I still remember the feeling in my stomach as I was sitting in the Airport years ago anxiously anticipating my first international trip as an adult.
It was September 09 and Jetblue offered an awesome promo where you pay a flat rate (something like $400) and could fly anywhere within the next 90 days. I purchased the promo and set my sights on my first destination, Costa Rica.
However, I was extremely nervous and anxious about leaving the United States and traveling to Central America.
Was I making a mistake? Is it safe to travel solo in Central America? Will I get robbed or mugged? Should I cancel my flight and just go back to my corporate job?
I experienced a rush of emotions as I sat in the airport awaiting my connecting flight. The fear of travel started to overcome my thinking and I began to enter panic mode.
I just recently broke up with my long term girlfriend and decided to quit my 9 to 5 job and rely on my business as my sole source of income. I made enough money to travel outside of America while still working on my online business.
Money wasn’t the issue; The issue was my fear of traveling overseas alone.
5 Steps to Overcome Your Fear of Travel
I’d been on some international trips with my family but this time it was different. Traveling solo is a whole different ball game. You are responsible for yourself and must be smart with your actions.
Dealing with a foreign language and culture is no easy task if you’re a beginner.
However, I developed a simple 5 step plan for overcoming my fear of travel and hopefully this will work for you as well.
Step 1 – Do Plenty of Research
Before you go to any foreign country, spend at least a couple months doing plenty of research.
Browse websites, news articles books, blogs, forums and Youtube to discover as much information as possible about your destination. I researched Costa Rica for almost 6 months before I took the plunge.
I knew exactly which neighborhood to stay in, which hostel I would sleep at, how safe it was, and many more details that helped me choose Costa Rica as my first trip. I wasn’t going to a country without first doing my homework.
Research is important because it not only helps you find the best places to visit, but also the places you should avoid. If you discover too many negative videos, news articles and blog posts, then maybe you should reconsider your trip.
If you must go anyway, consider traveling with a friend or joining a travel tour to ensure your safety.
Step 2 – Bring 2x The Money You Think You’ll Need
Money is a powerful tool, but also causes many people to cripple with fear when it comes to finances. The worst situation you could imagine is running out of money during your trip.
There are many websites that list the average cost of living for foreigners in most countries so search websites like Numbeo and Expatistan to come up with a weekly (for tourists) or monthly (for expats) budget.
Take that budget and bring twice as much money as you’ll think you need. Why?
Simple. You need a margin of safety to ease your worries and fears about money overseas. You also protect yourself from theft, medical issues and careless spending.
Bring 2x your budget will put your mind at ease and reduce your fear of travel. Plus, you won’t return home broke like most travelers. It makes no sense to work your ass off then travel and spend all your money. You come back home with nothing and have to start the cycle of “saving and traveling” all over again.
Step 3 – Go to the Gym or Start a Home Workout Plan
One of the realities of international travel is that there may be a time where you must defend yourself. This is especially true at night if you drink alcohol and hang out at bars, nightclubs or around red light districts.
You may need to defend yourself in a fight or simply prevent a potentially explosive situation.
Rom Wills wrote an excellent article about Why Black Men Need to Be Fit and it’s also a great way to reduce your anxiety about travel. When you are physically fit, you feel better, look better and have more confidence. Confidence will help reduce your fear of being in a foreign country because you can protect yourself and avoid toxic situations.
Join a local gym before your trip or try these bodyweight exercises if you prefer to workout at home. You’ll have lose weight, have more energy, and shine with confidence before you step foot in a foreign country.
Step 4 – Stop Watching CNN and Global Propaganda Before Your Trip
The #1 goal of a TV station is to turn a profit so the majority of their content’s purpose is to invoke an emotional response in its viewers. If you watch CNN or other global propaganda, then you may experience unusual travel anxiety before your trip.
Being born in America, I know too often that what you see on networks like CNN is usually 100% opposite of the truth. They go to the worst, poorest areas of a country and show you the worst images you could imagine. This puts fear in many people (especially Americans) and all of a sudden you have no desire to leave the country.
Search through all media outlets to get a more balanced view of a country’s positive and negative traits. Try blogs, videos, podcasts, books, newsletters, magazines and PDF reports to get the full scoop. If your entire impression of a country is based on television, then you are getting a biased opinion of the country.
Step 5 – Make Your First Trip 7 to 10 Days Maximum
Whenever you first visit a country, it’s a good idea to take a short trip at first to see if you enjoy traveling there. Planning long term trips in a foreign country will give you doubts and second thoughts.
The best plan is to plan a short trip for around a week to 10 days then simply extend your trip if you like the country. If you don’t like it, then your trip will end soon enough and you can travel somewhere else.
Knowing you will return home in a week or so also reduces your anxiety because you aren’t forcing yourself to live overseas for long periods of time.
It’s best to visit a country a few times before you move there permanently. There are exceptions, though. If you fall in love with the country, then it’s perfectly okay to live there.
I always book a trip for 1 to 2 weeks then decide whether to remain there or leave. This gives me peace of mind and reduces any anxiety about entering the country in the first place.
What steps have you taken to overcome your fear of travel? Share your personal experiences in the comments section below.