Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fear of Traveling

Most people have fears that someone can at least relate to: heights . . . water . . . crowds . . . closed spaces . . . clowns. (Well, maybe not clowns.)  But I have a fear that most people can’t understand: the fear of traveling, sometimes called "hodophobia."

Before we go any further, let me make one thing clear: I am NOT afraid of flying. I think flying is one of the safest means of traveling.  Heck, if I could afford to get in a plane early in the morning and fly to New York City and have lunch and then make it back in time for bed, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

For me it's simply this: I’m afraid of being away from home for long periods of time—no matter how I get there. 

Most people love traveling. They look forward to trips for weeks in advance. Traveling is relaxing, a way to get away from the stresses of everyday life.  For me traveling is a huge stress I don’t need. 

For me traveling means feeling out of control, tense, and not being able to sleep without prescription meds (which I hate to take).  I’m afraid of forgetting something at home, forgetting something in the hotel, getting sick, having a car accident, missing my flight, getting lost, etc., etc.  On vacation, everyone wants to try new restaurants, but my stomach is tied up in knots, and I can barely get down a bowl of soup.  It’s just not fun for me. 

What’s worse: The stress of traveling brings on strange physical ailments.  I’ve had back pain, jaw ache, vaginal infections, eye infections, and who knows what I’ll get the next time.  These problems sometimes continue even after I return home and occasionally build up into a nasty case of depression.  It’s just not worth it for me.

Strangely enough, I’ve found that traveling by myself is actually less stressful.  I feel more in control. I can listen to whatever I want in the car.  I sing along, talk to myself, stop whenever I want, munch on whatever I want.  I also find that a little alone time in the hotel can help me relax.  Of course, I want to have some people contact while I’m there.

It also helps if I have a strong motivation to travel.  I’ve traveled twice to meet famous sled dog mushers, and both times have been enjoyable. In fact, I remember when I was looking forward to meeting Martin Buser, four-time Iditarod champion, I was literally counting the days.  I remember thinking, “So this is what it feels like to look forward to traveling.”  Usually I’m filled with dread before a trip.

So there you have it:  My true confession.  It’s hard to have a fear that people don’t understand.  There is very little support for people like me.   One webpage said people should try to overcome their fear of traveling by starting with an English speaking country.  What? Start by going to another country?  Whoever wrote that obviously did NOT understand hodophobia.  A good start would be going to another state.  I doubt if I’ll ever go overseas. 

Hints for overcoming a fear of traveling?  Not sure I have many of them.  Here are a few thoughts:
  • Baby steps, just like any fear. You may need to start with a day trip to another town, or an overnight trip not far from home. 
  • Find something to motivate you to travel.
  • Travel alone or with someone else—find what works for you.
  • Plan ahead, print out maps, make lists—whatever you can do to help you feel more in control.
  • Take medication to help you sleep if you need to.
  • Have an “escape plan.”  You’ll feel better if you feel like you have the freedom to go home early if you need to. 
But it might be  best to just accept it that you don’t like to travel.  It’s not all bad.  I save a lot of money that way.  (My husband likes that part.)  And when it comes down to it – say I have a thousand dollars to spend.  I’d much rather spend it on something like a new camera or a new autoharp, from which I will get many, many hours of enjoyment, than on a trip, which—even if I were to enjoy it—is over in a few days.

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