Travel: A few fears and facts

Sometimes, the thought of traveling is thrilling! You can’t wait to go someplace new. You plan the trip. You revel in the details. You lie awake thinking about it. Then, slowly, almost imperceptibly, a bit of dread creeps in. You start thinking about what could go wrong — what could go horribly wrong. You try to focus on the joy of the trip. You reach for the anticipation and joy that you had when you first embarked on the idea of travel, but the fear has taken hold.

This is not necessarily the fear of traveling (hodophobia). Sometimes it is. If it is you might develop physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, or crying. You may also experience gastrointestinal distress and headaches. Hodophobia often makes it difficult to perform the necessary tasks involved in a trip. It creates a hesitancy, and in some cases a total inability, to travel to new places. Some people with Hodophobia fear all types of trips, while others are afraid only of specific means of transportation. While it’s best to consult a mental health professional for any phobia, there are also many things you can do to minimize the stress associated with some travel fears.

So if it isn’t hodophobia, what can I do to help with the fear? The first step is to recognize what it is that you fear. Maybe you are afraid of flying or anxious about having to function in a place where you don’t know the language, or perhaps you are concerned about crime or getting lost. There are many things about travel which can make people anxious, but most of them can be overcome with a little bit of research and planning.

It isn’t uncommon to be afraid of flying. Almost everyone gets a little nervous when confronted with plane travel, after all, you have no control once you settle into your seat and the plane takes off. You may have heard the legend of the pilot who bid passengers farewell after landing with these words: “The safest part of your trip is now over.” These aren’t just words. It is an actual fact. Airlines are businesses, and they would not be in businesses if they were routinely killing their customers. Planes are designed and maintained with safety in mind. Commercial pilots undergo vigorous training before they are ever allowed to fly and they are continually tested to make sure they are physically, mentally, and emotionally able to continue flying. In fact, airline attendants and pilots are much more likely to put your safety first than the bus or taxi driver who took you to the airport. All of this might not make you a confident flyer, but it is comforting to know that you are in good capable hands.

Finally, statistically speaking, the odds of dying in a plane crash are extremely small.

Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2019

  • Heart disease 1 in 6
  • Cancer 1 in 7
  • Chronic lower respiratory disease 1 in 27
  • Suicide 1 in 88
  • Opioid overdose 1 in 92
  • Fall 1 in 106
  • Motor-vehicle crash 1 in 107
  • Gun Assault 1 in 289
  • Pedestrian accident 1 in 543
  • Motorcyclist 1 in 899
  • Drowning 1 in 1,128
  • Fire or smoke 1in 1,547
  • Choking on food 1 in 2,535
  • Bicyclist 1 in 3,825
  • Sunstroke 1 in 8,248
  • Accidental gun discharge 1 in 8,571
  • Electrocution, radiation, extreme temperatures and pressure 1 in 13,394
  • Sharp objects 1 in 29,334
  • Cataclysmic storm 1 in 58,669
  • Hornet, wasp, and bee stings 1 in 59,507
  • Hot surfaces and substances 1 in 63,113
  • Dog attack 1 in 86,781
  • Lightning 1 in 138,849
  • Railway passenger Too few deaths in 2019 to calculate odds
  • Passenger on an airplane Too few deaths in 2019 to calculate odds

Source: National Safety Council estimates based on data from National Center for Health Statistics — Mortality Data for 2019

Going someplace where you don’t speak the language can be intimidating, uncomfortable, and downright scary. One way to prevent this is to start by traveling to countries where people speak the same language as you. Once you know you are capable of getting around in a place with which you are unfamiliar, it is easier to add another layer of complexity to your travel.

When you decide to travel to someplace where people might not speak your language, it helps to remember that people travel more now than at any other time in history and that in most places the people who live there are used to dealing with travelers who don’t speak their primary language. It is helpful to know a few basic phrases like “thank you” and “good morning” and to be able to communicate your needs and understand the answers for things like finding a toilet or asking a price. Remember that even if you don’t know a word of the language in which you are trying to be understood, people have communicated for centuries through gestures and drawings. Besides, you have a secret weapon. Your mobile phone knows almost every language spoken on earth. It may not translate perfectly, but can certainly make you understood and help you to understand what is being said. If you ask the internet how much a twenty euro meal will set you back in dollars you will get an answer in seconds. (You may not like the answer, but you will have it!)

Crime is a fact of life not just travel. Having anxiety about getting robbed will actually increase your chances of being a victim of crime because it takes your focus off where you are at the moment. No matter where you are, you need to be aware of your surroundings and limit your chances of being a victim. There are basic rules that people follow everywhere whether they are conscious of them or not. Don’t carry large amounts of cash. Don’t go to places with which you are unfamiliar after dark. Be aware of who and what is around you. In short, use common sense. There is one other thing to remember while traveling. You are in a place with new rules. Watch what the people there do and how they act and do as they do. There is a reason for the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It will help you to be safe and confident and to enjoy your trip.

Feeling anxious or afraid of getting lost can be overwhelming. It can make a short walk to a museum or zoo feel like a hundred-mile trek. The good news is that you can limit your chances of getting lost. If you stay in a city or populated area, there will be people around to ask and maps to buy. You can plan your outings before you even set off, writing down directions and notes to help you stay on the route you want to travel. Even so, getting lost is almost an unavoidable part of traveling. It can also lead to the best parts of your trip. Think about it. Every time you face a challenge and overcome it, you feel pretty amazing. Right? This is even true of getting lost. You might never see the museum you had set off to find, but you might a special shop or meet a new friend. You might discover an attraction that you had never known existed. Sometimes the magic of traveling lies outside your comfort zone.

Always try to hold on to the excitement you felt as you started your journey. If you let fear and anxiety take over, you might discover the beauty and strength that comes from going someplace new. Remember, no matter how scary it might be, there’s a big exciting world out there to explore.

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