortunately, this natural human tendency also keeps us from doing some of the most rewarding things in life for rather nonsensical reasons. Going out of your way to avoid a danger that comes to you slanted and sensationalized without much realistic context is, we’re sad to say, far too common among would-be-world-travelers.
Fortunately, it’s possible to overcome the knee-jerk safety response if you approach it with perspective and calm.
Two Types of Fear
First we must distinguish between the two types of fear: as a favorite yoga teacher put it – the fear that keeps you alive and the fear that keeps you from living.
The first kind generally saves you from horrible things – going down shadowy alleyways alone, jumping into taxis that don’t have the word “taxi” on them anywhere, carrying that package for your new friend through Cambodian border control. This is common sense, red flag stuff – easy to learn and easy to put into practice, summed up in the immortal words of Michael Jackson: “remember my strong advice, just remember to always think twice.”
The other kind of fear is the simple fear of the unknown. This is the worst kind of fear because it’s ultimately unproductive and limits your potential for wonderful things.
Overcoming Fear of the Unknown
The first way to overcome a fear of the unknown is to put it in perspective – understand the circumstances surrounding it. Read information from several sources about an event or place with a bad reputation and decide for yourself. Remember that international news is like a kid’s game of telephone, by the time it gets to you it’s almost hilariously mangled. As much as we despise the fact, it’s inescapable. As such, there’s no sense trying to change it. What you can change is your reaction.
One way to overcome fear is to accept it, understand it, and move on. This of course is easier said than done. Fear is a normal part of the human condition, like being happy.
For the most part, the world is no more dangerous than your hometown. Just less known to you, and isn’t that why you travel in the first place? To better understand the unknown? Step outside your comfort zone. The world (beyond your perception of it) awaits you.