My post today addresses something that I think a lot of people struggle with. Maybe not everyone, but I believe most people feel some sort of uneasiness, lapse of confidence, or feeling of nervousness prior to embarking on a big trip, especially if it’s to somewhere considered “exotic”—somewhere outside of the realm of the everyday and most importantly, outside of your comfort zone.
I’m writing this post partly to talk myself through my own insecurities, which inevitably creep up on me every time I’m about to travel. A couple of weeks before I left for Indonesia last year, I kept thinking about the possibility of a volcano erupting, a tsunami, or getting kidnapped while I was there.
And look at me now! I’m home and I have one of the most unforgettable trips under my belt. I get to tell everyone how amazing Bali was and show breathtaking photos of the emerald green rice fields and the experiences I had while in Southeast Asia. My worries were all for nothing, and although being careful and taking as many precautions against danger as possible is important, never letting fear cripple you is just as imperative.
In a little over a week, I’m leaving for a nearly three week trip to Peru and just a couple of weeks ago, without fail, I started thinking about all of the things that could go wrong…
Puno, the first city on my itinerary, is at about 12,800 feet above sea level. What if my body has a horrible reaction to the high elevation and I can’t breathe and have to go to a Peruvian hospital high in the Andes mountains? What if I’m in my room at night alone, sick, and nobody knows and therefore there is no one to help me?
What if my river cruise gets overrun by river pirates and I’m taken hostage?
What if my passport is stolen and I can’t get home?
What if there is an earthquake in Lima and my hotel falls right on top of me?
What if THE WORLD ENDS?!
These thoughts could be endless. But as unlikely as they may seem, these are legitimately the thoughts running through my mind just a few weeks ago as my departure date loomed closer and closer.
Should I call off my trip? Think of all these risks I am taking!
Today, I’m feeling a bit less worried and much more excitement than anything else. In this post, I’d like to share with you some of the things I do before a trip to overcome my doubts and step on that plane and into the experience of a lifetime.
- Research your destination so you know what to expect.
I can’t stress enough how careful planning can make or break a trip. In some senses the internet can hinder you, what with all of the information and news stories circulating, but in this case the good most definitely outweighs the bad. With so many travel communities and message boards out there on the world wide web, there will never fail to be someone else out there who has been there and can answer your questions from personal experience.
Want to know how long it takes to get from the airport to your hotel? What’s the best way to do it—a bus, a taxi, a train?
Want to find out if it’s really necessary to get foreign currency or if you could mostly use a credit card or US bills?
Want to know if you need to organize a tour or if it’s something you can see on the fly without a group when you get there?
TripAdvisor has what I have found to be an invaluable travel community. There are travel forums you can browse through and 9 times out of 10 the question I’m contemplating has already been answered before—all the way to the most remote parts of the world—people are talking about it.
If no one answers a question you post in a certain amount of time, TripAdvisor even e-mails other users who they know have traveled to that destination because they’ve reviewed places there. TripAdvisor asks them if they can help answer your question. It’s like having at least one helpful friend who’s been to any destination you could ever think of in the world.
You can read all about safety tips, what to do and what not to do, transportation, local dress, how much things cost, and literally anything you could ever want to know.
- Make a Word document to take with you.
There are all kinds of fancy apps these days that will compile your confirmations, create real-time itineraries, and provide step-by-step trip assistance, but most of them require internet and aren’t fully customizable to your specific travel details. And although I am definitely pro-technology, nothing beats a physical piece of paper you can keep folded up in your pocket for the duration of your trip, especially if you’ll be traveling to places where wi-fi is not so easily accessible.
What I do is literally start from the moment I leave home and write step-by-step tips and information on what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Yes, this may be the pinnacle of nerdiness, but this has saved me on the road on countless occasions.
Include airline confirmation numbers, hotel confirmation numbers, addresses, phone numbers, even photos of maps for getting from point A to point B, things not to forget to do when you arrive, etc. One document with everything you may need all in one place can be extremely helpful. Of course, keep your confirmation emails as a backup if your travel paper gets lost or damaged, but all in all putting everything in one place can save you a lot of paper, ink, space, and even sanity!
Once you’ve gone through the logistics of each step of your trip and you are at the end of typing your Word document and are “back home”, I guarantee everything will feel a lot less complicated because you will have gone through it all the way from beginning to bitter end.
- Read blogs of people who’ve been there.
This kind of goes along with the research your destination tip but it’s a bit more personal and a little more focused on your own emotional and personal psychology. Reading the firsthand accounts of others who’ve done it makes you think, “Well, if they did it and they have still lived to see another day, they’re writing this blog post, then maybe I’ll survive too!”
Chances are you’ll find millions of travel blogs showcasing tips and stories about the place you’ll be traveling to—and all from people who are still alive! You have a really great chance of making it through your trip in one piece, maybe even better than ever, relaxed and rejuvenated from breaking away from monotonous everyday life. May the odds be ever in your favor!
Not only could bad things happen while you’re at home just as easily as they could while you’re on the road, but think about this: you get in the car every day and go to work or go to school, right? Just stepping outside of your bedroom in the morning is a risk.
More and more we see on the news stories of freak accidents—buildings spontaneously collapsing, people sitting at a stoplight only to be pummeled by a police chase, lives ending when it is horribly clear that that morning that person didn’t expect that particular day to be their last. It’s sad, but it’s the bitter truth. And the fact that it’s shown on TV, social media, and on the radio—the fact that news can spread frighteningly quickly in today’s world—is fooling people into thinking that something is different than it has been in the past. It’s falsely giving people the idea that today’s world is somehow more dangerous than the world of the past when really, we are literally living in the safest time to be alive.
In medieval times there were some of the most gruesome Game of Thrones-esque scenes you could ever imagine, but never was there ever a camera crew or a bystander with a smart phone as nearby as there inevitably is in today’s day and age.
When I return from these trips, I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Look at what I did and where I went basically by my own volition. Once you’re there in those beautiful surroundings, on a mountaintop or in a breathtaking temple, the fear will melt away. Those are the moments I live for and they’re worth every single somewhat frightening thought that crossed my mind before leaving home. What was I afraid of? Look at how gorgeous this place is.
Putting yourself outside of the comfort zone you live in on a daily basis can be extremely scary. But the trick is not letting that fear overcome you and pushing on despite of it. I, personally, am a creature very heavily grounded into a daily routine. I can freely admit I am a control freak by nature, and when you travel, you are all but in control.
That moment all control is relinquished, you see that many of the most memorable moments come from what was unplanned. There really is only so much planning that can be done before it’s time to simply swallow the nerves and allow yourself to freely experience what is so out of this world that not even a year of research or an eight page Word document could have foreseen it!
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS