How Conquering My Fear of Traveling Allowed Me to See the World
Conquering My Fear of Traveling
I remember like it was yesterday. Getting the confirmation email that I would be going on Birthright brought a huge smile across my face. Other than a weekend Caribbean cruise on Carnival, this would be my first real trip outside the continental US.
Days later, I applied for a passport and the realization sank in: I was going to Israel! Now this is not a blog post about Birthright, although I can’t recommend the experience enough to all my fellow tribe members. This is a blog post about how I have grown from the scared, green traveler to the well-seasoned traveler I am today.
Nature v. Nurture
I grew up in a very normal, loving home. We didn’t travel often and certainly didn’t take many trips that involved traveling on a plane. My mom was afraid of flying so family vacays were strictly limited to locations accessible by car (sometimes very long car rides). Therefore, I had never been to Europe and the longest plane ride I had ever taken was from Miami to Phoenix with my Uncle and Cousin for a Miami Hurricanes National Championship game.
Here’s where the genetic nature plays into me as a traveler. I inhabited this apprehensive and extremely cautious traveler mentality. Luckily I don’t have a fear of flying, although unfamiliar settings made me feel nervous and getting lost sent me into an uncomfortable frenzy.
My First Trip to Europe
When I met the love of my life, Allison, she made it very clear that traveling was important and would play an integral part in our relationship. This made me excited and nervous all at the same time. She knew my travel experience was extremely limited, but this would change.
A few months into our relationship, Allison decided to plan a post-graduation European Med cruise. I was so excited! I was finally going to get to see Italy, France and Spain.
Now quickly going back to the Birthright experience. On that trip, I learned something very important I had not previously known about myself. I simply cannot sleep sitting up, no matter how tired I am. Instead of sleeping, I fall into a delirious stupor.
The Monster was Born
The inability to sleep sitting up was not good, especially when taking an overnight flight from Miami to Rome. Despite having extra legroom and enjoying the hell out of my first International flight experience, I simply could not fall asleep. When we arrived into Rome, I was high on adrenaline, but sleep deprived as I had been up for around 33 straight hours. This was a recipe for disaster!
Being that my wife was already a very seasoned traveler, this trip was planned with a more go-with-the-flow type vibe. Therefore, when we landed in Rome, we had to figure out how we were going to make it to the cruise port of Civitavecchia. We took a shuttle to Rome Termini station and had about an hour to kill before our train left for the cruise port. When we stepped out of Rome Termini, I was still running on fumes. We found a cute corner street cafe and I had one of the most delicious chocolate stuffed croissants I have ever tasted, even to this day.
When we walked back to Termini station and made our way to the train platform, we found ourselves surrounded by gypsies who were grabbing our bags out of our hands and putting them on the train for us. Note to travelers, this is not a nice gesture. The gypsies then demand money for their efforts and often get very upset when given an insufficient tip or declined a tip altogether. This made me feel very uncomfortable. The lack of sleep was setting in and I was starting to not feel like myself.
Here’s the thing about the trains in Italy. The first few cabins are air-conditioned with assigned seating to provide a very comfortable ride. Not knowing this, we grabbed seats in the back of the train without air-conditioning and beggars made their way through regularly. Again, this was not what I had expected from Europe. Our first real trip together, and we were not off to a good start. We must have also picked a local train, because we stopped every 3-5 minutes and moved very slowly through the outskirts of Rome which is dirty with graffiti-covered walls. Needless to say, the combo of fatigue and general discomfort with my surroundings transformed me into a monster. I was NOT a happy camper.
Fast forward to different ports on our cruise. We stopped in Genoa, Italy which as a port city is not nice. Most other cruise passengers use this port as a gateway to Portofino Bay and Cinque Terre. We got lost looking for the train station and I immediately became very agitated. Allison looked at me as I was freaking out and I knew what she was thinking. If this guy can’t travel, this relationship will never work out.
I don’t know why I felt the way I did. I had no desire to wander, and every time we got lost I had this feeling like I was being watched and were going to be robbed at any moment. These fears were completely irrational and were honestly putting a very dark cloud over my first European adventure.
European Adventure, Take Two
About 18 months later, Allison surprised me with an impromptu trip back to Europe for New Years. This time, we would be traveling to London, Paris and spending a quick night in Berlin.
We found an amazing fare on the budding low-cost carrier, Norwegian Air. After our outbound flight got completely pushed to the next day due to errors in London-Gatwick, we were finally on our way. While sitting in the airport waiting to board, Allison went to the gate agents to see if there were any available upgrades. She walked back to where I was sitting with a HUGE smile across her face. She somehow convinced the gate agent to upgrade us to first-class fo’ free. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask right?
After a very small hiccup, this trip was off to a great start. Norwegian Air’s first class product is spectacular. Unfortunately, their seats are not lie-flat which again caused me another sleepless 28-hour day.
Breaking Out of My Travel Shell
Here’s the thing about London. Everyone speaks English, DUH! It’s also a super easy city to navigate because their tube system connects you everywhere and the stations are extremely simple.
After spending New Year’s Eve in London, we made our way to Paris. We rented a quaint Airbnb and lived like locals. I was finally starting to break out of my travel shell and brushed all the irrational fears of being lost or robbed aside. I was growing up!
Aside: People often ask us where to go on their honeymoons. Your destination should totally depend on your travel experience. For more info on which destination is best for you, click here.
Our Honeymoon, Thailand and Bali
I won’t go into great detail about Thailand and Bali, but if you want to read about how we got there or are interested in some incredible itineraries based off our honeymoon click on one of the country names. Needless to say, neither of these countries are completely developed and you’ll often find yourself traveling through very poverty stricken villages on the way to your 5-star resort. This could make you feel uncomfortable especially if this is your first time away from home.
Our 1st Anniversary to Greece
I’ve done it, I’ve become a well-seasoned traveler! I no longer needed cookie-cutter, pre-planned daily activities. I was open to exploring and wandering and loved every second of exploring the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini.
…and then Onto Japan
The one thing I’ll mention about Japan that relates to this topic is that it offers what’s called a pocket-wifi device. This means you can pay a flat-fee for a unlimited wifi access which is about the size of a first-gen iPod. I 10000% recommend anyone and everyone thinking about Japan to get a pocket wifi. Japan is not the easiest country to navigate, so having the luxury of your iPhone for maps and loose translations was a true life-saver.
How I Currently Feel About Traveling
As you can see, traveling didn’t always come easy to me. I’m not sure where the irrational fear stemmed from. I believe it was a mix of my genetic makeup and my complete lack of travel experience.
Ode to Allison
This September, we are returning to Italy for our 2nd Anniversary. For March 2018, we just finished planning our first trip to South Africa, The Seychelles and concluding in the breath-taking Maldives. I want to personally thank my amazing wife, Allison for opening the door to such a special part of my life. Thank you for sticking by me as a young, annoying monster of a traveler.
How Over the Moon Will Help Any Level of Traveler
If you’re thinking about planning a luxury trip or your honeymoon and you don’t know which destination is right for you, it’s important to ask yourself these questions.
- Have you traveled outside the US before?
- Have you traveled before together as a couple?
- Where have you been?
- How do you feel when you’re out of your comfort zone?
- Are you okay exploring and wandering off the beaten path?
I know this is cliché, but for traveling, “Expect the Unexpected”
When you book your trip with Over the Moon, we’ll do anything and everything to minimize any surprises. We want to make you feel as comfortable as possible when traveling. Of course, there’s always unexpected situations that will push you as a couple to your comfort zone limit. Don’t worry, we will still be there for you if those situations do arise.
If I could tell my younger traveler self something, it would be, “embrace the unknown, Josh. Don’t let it scare you, but let it empower you.”