All digital nomads and long-term travelers understand why some people are afraid to travel at one point or another, for one reason or another. We’ve all been there. Whenever one searches for info about a particular location, some scary news story pops up.
I remember when I was researching Thailand, they’d had all sorts of flooding and it was all over Canadian news. I postponed my trip about a year –shelved it, rather– because I thought I’d leave it time to “get back to normal”.
After living in Thailand during flooding, I see it wasn’t worth the maelstrom. That’s just wet season.
Are You Afraid to Travel?
When I write, I like to get into character. In order to empathize with whatever audience I’ve got, I think it’s important to roll around in their psychology and circumstance for a little while and then see what comes out.
This time I am a method actor, if only by circumstance. I’m not very happy about it, I’ll be honest.
But I’m not afraid.
I wasn’t afraid last night when I heard airstrikes, and I wasn’t afraid when I heard about ISIS a stone’s throw away from my temporary home last week here in the Philippines –seemingly out of thin air, at a moment’s notice.
My apartment complex has new tenants, displaced from the firefight. Today that fight is in the next city. And you wait it out, or you move on.
Should I fear those new tenants because they wear a hijab?
Should I be situationally aware and keep an eye out for trouble?
Always –regardless of the head gear, shaved white head, tattoos, or political affiliation of those whom I cohabitate with.
Sure, white supremacists have shaved heads, but so do Buddhist monks and normal folks who decided to approach their balding scalps with a razor.
You can’t judge groups of people for their appearance, religion, gender, political views, et al.
Full stop, period.
Last week I woke up to an earthquake tremor one day, and felt another a couple days later before bed. And I slept like a baby.
These are extreme examples, one that most expats won’t find themselves in.
But hey, you just might.
Last week I heard there was a bomb detonation at a military hospital a block from my old apartment near Ari Soi 5 in Bangkok. It’s a nice area, lots of government employees live there. Middle class and above.
Manchester is feeling a flavor of radicalism normally feared in South East Asia or Syria.
Toronto, Hamilton, Saint John, Halifax, Montreal, Calgary, Quebec City, Vancouver, Windsor –nowhere is immune to bad actors.
Life has a way of presenting us with situations, and it isn’t the situations we endure that define us; it’s how we choose to deal with them. Our actions define who –and how strong we are.
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Selling the Dream, Warts and All
And here you are, aspiring nomad. Trying to make sense of your decision to press forward and grapple this lifestyle. And it may make you feel a little sick.
All those always-be-crushing-it, palm trees, laptops, and selfies our digital nomad community has been feeding you is at odds with what you see in the news. Travel bloggers are no better, but can you blame us?
How else would we get you to push forward and commit to your own dream?
The modus operandi is to get you to invest into our way of thinking for awhile before we lay out the reality. It’s an order of operations. If we didn’t reflect on the shiny parts, would you ever take the plunge?
In these rare situations where there is danger, you will not panic. You’ll adopt a new normal, and you’ll simply adapt. The veil gets lifted and you begin to see the world was always this chaotic.
And it’s beautiful, charismatic, and selfless. It’s un-writable.
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A New Perspective
Let’s talk about your transition from cubicle climber to global citizen.
It’s a radicalization when you consider how everyone else in your home town is living. Not that kind of radicalization, but it is radical.
Intentional homelessness and putting all your trust into your own ability and not home ownership or 2 weeks of holidays every year –that’s bat shit crazy by standards of the status quo.
So, first I want to apologize for all the people feeding you eye candy and lifestyle design –maybe a little dose of reality to weed out those who have a light stomach for life’s stresses should have been prescribed.
So, here’s that dose. And it’s followed by a pep talk from as many as I could get to respond. These missives are real, candid, and raw. They aren’t fueled by commercial interest, and if you don’t like the picture I’m painting –pack in that dream to become a digital nomad or long-term slow-traveler.
Back home, your foes are invisible.
They’re pronouns. They’re mortgages, coupons, unemployment lines, algorithms, and media boogeymen. When you become a global citizen, those enemies fade into the background and the dangers you face –if you face any at all, ever– are right there in front of you.
You can step around them, say “how do you do?”, and keep on keeping on.
Chris Backe, One Weird Globe
“On one level, you can’t believe everything you read on the news. Chances are good the facts are that the country you’re visiting is safer than your ‘home’ country. In any case, don’t be drunk in public; look like you know where you’re going, and in general have that ‘don’t-f*ck-with-me’ look to avoid most problems. It’s also a good call to be suspicious of anyone approaching you while speaking English, and to regard taxi drivers as you would a recently released felon.”
Sabrina Iovino, Just One Way Ticket
Sabrina keeps it simple: “More people die from falling furniture.” (Insert mic drop here).
Rob Erich, Money Nomad
“I have two stories to share with any American who feels uncomfortable traveling abroad — in hopes of convincing them that there’s nothing to fear.
Story one. A few years back I met an Israeli guy who was studying in the US. His mom was incredibly scared because he was living in America — a land where anyone could own a gun. Here was a guy who grew up in Israel (a country that many Americans consider dangerous due to bombings, etc.) and had even been part of the Israeli army — and his mom was afraid of him living in America!
Story two. I had a 21 year-old female friend who traveled through Algeria with another girl for a few days while backpacking Europe. At one point they were walking down a back country road because they were too cheap to take a taxi. Several taxi drivers stopped by offering them rides and saying that this area wasn’t a great place to travel as two Western woman. However, they were still too cheap to pay for a taxi (which was foolish). Finally, one of the taxi drivers came by a second time as it was getting dark and told them to get in and he would give them a ride for free. As he drove them back to the city, he scolded them — and said that he would hope someone in America would protect his daughter if she was in a similar situation.
My point with these stories is threefold: 1) There are good people everywhere — and the majority of people care about the safety of others. 2) Speak with locals and use the web to learn what areas are safe — and follow that advice. 3) If you travel with the same diligence you would have in any large American city, you’ll be fine.”
Charli Moore, Wanderlusters
“One of the reasons I love to travel is because experiencing new cultures and meeting new people helps me build a better understanding of the world by listening to the opinions of the locals, not those broadcast by the media. Travel opens us up to opportunities we’d never find within the comfort of our own community, it also challenges our perception of the world outside our comfort zone. So my advice to anyone put off exploring by the media would be to always head the travel recommendations of their government, but to do their own research and plan their trips according to the reports of other travellers and local guides. Don’t let the media scare you into staycationing for the rest of your life!”.
Michael Opaliski, Travel Teach Learn Grow
“If you are thinking about traveling across your own region or maybe even around the world, don’t let today’s headlines determine what you do tomorrow or next week. Sure, the world seems like a more dangerous place today compared to the last few years, but the reality is that you stand a better chance of dying from the inside by having your soul sucked out of you sitting at your dead-end desk job, or making non-fat lattes for some suit who barks coffee orders at you on a daily basis.
It has been said tens of millions of times but that’s only because it’s true; you only live once so follow your heart and do what you want to do today while you still can. Don’t succumb to the non-stop negative noise that surrounds everyone, everywhere on a daily basis. Get outside of your comfort zone and go explore, you will experience life in a whole new light and see that the world and the people you meet are not really as crazy as the news would like you to believe.”
Carolin Pilligrath, Breathing Travel
“The purpose of news is to scare people, right? When has there ever been anything positive on the news? I’d say, diversify your resources where you get information from and judge where and how you want to travel from there.
David Thompson, Dave’s Travel Corner
Having never owned a television in my life I’ve never grown up influenced by news drama and perhaps the side result of fear when you see something terrible on TV being played and analyzed over and over and over again.
These stories are often just one incident (can be fairly minor but often played up as major) in a country and are usually not reflective of that entire country.
Countries often get a bad rap because of prior wars or politics but this does not mean the entire country is unsafe.
To the contrary. I’ve traveled to many supposedly ‘unsafe’ countries either just before or just after International incidents, or during disease outbreaks or to countries that are supposedly unsafe and dangerous for travelers for whatever reason. The media brush often paints entire regions and even countries not effected by something (because of proximity) rather than specific areas.
Hannah Lukaszewicz, Getting Stamped
“Honestly I always tell people to not believe everything the news days as they tell you what they want you to think. Reach out to a travel blogger who is there or was just there. That way you’ll get a travelers opinion.”
Steven White, Hustle How To
“The news might seem intimidating, but that is only because you are now seeing the every single piece of bad news from a collective of more than 5 billion people. What’s worse, the amount of good news you have access to is incredibly limited, as we all know, the horrific stuff makes for the best stories.
If you want to travel, go travel. Don’t let the media’s (intentionally) limited perspective of the world stop you from living.”
Linda Dorman, Chef & Global Business Strategist
“I’m not afraid in the slightest. I’m from Chicago where people get shot and killed every day. I’ve been through military coups, terrorist attacks and mob protests in China, Turkey, France and Spain and was in London during the subway bombing. I’ve lived through natural disasters like major earthquakes, floods, typhoons and tornadoes. I know the news – ALL news – is designed to skew opinion whether it’s state-run or commercial media/free press (if there really is such a thing) so I listen to understand what others believe but don’t let it enter into my own decisions. “Vivir con miedo es como vivir a medias” (A life lived in fear is a life half-lived)”.
Andrew Dobson, Sak Yant Chiang Mai
“Travel now is the safest it has even been. World violence is less every decade only the news focuses on it so it seems more rampant than ever. In addition every citizen feels their country is safer than the next. This has been the trend since the beginning of time. And these facts will not change whether you travel or stay at home.”
Max Tremaine, Sherpa
“Statistically, the world has never been safer.”
Karen Maraj, karenmaraj.com
“First, keep in mind the news is sensationalist and the only things you hear about is the shocking and negative for the most part. As a woman interested in traveling alone to parts of the world that she’s unsure about, tap into the online network of other women travelers.
There are several Facebook groups dedicated to women travelers. These groups focus on the world as a whole plus there are destination specific groups. Ask your questions, other women are extremely supportive. Find out what you need to do in terms of safety, where to stay, how to dress, getting around, and what precautions you need to take. Watch YouTube videos from other women (and men) in that location, look at what’s going on in the background to get a feel for the location.
In my experience there will always be a bit of apprehension but once you’re at the location most of your fears were for naught. That said, if you won’t do something at home, don’t do it while traveling. Don’t let your same female guard down, but also be open to new experiences. It’s a fine balance.”
Jeremy Noronha, Think Travel Lift Grow
“The majority of people will rather help you than hurt you! The news is just showing you the bad apples because that’s what gets you to click. If you look at the numbers we live in the safest time in human history.”
Sigourney Grandmann, Ocean Slug
“There’s no predicting what is going to happen. Anything can happen anywhere. Being able to travel to remote places or places that have been previously on the news, could be a great story to tell people back home.”
Mag Boron, TravelMe.World
“I have traveled to over 50 countries and lived on 2 different continents and I am always asked: “There is so much bad stuff on the news these days, is it safe to travel now”?
My honest answer is: I don’t know about the bad stuff on the news because I don’t watch it too much, but travel is fine ?
As anytime in life, I always recommend to be careful, whether crossing the street at home or exploring the street of a new country but also allowing yourself to be open enough to explore the world, meet new friends, and learn about other cultures. Because there is nothing more powerful than having awesome friends around the world sending you pics from a walk at the park in Turkey, swimming with friends in Nepal, eating ice cream in Poland or watching a sunset in Thailand to get your own dose of daily news, eyewitness news, the best there is.”
Shayne Rochfort, Chiang Mai Ambassador
“Just do it. Bad news is happening everywhere, being at home doesn’t make you safe. In most countries you will travel to you’re actually safer than when you are at home.”
Leah Davis, The Sweetest Way
In today’s world, it’s only natural that safety would be every traveler’s primary concern. It’s important to understand that travel comes with some inherent risks; however, there are risks to your safety in your home country, too. The idea that you are somehow safer by staying at home is a false narrative that the media has helped perpetuate, and realizing this is the first step toward alleviating any fears associated with travel.
That being said, it’s important to do ample research on your intended destination so you understand any and all risks you may encounter. Additionally, gaining a basic understanding of local customs and culture before your trip can help you avoid standing out or inadvertently insulting locals. Finally, take a few necessary precautions like purchasing the right travel insurance plan, giving family members a copy of your itinerary, and determining how you will stay in contact with them whether that means purchasing an international phone plan or a local SIM card upon arrival.
Speaking from my own experience, I can say that travel is never as scary as my mind makes it out to be. As soon as I step off the plane in my destination, my fears tend to evaporate into thin air. Locals are generally kind and willing to help, as are my fellow travelers. Having the peace of mind that proper research and preparation brings will allow you to relax and enjoy the adventure.
If you want to travel and fear is the only thing holding you back, the best course of action is to face your fear head-on!
Dave Brett, Travel Dave
“Read up on FCO for travel advice. Normally they have a good idea what’s going on and in the know. That advice is solid and also important for your travel insurance validity. Otherwise life is generally unsafe but we don’t walk around in bubble wrap. See the world through your own eyes rather than from the news papers.”
Heidi Wagoner, Wagoners Abroad
“It is understandable to have fear with what we see daily on the news. It isn’t something to ignore, but you do need to educate yourself and decide how you want to live your life. Do you want to live in fear and be afraid to go outside each day at the off chance of something happening or do you want to live your life. You do need to take the time to research where you plan to travel and be sure you read any travel advisories. So many horrible things are possible every day even when you don’t travel. Try to remain positive, be aware but don’t live in fear.”
Diane Daniel, New Nomads
“Life isn’t safe. Period. People slip and fall and die in the shower. Stop focusing on how you might die and focus on how you might live.”
Wes Davis, Author and Ecommerce Business Owner
“The news (US) is biased towards the sensational. Not denying the danger, but really we play the odds every day. Driving on the highway, walking down the street.
You’re gonna face lots of scary things in life, but it’s the travelers duty to get out and experience things first hand, make friends, memories, and spread that feeling. You can’t make the world more friendly by huddling away and giving into fear mongering.”
Evan Teague, Motive in Motion
“Research where you’re going, take the necessary precautions, but don’t overdo it. There are loads of negative reviews online if you’re looking for them, and they’re highly exaggerated.
Tons of places around the world can be visited in a safe, fun, and smart manner. Use common sense and protect yourself and you will be fine!”
Alessia Anniballo, digitalnomads.life
“Check online the security of the place, if you don’t feel safe to go there, change your destination. The world is big enough!
Keep also in mind that terrorist attacks, even though are scary, are still a really rare cause of death. In America for example from 1975 to 2015, only 1 person out of 45.808 dies becouse of a terrorist attack (this includes 9/11), while 1 out of 7 dies because of heart disease.
Gaia Arbizzani, Gaia’s Trips
“Fear immobilizes you. Fear prevents you from doing amazing things, experiencing unforgettable moments and meeting people that will probably stay friends for a life-time. All this, especially when you’re afraid of traveling alone. On the other hand, fear is a human feeling and we do need to find in ourselves the strength and the right reasons to overcome it.”
Toby Richardson, Travelling Minimalist
“It just goes to show that you never know what might happen and so there’s no time like now to go out and see the world while you still can.
I was actually supposed to be in Manchester that day and it just reiterates that life is short, so travel.”
Andrea Rocca, Things Nomads Do
“Traveling more and opening to other cultures is what brings people who are apparently different, together. A few sad episodes shouldn’t make you believe that life is dangerous outside of your bubble. Instead, they should motivate you in working harder than ever to make people understand that at the end of the day, we are all the same.”
Demi Papageo, Digital Nomads Go Greece
“Even inside your house you can get damaged. Can’t let fear rule us! Go travel and enjoy the unpredictable life, it’s all we’ve got. Greece is a peaceful destination! Has to be in a traveller to do list ?”
Karolina Klesta, karolinapatryk.com
“We all die anyway. If something is about to happen to you, it will, no matter where you are. You have nothing to lose! All you can do is gain.
You will come home more experienced, happier, wiser and braver. Don’t kill the curiosity and the willingness to explore, only because there is a fear inside of you. Don’t let him win. You are stronger than that.”
Anna Duweke, annaduweke.com
“I would ask them what makes them want to travel in the first place. There are uncountable reasons to do something and there are uncountable reasons to not do something. You will for sure find them, especially if you are a headstrong person. If deep down in your heart you know that travel is what you really want to do, or at least want to give it a go, then there is only one advice: Do it!
It’s normal to experience fear and anxiety when approaching a life change. It’s normal that the fear-based mainstream media affects you and your view on the world.
Let me tell you that our planet is even more beautiful than what you see on TV, read in books or on the Internet and hear from others.
There simply is nothing that can substitute what you experience yourself. With all your senses! Seeing all those places with your own eyes, smelling and tasting food you haven’t smelled before, meeting all these interesting people, hearing the sounds of birds you have never seen, feeling the sun on your skin and the sand under your toes, feeling how your heart opens wide and fills with gratitude for all the wonderful experiences you are making and are part of.
Let me also tell you that people are much nicer, hospitable and friendly than what mainstream media would want you to think. You won’t be alone while travelling unless you chose to. I know from experience that this is super hard to believe, but it really is true! If you want to restore your faith in humanity: start travelling!
There is something else that I would tell someone who is afraid to travel because of what they see on the news: safety and security as we see them are just an illusion. If anything, it’s even the news which show us that this is true. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, accidents and illness can really overcome us anywhere. So why stay put?
For me, the only real safety and security are to be found in trust, faith and peace –and those are all an inner thing and not related to whatever happens on the outside. We all have this inner safety in us, we all have access to it, sometimes we just have to reclaim it.”
Kevin Van Boxstael, Formula for Lifestyle
“Fuck it! Follow your dreams!”
Life’s chaotic moments are usually overblown. Something that happens next door may seem scary in the news, but chances are it won’t affect you at all. A few people I asked to comment for this article hadn’t even heard about recent events to put my question into context.
Of all obstacles to hitting the road, fear is the least productive one.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”. – Mark Twain
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments.