The Fearful Traveler

Street food is great and should not be feared
Over the course of the last six years I’ve met many travelers and and communicated with many more who have expressed fears and concerns about traveling.

If the fears were just concerns which kept people on their toes while on the road it wouldn’t be so bad. However, most people let their fears prevent them from traveling and exploring the world.

The list of fears which people have about traveling is almost endless. They include:

  • Fear of getting sick from drinking the water.
  • Fear of getting sick from eating street food.
  • Fear of getting robbed.
  • Fear of getting ripped off.
  • Fear of getting murdered.
  • Fear of getting bed bugs.
  • Fear of not knowing the language.
  • Fear of getting sunburned.
  • Fear of shark attacks.
  • Fear of getting in a car accident.
  • Fear of getting raped.
  • Fear of getting arrested.
  • Fear of carrying their camera or computer.
  • Fear of losing their passport.

I could keep going and I’m sure that many of you have fears that you could add to the list.

Most of the fears are nothing more than manifestations of being in an unfamiliar environment, coupled with the media only delivering bad news about the rest of the world. The end result is an unwarranted fear of the unknown which causes many people to stay at home and avoid traveling.

Bad things can happen when you travel. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. However, the odds of something bad happening are not necessarily any greater traveling than they are at home. The only difference is that you know and are comfortable with the risks you face in your own neighborhood. Risks somewhere else are unknowns, so we have a tendency to exaggerate them.

In the six years I’ve been traveling I have been to over 100 countries and territories and I haven’t been robbed or mugged once. I haven’t been arrested or stranded anywhere. I have never been so paralyzed by a foreign language that I couldn’t eat or sleep. I have had no major accidents. I have gotten bed bugs once and I’ve had food poisoning once. My rate food poisoning is probably on a par with what I suffered before I started to travel.

Perhaps I’ve been lucky. Perhaps I’ve just been smart about what I do and where I go. Either way, hundreds of millions of people who travel internationally each year manage to do so without any of the deleterious effects that most people worry about.

One of the greatest benefits of traveling is getting over your fears. Learning how to become comfortable in foreign places will teach you how to overcome fears in your everyday life. It is one of the primary reasons why people who travel extensively are often so successful in other areas of life.

One of my biggest missions is to get people to over their fears and to get them to experience the world.

Don’t focus on the random bad thing which happens to make the news. Instead focus on the hundreds of millions of people who travel without incident each year.

The world is too amazing to let your fears prevent you from exploring it.

15 thoughts on “The Fearful Traveler”

  1. It’s normal to be a bit fearful and thus, be responsible. Otherwise we’d be naive, irresponsible.
    I have about 5 of those fears that you mentioned. But the level is not very high.

  2. We went to Japan about 6 weeks after the earthquakes in Japan in 2011. I kept abreast of the latest through local sources, posts on TripAdivor, etc (as the Western media was only reporting the worst); and we were traveling from Tokyo south only. Still, I was amazed at the friends and family who asked us “are you crazy” “do you want to die”, etc. Well, no, and no.

    I’ve had food poisoning only once so far while traveling – but several more times right here in the States! Like anything else in life, don’t let fear rule you!

  3. Street food is one of my favorite things about traveling!
    I’m always shocked when I hear people saying they “wouldn’t trust” the street food in places like south america or asia, man are they missing out

  4. This totally resonates with me. I just got back from an international trip and while I didn’t let my fears paralyze me from going it did hinder my relaxation. Guess that just means I need to travel more!

  5. Good post! Yes, the best thing to overcome the fear is to face the fear itself. This is also one reason I travel.

  6. food on a stick (or other street foods) should never be feared. Its made with love and your stomach will forgive you. =)

  7. True – although it’s easy to get food poisoning (at home and abroad). Rather than telling people they “won’t ever get sick,” it’s probably better to say “ah, you’ll live” or “it’s worth it.” ;-)

  8. I agree with you that street food isn’t necessarily going to give you food poisoning, but you still have to be careful. Not all countries have the same food safety and hygiene standards. For example, in the Philippines the street food vendors are pretty good about using plastic gloves to handle food; in China, all bets are off, even if you eat in a restaurant.

  9. I agree and may be guilty of a few but I will not allow it to stop me. But I know plenty of people who do. Its a shame, but when you travel you surprise yourself on how friendly people are and how similar people are to you even in another country and with a different language.

  10. Agreed, the world is definitely an amazing place and no fear should hold one back from exploring it…
    But overall it seems to me that most people who don’t travel are simply afraid of leaving their own comfort zone. Of course, being out there in the world, in a foreign country, far away from home and all alone, can seem quite intimidating. But after all there is nothing to be feared…
    It probably took me a good two months into my first world trip to realize that and to be fully comfortable on my own. After that, travelling has become a simply amazing and addictive experience… : )

  11. People who are afraid to travel are afraid of almost anything. I think. As Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I’m going to die screaming out “Brown Sugar” myself.

  12. There’s a lot of need for articles like this one. Too many people worrying too much for too little things!

    Most of them forget all fears after a week on the road and they make fun of them after a month ;)

  13. Amen to all of that! I still find myself battling with the odd fear now and then. For example, I hurt my knee twice last year and the idea of doing it again is hanging over my head for a 4-day hike I’ve got coming up in a fortnight. Once I realised I was afraid of something that might not happen I started to ease up on my expectations and looked forward to it a bit more. Simply realising the truth of the fear is the quickest way to get over it I find. And there are so many illogical fears linked to travel that this becomes even more important. After all, for every robbery you experience you’re more than likely to have experienced hundreds of amazing things that will turn that event into a footnote by comparison.

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