Why Am I Afraid To Travel Again?

April 2, 2013

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Now that I’m back in a travel sort of mood, having completely given up on finding stability, determining my passion, and meeting someone of significance in San Francisco, I find myself questioning why I’m so afraid of going certain places. I don’t consider myself as one easily swayed by exaggerated dangers abroad in the media, and yet though I know I’m perfectly willing to hop on a plane, it’s what lies in the future that scares me into a kind of paralysis.

Going to Japan was an unknown at the time, no doubt about it. But staying there for an additional year, returning (even after the tsunami), and continuing my Asian experience in South Korea wasn’t a test of traveler’s mettle; Japan was familiar and comfortable, and I knew it. Continuing to base myself there was very much like sinking further into a warm bath after a long soak. Although it may have been my first time to experience anything like that bath (and the onsen metaphor keeps going), letting myself grow too comfortable in its waters was detrimental to my ambition. In that sense, it’s no different than being comfortable in a 9-to-5 at home and settling into a routine. The only difference: I was in Japan.

Now, I’m sure you’ve read about my latest RTW trip to DC, Canada, Europe, Thailand, and Dubai. If I were so “settled” into a life like the one I had in Asia, surely I wouldn’t risk rocking the boat by traveling to unfamiliar countries? Well… fair point. But I don’t consider Europe a great unknown, a dangerous place by any measure. European countries, by and large, are 1st world, well documented, modern infrastructure, safe, and… in that sense… kind of boring. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy visiting each and every one of them ten times over, but would I consider a trip to England a grand adventure? No.

For me, the level of comfort available in Europe, though it does allow for unique experiences, isn’t what I’m looking for in travel at the moment. I need danger. I need dirt, grime, poverty. I need a bus that has a chance of breaking down in the middle of the mountains or desert. I want extreme temperatures from the equator to within view of the Northern Lights.

I felt that in a place like Dubai. Not much because of the advanced infrastructure and diversity, but because I feared being arrested at the airport under false or trumped-up charges. Flying into Haiti so soon after the earthquake was my first experience seeing real poverty. I’ve been trying to recapture that kind of travel, but the truth is, I have trouble seeing the wonders of a place like San Francisco when there are so many creature comforts. I do get out often, but my mind doesn’t feel stretched, my aura not exactly bursting with good vibes.

We often see travelers wandering our neighborhoods in a world all their own, set apart from the locals as they see things to which we’ve adjusted, take pictures, and are just generally… happier. In a city like San Francisco, it can be very confusing to distinguish who is the tourist, and who is simply having a good day. One assumes that by smiling and hanging out in the park on a weekday, he might just be here for vacation instead of a freelancer enjoying a moment outside.

When I’m looking particularly beaten down and walking around the financial district, most street performers don’t harass me; most shopkeepers stay inside their doorways and don’t offer maps. I think it’s pretty sad the standard for living life outside one of travel is being serious, even angry, or at least, that’s how the majority of Americans seem to perceive it.

At this point in my life, I need to recapture that feeling, undo the damage I’ve caused myself by pretending I’m something I’m not. Even with a little credit card debt weighing me down, I think I’m going back out there, to find hope.

One Response to Why Am I Afraid To Travel Again?

  1. Andy on April 6, 2013 at 10:01 am

    True words Turner. It is difficult to really experience in a comfortable world. I find that we get overwhelmed with false things so much that we rarely see what is actually right in front of us.

    Thanks for sharing!

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