Fear is the biggest saboteur of anyone’s peace. The worst part about it is that it’s not anyone actively bringing you down to a negative head-space: it’s yourself. I, like everyone else, deal with fears. However, I fear far fewer things since I started travelling.
Previous anxieties of loneliness, increasing responsibility, and discomfort are a thing of the past. Every fear I have (or had) has a root, and that’s a fear of the unknown. I was scared of being alone because I didn’t know my own thoughts. I feared the increasing responsibility with age, because I didn’t know if I could trust myself. These fears of the unknown are solved by getting to know the unknown and confronting this uncharted territory head-on, and I didn’t know a more direct method than travel.
I’ve always been an extrovert; I thrived in social situations and constantly needed to be around people. The idea of loneliness seemed like a mental prison; socialising always distracted me from my own thoughts about my future, how I’m doing now, and issues any other 20-year-old has. I don’t know myself very well, so I was scared to be alone. I’ve got a guard up with everyone around me, which turned into a guard with myself. I was petrified of letting that guard down, and being vulnerable and honest with myself. FOMO was also a major issue; this fear made me say yes to every single social outing. If I said no, would my friends be better off without me? Would I be watching them on my phone have a good time?
Whether it was a weekend or 2 weeks, spending extended time by myself helped me realise that I could have not a good, but a great time on my own. I became comfortable with myself and my previously unknown thoughts. I got to know myself a lot more; having all the time in the world to reflect on past mistakes, hopes for the future, and laughing at your own jokes in public helped me break that awkward barrier I had. This extended time alone allowed the guard to come down and become a lot more in tune with myself. This, to me, is the highest form of self-care. While still very social, I’ve learned to embrace solitude and say no once in a while. I think since my travels, I’ve become an ambivert, and I love it.
I’ve always been very independent. I still hear my dad sternly telling me “you want to do what you want to do,” during the many times I was in trouble as a kid. However, when it came to booking every single aspect of a trip, being on time for everything (as a chronically tardy person), and mustering up the courage/motivation to do things, my independence was tested. It can be difficult solely relying on yourself for every single thing. It’s a true test of responsibility; if something goes wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself. I’ve been literally seconds away from missing transcontinental flights, dashing across the airport (as I left my belt at home and trousers are falling down), I’ve lost debit cards and my passport: the worst has happened.
Despite that, I don’t let it deter me from travelling again; I use it as an opportunity to grow, to become more responsible, and to prove to myself that I can be completely independent without something messing up, and that these things were one-off incidents.
Since travelling, I’ve become far more self-sufficient. I no longer fear taking on large tasks by myself. This was due to a lack of trust in myself, as mentioned earlier. This means I’ve become more of a control freak, but the amount of precision required for smoothly organising trips has made me more confident in projects I do on my own. It’s made me trust my gut more, while also being more rational. Overall, it’s cleared my cognitive process a lot, which is something I didn’t expect. This even transferred academically, this increased trust in myself actually manifested into better marks on my essays. In short, it’s helped rid me of the fear of self-sufficiency, and boosted my confidence in my work.
It’s called discomfort for a reason; you naturally fear something you don’t feel at ease with. This still rings true to me in some ways, but I’ve learned the most in uncomfortable situations. Now my mentality has changed from “this is uncomfortable, this clearly isn’t for me” to “this is uncomfortable, let me try it and see what I learn from this.” I think this new mentality stems from the increased confidence in myself and my intuition; it’s a domino effect. Realistically, you learn to overcome discomfort by just getting into countless uncomfortable situations. I’ve been in far too many uncomfortable situations the past few years abroad to fear them as much as I did. How do you learn if you’re not tested?
Don’t take this the wrong way though, travel isn’t a panacea. I’m still human, I still have fears. By far, my biggest fear is failure, which is what is currently preventing me from pursuing artistic endeavours I’ve been intrigued by for years. I am still my own worst enemy, but I’m working on it. However, I can say, with confidence, that travel helped overcome my fears far more than I could have imagined. I think I can use the changes in mindset I learned through travel to overcome my current fears and saboteurs. These are all building blocks for the fully-realised person I’ll eventually become, and as the new school year approaches (which I am fearing very much), I’m hopeful to see how these newfound changes in my mentality manifest.