How I Overcame My Travel Fears
In a recent IG post, we asked people what hindered them from taking to action “Get Up and Travel”. Some people chimed and I thought to share a post around this.
Generally, life comes with its own fears and this doesn’t exclude Travel. Especially when it is outside of your comfort zone. I want to share with you guys some of the travel fears I faced during the initial stages of my travel journey and how I was able to overcome them.
Not surprising, my travel fears are similar to those shared by our social media followers, so I hope this post would help you in overcoming some of your travel fears.
- I am a female solo traveler, am I safe? Well thanks to movies like Taken, traveling as solo as a female became frightening but thankfully to other movies like Eat.Pray.Love, Julia Roberts showed us the immerse beauty in solo experiential travel. Honestly my approach to this concept was simple: I looked up the safest countries in the world and I started my trip there. It was no surprise that Costa Rica was one of my very first solo trips given the countries review of being one of the safest countries in the world. After that trip, I felt that was ready for my next trip. My next solo trip was to Europe – Europe is my recommended trip starter to break into solo traveling. When people ask me if it is safe for female to travel solo, I find it difficult to answer that question because I can travel anywhere in the world solo, as long as I am confident that the country is safe. There are definitely some countries that traveling solo may be a bit difficult but it is not impossible. So here are my two cents: if it is a country that a lot of European tourist visit, chances are you’d be fine traveling there solo and finally always make safe choices when you travel.
- I don’t have enough vacation days. If you are not fortunate enough to have a job that allows you travel, hope is not lost. What I would advice is to make a decision on how many times you’d want to travel for the year or destinations you want to visit. Break them down into short versus long trips. You can take the short trips on weekends or long holidays. Caribbean island trips are a good example of a great long weekend trip; you can even add an extra vacation day if you want it longer. This way you can keep your long trips for your actual vacation days and plan ahead for those. Before you realize it, you’ve taken about 7 trips within the year. Most of my trips are around long holiday weekends. I would even go to Europe for the weekend: fly at night to arrive work in the morning.
- I can’t afford to travel. I don’t have enough money. One of our followers said she needed a trip sponsor – we all want that, don’t we? I had that mentality while I was in college and I deprived myself a lot of countries I would have visited. I was a victim of visiting the same city, usually my aunty or friends place, for summer holidays because I felt that I didn’t have money to travel to any “exotic country”. As a result, I didn’t participate in any exchange programs while I was in college. How I wish I knew better then. When I eventually started traveling for the experience, I realized I actually had the funds back then, though limited. I could have used my summer funds to travel or taught English in a foreign country. This lack of knowledge can also be accredited to our upbringing as Africans – my parents didn’t want to hear anything that wasn’t related to my degree. In retrospect, I spent my entire life traveling living like a nomad but somehow the African way of life didn’t see this life as a potential opportunity with future benefits – this is a story for another day. The key to “look like a globetrotter” to your friends and now social media fans is not complex but it takes a lot of dedication and effort.
- Prioritize your expenses. Travel is like my Achilles heel; I can spend my entire savings to travel the world. For you it may not be the same, but you can find a balance. Instead of $20,000 you spend a year on shopping, you can cut that down to $10,000. Use the $10,000 towards travel. It’s all about prioritizing and budgeting. And the honest truth is the more you embrace experiential travel; the more material things have little monetary value to you. If you don’t believe me, try it.
- Budget Budget Budget. You may be surprised to know this – For almost every trip I’ve taken, I have a cost breakdown analysis. Which is why it is also no surprise to my friends that the core business of CountlessMiles is to help people plan their trips based on their budget and needs. Create a cost analysis on how much you want to spend and how much the actually trip would cost. Then begin to trim down the not so important expenses based on your budget and the actual trip must haves. For example, when I’m in Europe, I take advantage of some free days to visit museums, engage in free walking tours, and look for cheaper accommodation and transportation options such as couch surfing, hostels, AirBnB, bed & breakfast, trains, bicycle, buses, etc. This way I can spend more money on food and on random adventurous activities.
- Accrue miles and be loyal. Make airlines and hotels your trip sponsors. I was a big fan of accruing airline miles and hotel points but until recently when airlines changed the way travelers can accumulate points causing me to lose my status and some points– “these folks aint’ loyal”. It is now twice as hard to accumulate airline miles but it is still worth the accumulation. The miles and points come in handy for trips that tickets or hotels may be too expensive to afford. Also, I almost never redeem all my miles for a trip; I take advantage of the cash and point system. People wonder how I still have miles J There you go!
- Take that travel job because it allows you to save travel expenses while making money and having an opportunity to explore new destinations. While I worked as a Technology Consultant for one of the top four Accounting firms in the US, I took advantage of the opportunity to accrue hotel points and airline miles. This definitely gave me an added advantage to accrue a lot of within a few years. It also gave me flexibility to travel over the weekend. So that travel related job you’re interviewing for may not be a bad idea.
- Don’t think too much; just snag those deals. There is always a weekend or flight deal that pops up when you sign up for travel fares alerts and destination deals on famous sites like KAYAK, ASAP tickets, LivingSocial, Groupon, Airfare watch dog, directly via airlines, etc. When you see a deal you can afford or a destination you’ve always wanted to go, just buy get the deal. You’ll sort out the details later. The first step is committing to that great deal you’ve always wanted and the rest is history. Now is not the time to have commitment issues J
- Travel with a friend. This may be difficult to do because of schedule and budget conflict, but it is also a great way to save money since you’ll be splitting a lot of the major costs. For super expensive countries, I would definitely suggest engaging in some sort of group travel – you can definitely cut down on accommodation costs. To successfully pull this off, I suggest you engage 1 or 2 friends that share similar travel mindsets with you, and then start planning.
- Teach English in a foreign country. This is a great way to travel while making money. You can explore the local culture, make new friends, learn a new language, and travel to various cities or countries in that area. For example, teaching English in South East Asia provides you a great opportunity to travel around the region. Think about all the countries you can visit in 3-6 months living out there.
- Give to Receive. You can participate in volunteer or menial jobs while on a long trip in exchange for free accommodation. A close friend of mine was quickly running out of funds when she lived in France for a few weeks and the smartest thing she could do to save on accommodation cost was to work on an organic farm in exchange for free accommodation at a French woman’s house.
- My passport is such a huge hindrance. Fortunately and unfortunately for most Africans, our passport doesn’t allow us to visit as many countries visa free as we would love to visit. I have no doubt that this will change, especially as we develop our CountlessMiles community of global minded Africans that travel. But before we solve one of Africa’s greatest problems, there are still ways to make travel slightly hassle free. First, take advantage of your colonial heritage tourism relationships or existing international visas. For example, there are quite a number of countries you can visit visa free with a valid US or UK or Schengen visa. There are also certain Commonwealth affiliated visa free options for certain African countries. Also take advantage of the country alliances you can visit visa free with your passport. This is probably the biggest travel hindrance for most Africans, but I am sure we would overcome in our lifetime. For Africans living outside of Africa who still own an African passport, getting a visa is typically easier – so take full advantage of that opportunity. For Africans based in Africa, take advantage of embassies that have very good relationships with your country and apply to visit that country. The process should be a little bit easier. This is how I am able to get around some of my trips.
- Don’t think Travel; think Experience. This trumps all the fears that may arise when you want to take that trip. When I lived in Spain, I learned a few things from my classmates – 1. Exploring the world is not only for young people; I had classmates older than 60 years traveling the world. 2. When you travel, engage yourself in local experiences of the country you visit, it makes the experience much better. For example, you can take a language course (it can be for a week) or a cooking class or learn how to make wine or teach a language or even participate in volunteer work during your trip.
- I’m nervous about the people. While this is a valid fear to have, it is also what makes the travel experience more rewarding. When I visited Istanbul or Marrakesh, I honestly didn’t think of the people but on arriving I noticed that they were not very welcoming. Or so I thought. After a day in those countries, I realized that it wasn’t that they weren’t welcoming; they just weren’t familiar with seeing black people. By day 2 in Istanbul, I completely ignored the weird feeling I was having and then I was able to fully understand the culture. We visited a local restaurant and markets, engaged in conversations with the locals and the Turkish guys were so excited that we visited their country.
This article will be updated as I think through more travel fears or as I get more followers sharing their own fears. But till then, don’t let your fears conquer you – they are mere “false evidences appearing real”