It’s a question travellers get frequently. Especially those of us who are of the young female variety. “Aren’t you afraid to travel?” ask concerned family and friends when you announce your latest trip. “Isn’t that dangerous?” people exclaim when your intended destination is released. And the honest answers are: yes, I am afraid sometimes and occasionally it is dangerous. But here is why that won’t stop me.
Firstly, I wholeheartedly believe that travel is about something much bigger than myself. There are core values and beliefs which underpin my, and other people’s, desire to get out there. Open-mindedness, being inquiring, and taking risks are all important qualities of a traveller, but the overarching message is trust. When you leave your comfort zone you have to trust in the unknown. And through this trust you learn that people are fundamentally good. This understanding, humanity-focused mindset can stick around for life. At a time where the ugly heads of fear mongering and division seem to be reappearing these life lessons are crucially important. It is not to say this is impossible without travel – certainly, it is possible – but it can fast track the process.
The best way to learn something is to experience it firsthand. Getting out there and learning about other cultures and ways of life is going to teach us a lot more than reading about it or hearing it from our mates. In this modern, globalised world, it is important to be open-minded, experienced and be inquisitive about the world around us. I am not scared to travel because I am continuously intrigued by the world around me. The way people talk, the foods we all eat, the architecture, the way our spirituality manifests itself, and all the tiny quirks that differentiate people are the world. In this way perhaps my travel is more selfish and less global-acceptance-feel-good focused, because sometimes I do it purely to satiate my intense curiosity about the world.
… And for this reason the statement “can’t you just save the money and Google it/watch movies/drool over photos on Instagram?” hurts my soul. It just so is not the same thing.
The basic reason why people ask if you are afraid to travel is the perception of increased danger when travelling, particularly travelling abroad. It’s the fear of the unknown. And yeah, to an extent, this can be true. Nobody is going to sugarcoat it and assume that all destinations are equally un-dangerous-totally-safe-wonderlands. But nobody should also assume that by leaving the safety of your home country that the danger factor goes up infinitely. Bad things can happen anywhere, at any time and in any fashion. Travellers don’t want bad things to happen to happen to them, just the same as people who stay at home don’t want bad things to happen to them. It all comes down to risk management.
If you know you’re going somewhere with high rates of mosquito-transmitted disease, prevent yourself from getting bitten. If you’ve booked a trip to an amazing city but you find out there’s a high pick pocketing rate, use a money pouch or another way to conceal your valuables. If you’re scared of getting food poisoning then avoid known high risk foods. Risk management. There is no point avoiding having experiences of a lifetime based on a series of “what if”s. You never know when your number will be up so just get out there and live your life.
Lastly, the more you suppress yourself, the more you allow yourself to be suppressed. We often hear reasons to avoid travel based on gender, age, and more. Although in many situations these concerns can be valid, it is important to not let your characteristics determine your freedoms. If you want to travel the world, you can. When you constantly hear that you are incapable of something it is easy to start believing it. Get out there if you feel you’re ready because it is possible to travel the world, live an unconventional life, and still be perfectly fine.
So when people ask if I’m afraid to travel I will say to them: “yeah, sometimes I am, but that is never going to stop me”. Because sometimes things can be tough and dangerous and somewhat scary; but to me, it’s scarier to leave my life un-lived.