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The Next Time You Travel…Travel With Fear

The Next Time You Travel…Travel With Fear
    Photo by Carolucyjones

    I was reading a Chinese travel book recently, by the Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese edition of Business Weekly and a FT Contributor, Xu Zhiyuan. In his preface, he quoted Albert Camus’ The Notebooks, on what travel meant:

    “What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being. We come across a cascade of light, and there is eternity.”

    This struck a chord with me. I’ve lived and worked in 6 countries, whilst travelling to visit over 150 cities in the world. Yet, I don’t remember all of it; the travelling that had the most profound effect on me were also the ones filled with fear. It might not have been a jungle exploration or coming close to being eaten by a lion on the African safari, but more so, the sense of insecurity I had felt when meshed in unfamiliar geographies.

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    The instinctual response to fear is to get rid of it. The web is loaded with articles on how to get rid of fear. I agree that unnecessary fear inhibits the mind, but I advocate that we embrace the fear within us and transform it into fuel.

    Every time I had travelled or moved to a different country since I can remember, I was wrought with fear. Fear for the uncertainty, the language barrier, security, or simply, where can I buy breakfast. Every bit of travelling expended mental energy. Sometimes, I was so exhausted from trying to explain myself in frantic gestures in order to get a bottle of water from the corner shop because I couldn’t utter the local language, that I’d prefer to go thirsty. Other times, I was just afraid people would laugh at my strange accent.

    The fear made me feel uncomfortable, and embarrassed. Indeed, the reaction was to go home to what I was familiar with, or to go travelling only to a place I had been before and knew my way around. However, the fear also made me more alert to my surroundings.

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    A few years back, as I sat at Angkor Wat, breathing in the majesty of the ancient architecture and the spirituality of the construction, I also noticed little children dressed in rags, running around selling cold water for USD1. Their joyful little faces for having sold a bottle touched my heart. I could not understand why they were so happy, and that I was filled with void and emptiness for making many more times that money at my job. They had no food, and I had gourmet cuisine at my fingertips. The Cambodians only recently experienced some of the most traumatizing genocide and human tragedies in their history. I had never seen a war. I was overwhelmed with compassion for the less fortunate around me. Surely, poverty existed also in my hometown, and yet I had never noticed it before. I had also, not had the time to slow down and think about the life I was living, fooling myself that I was enjoying it, and allowing my pride to over bolster my ego.

    Travelling brought me out of my comfort zone. I questioned myself: my life, my plans, and the community around me. I asked what I could do better for me and for others. I searched within my soul for the darkness and ugly side of me that I needed to confront. I was shaken with fear not only for burglars and unclean food in a city I had not been in, but for fear of what my life’s purpose was in the bigger picture and what I might discover of myself. I fear for what I might unveil about myself on the journey, because old habits were easier to indulge in.

    Since that fateful day in Siem Reap, I had been planning my exit from a corporate job, and also started taking part in more charity work for children wherever I might be based. Life took a different course than I had planned with my illness 2 years ago but that’s a different story for another day.

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    Fear became a friend, and taught me to become sensitive to my inner voices, and empathetic to others. Fear brought about my self-awareness.

    Every time I travel, there is a nervous anticipation to what I might discover on the trip. Sunbathing on a beach or visiting the local museum alike, I let my senses open up to what the universe is trying to tell me.

    And so I urge you, the next time you travel to a foreign city, and you are scared of talking to a stranger, or how to get cash, allow the fear to consume you. Embrace the fear and let it open your eyes to things you did not think you would see.

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    Travel with sensitivity. Fear can be your friend. Be not afraid of it. 

    More by this author

    10 Ways You Can Be Mean to Yourself (and Prevent Your Own Happiness) Guard Against “It Doesn’t Matter” The Next Time You Travel…Travel With Fear

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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