When I was a child, I used to look up at the sky on a beautiful sunny day, staring at the clouds with all their different shapes and sizes. While my friends saw dinosaurs and butterflies, I was convinced the clouds were countries, islands, and continents. Of course, I was too young to know better. I would often wonder what it would be like to travel to those fluffy far away lands, but then I would tell myself, “There is no way I could ever go there…”
I have been a traveler for more than twenty-five years now, and have enjoyed every bit of it. There is something exhilarating about boarding a plane, a train, or a car, and heading somewhere new. The research and preparation that goes into it, as well as the contacts, and the networking make for a fantastic journey full of life changing experiences. However, -and this I have learned through conversations with non-travelers-not everyone is wired this way.
My husband and I founded and lead Abante International, and through the years that the organization has been active, we have met thousands of young men and women who express a desire to “go to the nations”, however, quite often, it is the travel that intimidates them. Some of these young people have lived in their native towns/villages all their lives. Some have never even cross the railroad tracks to the other side of town, nor have they visited the neighboring cities. This is quite fascinating to someone like me, who seeks every opportunity to meet new people in new and different environments.
In the past, whenever a college student would tell me that travel intimidated them, I would think of them as foolish. I mean, who doesn’t dream of going to Paris, or Venice? Right? Through the years, I have learned that in fact travel can be intimidating to many people, especially those who come from small towns, or villages, where the lifestyle is routine or mundane. There are many factors that attribute to this sort of fear of traveling, and even the idea of meeting new people from other cultures.
The most common reasons I have heard, include, a lack of finances, the language barrier, fear of weird food/getting sick, and believe it or not, having to meet new people. Although, I feel I have a response for each one of these reasons, I also want to be understanding and compassionate, because there was a time in my life when I felt the same way about travel. In fact, I remember a great opportunity I had while in college, to go to South America with a couple of friends on a missionary trip. I remember that the more we talked about it, the more anxious I felt, until eventually I backed out of going, disappointed my friends and myself. To this day, I have never been to South America, and I have regretted that decision wholeheartedly.
My family hosted missionaries regularly in our home, and my parents had gone on missions trips themselves, but I had lived such a sheltered life, that the idea of traveling by myself, or going to a place where I didn’t know anyone, scared me to death. While in College, I joined a singing traveling group and went on several tours across America. The fear I had before quickly turned into curiosity, and a desire to see more, to learn more, and for once, to live fearlessly.
The moment I decided to be brave and go forward, was the moment I fell in love with traveling. I have since visited close to eighteen countries and counting. I have experienced the diversity of colors, languages, food, and the faith of many cultures. These experiences have transformed the way I view and feel about the human race, especially God’s love and passion for his creation. I often tell people that I carry with me a collection of stories from around the world, which I love to unpack everywhere I go. I suppose travel does that to you, it converts you into a collector of stories, recipes, and meaningful conversations with strangers, unbelievable sights, beautiful landscapes, maps, postcards, and millions of photos, etc.
“Travel is one of the best educational experiences a person can have, and the skills you pick up while navigating the world can often translate back to your life at home.” –A Dangerous Business Travel Blog
Here are some tips to help you think about traveling differently:
· Research –google, ask questions, read, and do what you can to find out enough about the place you are visiting, to ease your anxiety.
· Begin Small – Start out by going on a short trip somewhere not far from home, and then expand from there.
· Prepare – Ask all the questions that will give you the information needed to prepare well before you head out. (Weather, packing, visas, vaccines, language, lodging, food, transportation, health insurance, etc.)
· Network – start looking for opportunities to meet people from the places you wish to visit. There is nothing as efficient as talking to the right sources in order to get a true glimpse before heading out.
· Engage – Leave your biases behind, and be open to new and different things, places, and people.
· Trust – Trust that God has the best intensions for this journey, that you can be successful, that your leaders, hosts, tour guides, and teammates are wise and caring, and finally, trust that the experience is meant to help you grow, and not to harm you.
Below are some links of articles about fear of travel: