I'm a member of a Facebook group called "Women Who Travel" and one of the questions that gets asked most frequently is about fear.
"I'm going to Europe for the first time alone and I'm feeling scared."
"I'm thinking of going to Morocco, but I'm frightened that I'll have problems as a woman alone."
"I'm on a trip and getting into a relationship with a local and it's making me jittery."
There are so many reasons why fear is a traditional traveling companion for women. There are the real and non-negotiable fears for safety that we have to deal with realistically. There are fears of going beyond your comfort zone that men and women share equally. Then there are the fears that you won't be strong, smart, savvy or stylish enough to make your dreams come true in reality...to take your dream journey off your vision board and make it come true.
After traveling to over 80 countries in the past ten years as a travel journalist, I have one paramount fear. The fear of NOT flying, of not going on the adventure, the fear of staying home.
That old chestnut saying about you never regret the things you did only the things you might have done has a hard kernel of truth inside it. I still remember and regret the time I plead a stomach flu to avoid going on my first camping trip. What I don't regret is the time I got picked for a student trip to Switzerland and Spain at 13 and flew to Zurich alone on a 747 (yes, one of those old-school planes with LOTS of leg room).
That trip came back to me recently when I found myself in Spain on a trip to Rioja. I remembered the 13-year old I was, seeing that vibrant culture for the first time. I found myself feeling the same love for the warmth and flavor of Spain--the elegance of the language and the proud and graceful way both men and women carry themselves. I don't remember any feeling of fear, just a jump of excitement in my gut and a feeling like I was looking at my presents on Christmas morning. So much to discover.
My fears of not flying, of adventuring, are probably based on the fact that I had a hard home life as a kid. Home never felt like a great place to be. It was when I stepped out of my small world into the world at large, at 13, that I found myself at home for the first time.
So the idea of never feeling that up-catch of breath you get upon take-off again, or of not breathing in the particular smell of the air of an entirely foreign place again is what really puts fear into my heart.
Troubles and challenges on the road are part of the adventure. We may have natural fears around new surroundings that make us more aware and agile. The dragging, soul-chilling fear of never having lived is different. That's the fear I dread and have done the best to avoid ever since that first trip.