European Tower

Afraid to Travel

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

My best friend called me last night and said, “I know you won’t do this but at least hear me out.” Then she invited me to go with her next month on a three week tour of Europe. (The tour company she has used before is having a big ‘last minute’ sale.)

Why did she start the conversation this way? In spite of having a passport for the last six years, I’ve never used it. I always come up with excuses about why I can’t join her and my other friends when they go gallivanting off to exciting destination. Why? Plain and simple, I’m afraid. How will I find my way around the airport? How will I communicate since I don’t speak the language? What if I get lost in a foreign city?

Help me say yes this time. They always come back so happy and uplifted by their travels. They are full of stories and new experiences. I always sit there feeling totally left out, wondering why I can’t seem to get myself to go.

I have no one to blame but myself. At 70, I’m not getting any younger. Please help me finally realize what has been a lifelong dream of mine.

Afraid to Travel

Dear Reader,

You’ve come to the right person! Not only am I pro-travel but I am pro-lifelong dreams. It’s time you saw the world and this sounds like a perfectly good way to do it.

Traveling at any age is exhilarating, educational, and fun. It’s also exhausting, challenging, and potentially anxiety producing. Never fear! By understanding exactly what you are afraid of, you can begin to manage the anxiety and go on this tour.

Please recognize that the concerns you have identified in your email will be handled by the tour company and/or your friend.

Therefore, instead of focusing on these understandable yet manageable concerns, you might do better to identify the underlying anxiety you are experiencing. For example, are you afraid of not being in control? Maybe you’re worried about being someone from the person you’ve always been? It could be that the fear stems from insecurity?

Try to identify exactly what it is that is stopping you from traveling and then implement  these steps:

1) Recognize that your thoughts fuel your anxiety. Change what you’re thinking and you  lower your anxiety. It takes practice but it can be done. For example, you may find yourself thinking “I’ve never ventured beyond the state. I don’t now how to do this”. Instead, think “There will be plenty of people there to take care of me. I actually don’t need to know how to do this!” Then finish up with a positive thought such as “being in a foreign city will be interesting, educational, even fun!” Pay attention. Whenever a negative thought comes up, exchange it with something neutral or positive. This practice will help you tremendously.

2) Make sure your friend fully understands your anxiety and is willing to support you if you get a little overwhelmed during your travels. Simply being able to talk to her about it will help you feel more in control and relaxed.

3) Here’s a fun one. Make a list of all the great things you will experience during this tour. Write down every little appealing detail about travel that has been part of your life long dream! By allowing yourself to experience the positive aspects of travel, you will increase your motivation to manage the fear.

4) Call the tour company and have a real heart-to-heart conversation with one of their representatives. They are in the business of making travel comfortable for people. Having answers to your questions and reliable information will help you neutralize your negative thoughts.

5) Invite your friend over and spend the entire evening discussing this trip. Make it fun! Pull out the tour itinerary and investigate all of the amazing places you’ll be exploring. Her enthusiasm will be contagious and all of the reasons you want to go on this tour will be reinforced.

This has been a lifelong dream. Please give yourself this wonderful experience because living with regrets just isn’t living.

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