Getting Over the Fear of the Unknown to Travel

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Carole Mage

At a travel panel  last summer, a couple came up to me afterwards and asked me questions about how I did my own big trip, specifically on my work.

“What did you do with your job?” Well, I had to quit it to take the first big trip. It was a point of transition and I didn’t want to move onto my next role, so I left.

“What did you do for money?” When I came back, I found a consulting job and lived very minimally until I saved enough and then went out again.

The couple explained that they wanted to go to the Americas for a year, but seemed to be afraid of finding employment when they returned. They were journalists and so I gave them advice on how keep their skills marketable while they were gone. Afterwards, I was talking with a friend who had witnessed the exchange. “What they heck are they worried about? Go off to Mexico, sit on the beach, write stories about the people they meet, don’t worry about what’s going to happen when they get back!!”

I agreed because it really does all work out upon returning,  but their questions and fears were very common among future travelers I meet.

In following travel blogs and writing my own, meeting future and returned Big Trippers, and reflecting on my own experiences for the past five years, there is one theme that comes through continuously. It’s a theme found in posts, comments, emails, raised hands, and conversations around these questions:

  • “how do I tell my boss I’m quitting?”
  • “how do I quit my job and travel the world?”
  • “what happens to my career?”
  • “how do I pay for it?”
  • “how do I do it?”
  • “where do I go? when?”
  • “what do I pack?”

World travelers are asking these questions to research their trip and see if world travel is right for them and that’s great, gather as much information as you need and go. But underlying a lot of these questions I’ve found is an undercurrent of fear – the fear of the unknown and fear of making the wrong decisions.

In our stationary, non-travel lives we live by predictability and routine. For a working professional, it’s a life of corporate ladders, Outlook calendars, meeting notes, and grids.  It’s bucks direct deposited every two weeks. It’s accrued PTO and a sacred health insurance card in our wallet. Outside of work, it’s scheduled family time, friend time, gym time, and time to relax. There is comfort in the structure and predictability.  The desire to long-term travel shakes that structure a bit. It asks, what if I left all that to see the world and live my travel dreams?

And  if you decide to answer that question with, “You know, I’d really like to do that.” and start asking How? a new foundation is built. With each Google search, question asked, event attended, and book read, the foundation to a new path and way of life starts to get stronger and the previous structure starts to grow a few vines from neglect. It’s not as attractive anymore.

But at every step forward, fear of the unknown is peaking its head in and can make one struggle to get past the rational understanding that “yes, people say I can do this,” to the actual belief of “I can do it. I will do it.” In service of  getting you from where you are now to enjoying your brilliant Big Trip, let me share with you three pieces of advice that will help you deal with this fear of the unknown. You won’t know if this advice is sound until you actually try it. So please, go out and try it.

Things On the Road Will Not Go According to Plan And That’s More than OK

“I have an hour before my ferry leaves the port of Souda, taking me away from Crete and back to mainland Greece. If I don’t hit that ferry, my carefully engineered schedule slithers through my fingers and I’m left untethered, without local knowledge, a decent enough grasp of spoken Greek or the money for new tickets. Without that ferry, I’m lost.

I sit down, by order of my knees, and stare out at the dusty, baked scenery as we rattle God-knows-where-wards. And then something strange happens. Panic ebbs away. I start to appreciate how lovely the light is, the rose-fingered sunset fading through the spectrum into that special glowing blue that enlivens domed roofs and door-frames right across Greece. I’m warm, I’m well fed, and I have no idea what is going to happen next – and it’s this last feeling that is so intoxicating right now.”

- Mike Snowden “Lost And Found: How Uncertainty Makes Travel Memorable

On the Road, Wherever You Are Is Where You Are Supposed to Be


World traveler Robin Esrock talks about how he took his big trip and dealt with decisions and experiences along his journey.

Your Career Will Not Enter a Black Hole Never to Be Found Again If You Travel

“While you believe you are embarking on an amazing, life-changing experience, you aren’t so sure potential employers will view your break with such enthusiasm. Indeed, you may be afraid that your time off will hurt you more than it will help you…Based on my experience, there are 10 things you can do before, during and after your trip to maximize your chances of finding the job you want after you return.”

- by Katie Aune in “How to Return to the Workforce After Quitting Your Job to Travel.

I found this piece a very well thought out, true, and helpful article that can get you past that fear of the unknown about your career if you take a Big Trip.

I hope this helps a bit my future Big Trippers. 

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3 Responses to “Getting Over the Fear of the Unknown to Travel”

  1. February 5, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Todd and I left for our year-long round-the-world trip back in 2008, before the economy crashed, and even then people were asking us “What about work?”

    My answer: “What about life?”
    Lauren, Ephemerratic recently posted..Colca Canyon and Cabanaconde, Peru travel guide – The YEH, MEH, NAHsMy Profile

  2. March 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    This is great advice beautifully curated. Things usually don’t go according to plan, but they always work out. A plane traveling across the country from point A to point B will shift its course according to the wind, but it will always end up in the final destination.

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  1. A City Girl Goes on Safari - July 18, 2013

    [...] fear of the unknown, trusting knowledgeable advisors, and believing everything will be Ok. I preach those lessons on this blog to get would-be travelers out on a big trip. Those fears about leaving a settled life to travel are [...]

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