Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fear and Travel

Have you ever been afraid to travel abroad? It’s a common story: someone wants to take a trip overseas, but fear is holding him or her back. Fear of not being able to speak the language, fear of getting lost, and even fear of crime or bodily harm. I’m not afraid to travel abroad in general, but for as much traveling as I’ve done, I have to admit that I am still not immune from occasionally fearing the travel unknowns. Every once in awhile I find myself in a situation that I know isn’t particularly dangerous, or even scary, logically speaking, but that deeply worries me, nonetheless. And whether crippling or situational, fear is not a pleasant travel partner.

I was recently reminded of my capacity to be afraid on the road during a weekend trip to Riga, Latvia. Sunday morning, we decided to take a train from Riga to a small, coastal town on the Baltic Sea. I definitely wanted to explore something other than the capital city, but my mind was busy conjuring up all kinds of disaster situations. What if we buy the wrong ticket? What if we go to the wrong town? What if we’re detained by the Latvian train authorities? What if there is an incident on the train and we can’t understand what’s going on? What if we get on the wrong train and don’t realize it until we reach the border with Estonia? These fears might sound irrational, but with nothing in the train system written in English, and with my French skills not offering any help whatsoever in trying to make an educated guess, the entire process required a little hope, faith, and dumb luck to go smoothly. Luckily, we had all three.

After a lovely day looking out over the dark, cold, and enchanting waters of the Baltic Sea, I started to reflect on my earlier bout of fear. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time, probably because I’ve done most of my recent traveling to countries I’ve become familiar with, and I felt a little silly for having worried so much when I know from experience that things generally work out fine. Taking the train out of Riga was a nice reminder that traveling is nothing to be fearful about. Fear should never keep you from seeking adventure overseas, it should only be used in small doses to keep you smart and safe. It has no business trying to ruin a perfectly enjoyable trip to the Latvian seaside.


Zhu said...

Every single time I travel I'm scared, at first. I mean, it is scary to be in a foreign country, especially if the country isn't the safest one.

Yet, once I'm seated in the plane or whatever transportation I'm taking, I'm fully into travel mode and I'm more excited than scared.

Making the decision to go traveling is the hardest one. So is the night before. Rest of piece of cake :-)

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