Overcoming Your Fears To Follow Your Dreams


I’m scared.

I’m absolutely terrified of this trip I’m about to embark on. Every morning I wake up, see the countdown has moved a day forward and I’m filled with apprehension and dread. Don’t get me wrong, the apprehension and dread is intertwined with excitement, euphoria, and overwhelming happiness, too. There are so many ups and downs and it all comes down to one thing:

Fear of the unknown.

This trip will be a trip of firsts. I’ve never traveled alone before, I’ve never stayed in a hostel before, had to navigate an unfamiliar transport system, coped in a country where I don’t speak the language. It’s incredibly daunting, and my main fears that I am having to deal with at the moment are:

What if I don’t like it?

This seems like something so trivial. I mean, this has been my dream for as long as I can remember — how could I not like it? I’ve always wanted to travel the world and now that the departure date is fast approaching, my mind has gone into overdrive. It’s easy to be consumed by a dream and know in your heart this is how you want to live your life. You read about other people’s experiences and think how amazing it sounds, and how you’re desperate to live a small part of your life in a similar way. However, when you make that important decision, and it suddenly becomes final — there’s no backing out. What happens if I just don’t like travelling alone?! This brings me onto my next fear.

Being lonely

I’ll be honest here, at home I’ve never been a hugely social person, and I like to think that I can cope perfectly fine with just my own company. But months and years of just me… will I be able to handle it? I don’t regret my decision on deciding to travel the world solo — I have experienced both sides of the coin, planning this trip first of all with a boyfriend, and then by myself. I want to travel the world on my own. I want the freedom or being able to go wherever I want, and to do whatever I want without having to think about someone else and what they would rather do. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But at the same time, it worries me that experiencing all of this without someone to share it with might fill me with sadness and emptiness once I’m out on the road. Not having someone else to look out for me and take care of me makes me worry.

Having to deal with unfortunate and unfamiliar circumstances alone

I will be the first to hold my hands up and admit that I completely lack common sense in every sense of the word. I don’t have much life experience in general and if an unfavourable situation were to arise, I feel like I would be incompetent, and be terrified about how to handle it on my own with nobody else to rely on. I’ll have to deal with getting sick, getting lost, sorting out visas, managing my finances, all on my own. This is something which I’ve never had to do before.

You’ve probably heard of the book Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. I’ve never read it, but I think it’s a really great line through which to live your life.

And that is exactly what I’m going to do.

I know that this trip will be a life-changing experience. It’s been my dream for years, so I’m not going to give up and never travel just because I’m scared of doing it alone. There will be times when it will be hard, and I’ll feel like giving up and getting straight on a plane back home. But these are the moments that will strengthen me and turn me into a better person. They will be the experiences that I will remember most clearly and I’ll look back and feel proud at how well I dealt with them – or laugh at how badly I coped!

I don’t think that anyone who knows me in my day-to-day life would ever imagine that I’d be the sort of person who would just pack up and leave behind her friends and family, get out of her comfort zone entirely and go off to experience the world alone. I don’t think I ever imagined that I’d be capable of doing such a thing.

But, hey, I’m doing it now and I couldn’t be happier.

Too many people don’t achieve their dreams through fear. We make excuses to not to do so. We convince ourselves we are just being realistic and cautious, that the timing isn’t right yet, and so it’s for the best to put it on hold. But then we never get to it in the end. Why?

Because we’re afraid.

Afraid to fail, afraid to be ridiculed, afraid that we’re incompetent.

It’s like riding a bike. At first you were afraid of falling. You probably did fall, but eventually, with persistence, you succeeded, you learned to ride and it was awesome.

Following your dreams is no different.

You’re bound to experience fear, and worry about what will happen, and if you’re making a huge mistake. And if you can’t think of enough reasons to be scared, your friends will help you with even more terrifying possibilities. But you don’t know unless you try – And by letting your fear consume you and rule your life, can you ever truly be happy?

So face your fears and embrace them, and then you can follow your dreams too, with no regrets.

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23 Comments

  1. Sunee
    March 11, 2011
    Reply

    “You have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

    Apparently Franklin D. Roosevelt said it first, but I’ve been living by it for most of my life and it’s been incredibly liberating not to have to worry about what can happen or what others might think. This is your dream, just go ahead and do it and enjoy every second of it, without worrying about the what-ifs :)

    • Lauren
      March 12, 2011
      Reply

      That’s a great quote, and definitely something to live by!

      It’s true, there’s no point spending your time and energy worrying about things that will probably not happen!

  2. Ian [EagerExistence]
    March 11, 2011
    Reply

    You will be fine. Plus, if things do go horribly wrong, u can buy a ticket home.

    How long left on the clock now? I’ve got 34 days myself. Then off on my 1st solo trip, just like you.

    • Lauren
      March 12, 2011
      Reply

      Hi Ian!

      Yes, that’s exactly true – Although I hope I don’t have to buy a ticket home!!!! :)

      I’ve got 125 days left now – I’m leaving in July… 34 days? You must be excited/nervous now?!

      If you arrive in London before I’ve left for my trip we should meet up for a drink! :)

      • Ian [EagerExistence]
        March 14, 2011
        Reply

        Yes, I am very nervous. And since I always leave things til the last minute, I am starting to panic also.

        A drink in London sounds like a deal! I will be disappointed if there’s no cold beer though :-p

        • Lauren
          March 14, 2011
          Reply

          There’s ALWAYS cold beer!!

  3. pokeken
    March 11, 2011
    Reply

    Just take this trip as just another step in your life and not to over analyse the potential pros and cons of what may happen on your trip as that only sets expectations and brings only regret. You can plan to the level that makes you comfortable but in the end you need to let it happen and go with the flow.

    Let life happen.

    • Lauren
      March 12, 2011
      Reply

      Exactly Ken… I’m just going to relax and chill out, and have the best time of my life!!! :)

  4. Kieron
    March 14, 2011
    Reply

    Know these feelings – we’ll put together a list of our fears as our departure date approaches and I’m sure that we’ll have at least twice the amount that you’ve listed here!

    But that’s just part of the rollercoaster of emotions with a RTW trip and once you get past the fear there’s nothing but great times ahead! :)

    • Lauren
      March 28, 2011
      Reply

      It feels like everyday a new reason to be scared comes along, but as you say it’s a rollercoaster of emotions – And I wouldn’t change it for anything!

  5. Becki
    March 14, 2011
    Reply

    Really loved this post, I completely identify with so many of the fears&emotions you’re experiencing- and admire you for opening admitting it!! I seem to spend most of my days putting on a face of bravado and telling everyone I’m really excited- but actually have to admit, I’m scared shitless!! But at least you’re acknowledging that and entering into it with your eyes wide open; too often I think people are taken in by this perfect ‘ideal’ image of travelling and then find it harder to deal with the inevitable hardships or hiccups along the way. And once you get into a rhythm of your own, things will fall into place and your fears will fade. You’re bound to love it :)

    Best of luck- it’s 49 days until our trip and even though I’m not going alone, I have the added worry of pulling our 2.5rd old along, eeek!! And I’m terrified as well as euphoric…! But we’ll not only survive, we’ll thrive ;)

    Xxx Becki xxX

    • Lauren
      March 28, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks for commenting Becki!

      It’s so great to know that there’s so many others out there that feel exactly the same way that you do! It makes me feel like I’m not totally alone doing this :)

      Good luck for you trip – Will be following along, and I’m sure you’ll all have a blast!

  6. Odysseus
    March 16, 2011
    Reply

    Great post! It’s human nature to be scared — and in some ways it’s helpful, a protective mechanism, but like you thoughtfully point out, being scared is what keeps so many people from living their dreams.

    Every single time I land alone in a foreign airport, I just feel like crying. Then I tell myself I’ll just find my hostel and spend the day there — but after I reach the hostel, I always dump my bag and take off to explore the city. Maybe you’ll be the same way?

    • Lauren
      March 28, 2011
      Reply

      I think I’ll probably be EXACTLY the same way actually!!

  7. Jaime
    March 18, 2011
    Reply

    Lauren I have to be 100% honest with you… I felt the same way in every aspect as you did before leaving on my trip. Its going to get so much worse as the big day gets closer. The thing is you just have to put all those fears aside and just do it. Trust me a lil over 2 weeks in and I fucking love it. You are going to love it & you know what if for some reason you do not then no biggie you just come home and life goes on. What will matter then is that you at least tried. So enjoy every feeling you have now good & bad and enjoy it cus its a roller coaster… xoxo

    • Lauren
      March 28, 2011
      Reply

      Jaime! You sound like you’re having such an amazing time, and I’m so happy for you!

      I just can’t wait to get out there now…

  8. Lauren
    March 28, 2011
    Reply

    Hi Kami!

    Wow, how did you find my blog?! Thanks for reading and commenting on my post though :) (Why would I think you’d want me to fail?? No matter what has happened, I have no hard feelings towards you or anything at all!)

    I have to say that 95% of the people that read my blog are travelers themselves, so I wouldn’t necessarily say they are out of touch with reality, when most of them have done the same themselves…

    But I do understand completely what you’re saying and your concerns, and believe me, I share the same fears, and I am trying to prepare myself as much as possible by researching all the places I plan on visiting. Although it does seem like a long list, I plan on traveling very slowly, and not hopping from one place to the next every few days. I hope this trip will last for 5 years! For example, in Australia I plan on getting a Working Holiday Visa which will allow me to settle down and live there for up to two years. There’s not much point researching countries to visit after that now, as it’s years away!

    I want to be flexible and so I am not booking a huge amount in advance, and a lot of things I will decide once I’m out on the road, but I will always have the opportunity to just give up and buy a ticket back to England if I REALLY cannot cope with it. The benefit of not having everything booked is that if I visit somewhere I really hate, I can just move on and leave, and the same goes for if I discover somewhere I really love… So the list of places I have is completely subject to change! But this is definitely a long-term trip that I’m planning… It’s not me trying to cram in 30 destinations in a year, I’m hoping to travel up to 5 years. But as you say the best thing to do is to read-up on each location beforehand, which is what I am going to do.

    I do have quite a few friends that I’ll be meeting up with at various different locations who are very happy to have me stay with them for however long. I have also looked at couch surfing, and although I feel slightly apprehensive using it as a solo female, it’s something I may look into at a later date.

    I definitely do not believe that once I get out there everything will be fine and go exactly to plan, but the point of the post was just to say that although I’m actually completely terrified of what may go wrong, I don’t want to NOT follow my dreams purely because of the fear that I’m feeling. I’m not being naive and believing that once I get out there it will be the perfect trip, and I’m completely aware that there will probably be lots of things that WILL go wrong. But like I said, I don’t want to not follow my dreams because I’m too worried about the endless list of things that could go wrong!

    I guess only time will tell where I end up and how everything turns out…

    I’ll have to pick your brains about China nearer the time, as I’m thinking of spending 2-3 months there! :)

    And I guess I’ll see you at one of the London meet-ups too!

  9. Andrew
    April 13, 2011
    Reply

    That book you mentioned “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” is a really great book. If you happen to see a copy in your travels, definitely pick it up.

    I am a fairly fearful person. I have dealt with fear enough to cause panic attacks several times in my life. Yet, when I travel the fears don’t seem to follow. I don’t know why, but I have far fewer problems when traveling than just being at home. I still get horribly lonely while travel, but it isn’t as spiraling. Travel is actually what I attribute my improvement to.

    Getting put into those fearful situations is part of the point. You will and can deal with them, and once you do you have more information that you can accomplish so much more.

    • Lauren
      April 14, 2011
      Reply

      I have been thinking about picking up a copy as I think it would help me. I’m just reaching the stage where I’m having complete anxiety and panic over it! I’m fine one minute, and freaking out the next!

      That’s absolutely fantastic that traveling seems to have helped your panic attacks… Hopefully the same will happen with me! :)

      I think facing your fears rather than ignoring them and running away makes you a much stronger person…

  10. Overcoming fears to pursue your passion and live your dream | Family on Bikes
    January 25, 2012
    Reply

    […] I’m scared. I’m absolutely terrified of this trip that I am about to embark on. Every single morning I wake up, see the countdown has moved one day forward and my stomach tightens up, and I’m filled with a sense of complete apprehension and dread. Don’t get me wrong, the apprehension and dread is intertwined with excitement, euphoria and a sense of overwhelming happiness too. There are so many ups and downs that I am experiencing in the planning stages of my trip and this all comes down to one thing: Fear of the unknown.   – Lauren […]

  11. Brit
    September 7, 2012
    Reply

    I really liked reading this post. I have been trying to talk myself into traveling alone because I don’t really know anyone who wants to travel and it’s a dream of mine. Reading that you felt the same way when you started and your doing just fine (not without a few bumps in the road obviously) makes me feel so much better.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Mel
    May 31, 2017
    Reply

    Oh Lauren! Yours was the first travel blog I read from start to finish (after reading your book) and now that I am on the way to the airport for my 6 month solo trip and quietly freaking out, I am reading back through your early posts to remind myself I am not alone and most of us feel the fear. Getting on the plane will be the hardest part for me… bangkok here I come!!

    • Lauren
      June 3, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, you’re definitely not alone, Mel! I think everyone feels terrified before their first big solo trip, even if they aren’t quite as honest as I can be here! Hope the start of your travels have gone smoothly so far :-)

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