By Caitlin Kelly
It’s fascinating, and sad, to me that so many people are reluctant, even fearful of leaving their home — whether their familiar surroundings of city/town/farm or the greater adventure of exploring their county/state/province, country or continent.
One of the most popular posts I’ve written, which gets views almost daily, is this one, with 12 tips for women traveling alone.
And this one, with ten things you’ll learn by traveling by yourself.
Why is the notion of “travel” so unappealing to some people?
I think because it really includes a raft of expectations, fears and assumptions, like:
Travel is dangerous
It can be. So can staying at home, never trying or experiencing anything new!
There are multiple forms of danger to consider, mitigate or avoid.
These include physical (is that boat safe?); emotional (what if someone shouts at me on the street?); political (is there an advisory against travel to that place right now?); criminal (if an object is that financially valuable, leave it at home or insure it.)
The worst crimes I’ve suffered — break-in and assault (Toronto); break-in and burglary (Montreal); fraud (New York) and auto theft (New York) all happened at home. Too ironic. (Well, we did lose everything from the trunk of our rental car at the Pont du Gard in France. That was nasty.)
Yet I’ve been alone, young and female in places like Istanbul and Bangkok, with no incident.
Travel is lonely
Only if you want it to be! The single best way to meet fun, cool fellow adventurers — even within your own state or province — is to take a tour (walking, bus, boat, bike, horseback) or stay at a hostel.
Travel is too difficult
That depends on you, really. If you have multiple, tiny, exhausted children and/or are ill or in pain, travel can really be a nightmare. But even the stupidest annoyances can sometimes be re-framed as an adventure when they happen to you in Sicily or Singapore.
Travel means speaking to strangers
Of course it does! What that really means is making an effort — to be kind, to look people in the eye and hold their gaze, (when culturally appropriate) and greet them. If you have ever visited France, you learn within days that every time you enter and leave a shop, you say “Bonjour, monsieur/dame!, Au revoir, Monsieur/dame!”
People are often delighted, if you try to speak their language and show pleasure in their world, to help. But you won’t know until you try.
Travel means trusting in the unfamiliar
That can be frightening if you’ve so far had little experience beyond your own culture.
American “news” of foreign countries is usually only that of political unrest, war, fires, floods, crashes, famines, tornadoes, hurricanes or lurid crimes involving Americans.
It’s crazy, inaccurate and bigoted. If all non-Americans ever heard about the U.S. was as grim and depressing, I doubt that millions would flock to New York or Miami or L.A. or the Grand Canyon, as they do every year.
If you’re hoping to visit a place totally unfamiliar to you, do some homework! Read the local press and/or listen to local radio (on the web.)
Visit a tourist bureau, consulate or embassy to find out more. Find some people who are from that place and ask them for their advice, insights and recommendations. Read travel blogs and magazines for insight.
Travel means relying on systems and organizations you don’t know to be safe or reliable
Given the recent tragedy of the train crash and derailment in Spain, this is a biggie.
I will admit to a few white-knuckled moments when on planes in Venezuela and Peru, for example. Do as much homework as you can so you are making the wisest choices possible.
Ironically, cruise ships, which people choose for being predictably fun, are proving to be fairly dangerous environments; many passengers are unaware of the crime rate aboard these ships and how very difficult it is to get redress or action if you or someone you know is a victim.
Travel for any length of time is too expensive
That depends on you, your taste, your family’s tastes and where you go. As anyone who’s been to Asia or India knows, you can live on $50 a day or less.
In New York or L.A. or Paris or Montreal, you can spend that on a few cocktails or lunch.
Travel means if I get sick I will not find a doctor or (safe, effective) treatment
I’ve been ill in France, Holland, Turkey and Canada, and had excellent care in all of those places. It’s pretty clear that any rural or isolated area is going to make this more difficult, although I was able to find a terrific, well-staffed clinic at the Grand Canyon for an exam and a tetanus shot.
If you’re heading into an area known for certain illnesses (malaria, cholera, plague), be sure to get the necessary inoculations and pack a small medical kit for emergencies.
Travel away from my work means I will never find another job
That depends on a range of factors. What sort of work do you do? How well-developed or in-demand are your skills? How strong is your network of contacts?
Travel means I will lose all my freelance clients
Not if you use social media, the Internet and are willing to do enough to keep your hand in.
My magic carpet!
Travel will alienate me from my friends, family, sweetie and pet(s)
This is actually a real fear and one that I’ve lived. People who choose to venture out, repeatedly and further each time, into the wider world — during college, for vacation, for months or years, doing NGO or non-profit or volunteer work — are a different breed from those whose pulse races at the latest TV line-up, not a fresh new passport or plane ticket.
Thanks to social media, you can stay in touch. Those who get it will really appreciate your decision.
Besides, check out these 20 amazing words and phrases that have no equivalent in English, from Buzzfeed — like voorpret, fernweh and depaysement,
Why do you travel?
What fears have you found groundless — and which are worth paying attention to?