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Why the best travels happen when you face your fears

written by Sherry Ott December 27, 2017

You know what fear eats for breakfast? It eats procrastination and avoidance. It loves it, it frequently gets second helpings. You know what makes fear go on a diet? Action. And travel is all about action.

I’m not a naturally brave person; I think travel taught me how to be brave. When you actually do something you didn’t think you could, you get an incredible adrenaline rush. That elation brings on a boost in confidence, and you are more likely to conquer your fears in the future, as they won’t seem as scary.  After all, a comfort zone is not a place to live all the time.

I’ve been traveling for a long time, and consistently the experiences I remember most fondly and continuously retell are the ones I had to overcome some major fear in order to do. Fears come in all shapes and sizes when you travel: communication, weather, traffic, heights, eating something gross, falling, bugs, and getting lost. I’ve faced all of these fears before and here are a few of the tactics I developed to face them when I travel, ultimately leading to my most memorable travel moments.

There’s power in numbers

One is a lonely number, and it is really good at talking you out of things. But when you travel with a group, you have the power of a group to help in decision making and support. When my niece and I traveled with Intrepid in New Zealand, she really wanted to bungee jump and I agreed to go with her for support. I didn’t really want to go, in fact it was the last thing I wanted to do and had passed up bungee jumping up on previous occasions. But I could tell she just needed a little support, so I agreed.

group bungee jump New Zealand

My niece and I with our friendly Intrepid group

The morning we were supposed to jump our nerves were in full swing and we were thinking about ways we could back out.  However our Intrepid Travel group was so supportive and kept us focused as we drove to Rotarua. A guy in our group had bungee jumped before so he was full of tips such as “Don’t look down when you go to the edge!” His confidence and tips made us both feel better.

As we were on the platform and they were putting our gear on, we had an immediate cheering from our Intrepid group! They all watched with cameras ready to record the jump and shouted encouragement to us. Sometimes you just need a cheering section to fall over a ledge.

My niece deemed that bungee jumping day the best day of the entire trip, and maybe of her life thanks to the feeling of accomplishment after we jumped (I wrote more about it here).

New Zealand North Island

Another beautiful day in New Zealand’s North Island with Intrepid Travel

READ MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR’S MAGICAL TRIP TO NEW ZEALAND WITH INTREPID TRAVEL

A good tour guide may be the push you need

I was roped in as my guide, Tim, walked me gingerly over to the edge of the waterfall to look.  My heart jumped, my knees buckled, and I clammed up. Just hours earlier I was joking around with him while learning how to rappel. But now the thought of rappelling down this 80-foot waterfall suddenly seemed like a really horrible idea.

As we geared up with our rappelling ropes I had second thoughts, I wondered if there were other ways down, I needed an ‘undo’ button quick. Tim told me the only other way down was with him – but one way or another I was going to make it down that waterfall safely.

A good guide is talented at reading people, and determining their eagerness, fears, and abilities in a very short time. He knew I could do it, and he knew deep down I wanted to do it. He looked at me and got quite serious and said, “You’ll be ok, you know how to do this, it’s safe”. I felt a little better, but then he said the magic words, “Just don’t think” and with that I went over the side doing one of the scariest and most exhilarating things in all my travels!waterfall

NEED AN INSPIRATIONAL READ? READ THIS ESSAY ON THE ART OF SPONTANEITY 

Have a partner in crime

“I’ll do it if you do it.”

“Well if you do it, I’ll do it.”

“Ok, let’s do it!”

That was how one of my other nieces and I ended up facing our food-eating fears in Ho Chi Minh City.  We had agreed to something neither one of would do individually, but together it seemed to somehow make sense. We watched as the waitress brought out a perfect looking egg in a little holder. It was served with a little saucer of lime juice, salt, and pepper.

We were about to try hột vịt lộn, a popular snack in Vietnam. It’s a fertilized duck egg that is partway incubated; otherwise known as a half-hatched duck egg.  Yes, it has a beak and feathers, and that’s where the fear factor came in.

hot vit lon vietnam food

I believe if other cultures eat something regularly then I should be able to at least try it. So we both ‘egged’ each other on and now we had two eggs in front of us. I looked over at my niece Evie and I thought she might cry; or maybe it was me that was ready to cry thinking about the beak and feathers. But we took the first bites and waited a moment before realizing it wasn’t bad. We finished both eggs and it gave us a better understanding of the food culture, and the best story of our Vietnam trip!

LOVE REGULAR VIETNAMESE FOOD? CHECK OUT INTREPID’S 12-DAY FOODIE TOUR THERE

Fear of not having a second chance

I really don’t want to do this, but when will I ever get back to Antarctica? This dilemma was weighing on me heavily. I was so nice, warm, and cozy on the ship… why would anyone want to go outside and jump in the water and be surrounded by icebergs?!

polar plunge antarcticaYet as people were starting to prepare to go ashore for their polar plunge, I felt this pang of missing out. I wondered if I was making a mistake by not doing it. It’s not like I could just skip it this time and do it the next time I came back – Antarctica is typically a trip you only do once!

Before I knew it I was getting into my swimsuit and putting my polar jacket over my beachwear. Yes, I was really going to do this because it’s Antarctica, and there would be no second chances for a polar plunge there. It ended up being a highlight of my Antarctica trip for sure, and the good news is that since I did it once, I never have to prove that I can get in freezing cold water again!

polar plunge AntarcticaFace your own fears and you’ll see how soon it becomes sort of normal. Each hurdle you overcome gives you a confidence boost for the next travel challenge.

Suddenly you find yourself saying yes to all kinds of travel adventures. And saying yes is always the most rewarding way to travel!

Looking for an adventure of your own for the new year? Check out Intrepid Travel’s range of top trips.

(All images c/o Sherry Ott.)

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2 comments

Sara January 3, 2018 - 8:45 pm

Hi SHERRY OTT
Great article,Thank you so much for share with us..

Reply
Gregor Sleigh December 31, 2017 - 2:02 am

Great article. I couldn’t agree more. I’m looking at Intrepid trips to Patagonia and planning to leave the UK for 6 months of travelling. I am starting to tell myself that this isn’t the best idea. What I really need to do is to just #getgoing.

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