A Little Honesty… On Fear, Vulnerability, & the Less Sexy Side of Travel

Over the years I have shared stories and snapshots of life on the road — glimpses into the beautiful people and places I have experienced. Sometimes, I shared the obstacles along the way, the harder and more personal moments of travel that were more wholly rooted in who I am as a person than the stories of the people I’ve met.

But not often. I my focus has long been on telling the stories of the people I meet. And while it’s my favorite part of this site, it’s only one part of the story. A lot of travelers face big decisions and tough choices when they think of traveling the world. And so you’ve emailed and asked for more.

wentworth falls

The internet is an inquisitive place, and as the A Little Adrift community grew, I realized there were a handful of common questions coming through my inbox. I have fielded hundreds of emails from other dreamers planning their own trips. I’ve corresponded with dozens of readers who were curious about my internal motivations for the decisions I have made in my life. These emails ask planning specifics like safety concerns and what to pack, and esoteric questions about how my views on religion have changed through travel. Interestingly, in all these emails about the where, how, and why of travel, there is a common thread that stands out in each one, and usually comes in the closing moments before they give thanks and sign off.

It’s the moment when the nugget of their true question inside takes hold, when I see that thing that drives them to reach out to me for advice. It’s their fear statement. Nearly every email ends with a question or story that encapsulates my readers’ one overriding fear causing them to hesitate in accepting the call to adventure.

Often it’s that last question that bowls me over with the willingness of others to seek the help and guidance they need. This is not something I am good at. I have a hard time asking for help. But I am so grateful you have trusted me enough to share your own stories. It’s this sharing that allowed me to realized that there room for a frank discussion on the fears, insecurities, and motivations behind travel. More than anything, we all want assurances that it’s a shared fear, that we are not alone in this moment.

antigua guatemala

My own doubts and fears have long prevented me from sharing the more personal parts of my journey. That’s about to change. I packed up my life in 2008 and spent years learning what it’s like as a long-term traveler. Earlier this year, I set a silent goal to share the darker pieces of travel. I started the year talking about my struggles in transitioning from long-term travel into something else . Every day I ponder what I should take as my next steps. And now, years later, I’ve had a good number of experiences that I can share with one goal: to admit and acknowledge my fears so that another may realize they are not alone.

sunset in san panchoFor the next few months, I will answer the most pressing reader questions I’ve fielded over the years. You can expect a deep-dive into the topic with stories, ideas, and resources too. This Tuesday the first post goes live and my palms are already sweaty. Just kidding, my palms don’t sweat. Instead I clench my jaw, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it now does it? But truly the post is queued and I have an overriding compulsion to delete all the personal parts. Good times.

Anyhow, the post focuses on the whats and whys that catalyzed my decision to travel around the world. Beyond the desire to see the world, there were personal problems, ideas, and dreams that convinced me to buy my one-way ticket five years ago, and some might even say it was running away. So, I’ll look at how personal the choice is for each of us, as well as what keeps me on the road.

In the spirit of this new series, I invite you to ask me anything and I’ll work my way through the questions in the coming months. Ask here in the comments, or shoot me an email. Either way, in these coming months I will talk about the scary joys of travel. If you have a specific question, ask away! :)

Other Entries in the ALA Travel Fears Series:

  • Why I Decided to Travel the World: A close look at the personal motivations for my 2008 round the world trip, as well as what made me want to stay on the road all these years.
  • How We Make the Big Decisions: How do you know if you’re making the right choice in your own life? This piece takes a look at how we should make the big decisions in our life and where the risks and questions lie.
  • On Safety and Solo Female Travel: What’s it like to travel as a solo female, and what are the real fears versus perceived fears for travelers.
  • Yes, Sometimes Travel is Lonely: Many readers have emailed about if they should take off on a solo trip, and this looks at what it’s like to travel solo, as well as why it can be a life-changing experience.
  • On Health and Travel Sickness: Getting sick on the road is a primary concern for a lot of travelers; this post takes a deep-dive on where, when, and why I’ve been sick on the road, as well as tips for staying healthy.

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16 Responses to A Little Honesty… On Fear, Vulnerability, & the Less Sexy Side of Travel

  1. Jennifer Crane September 17, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    I just found your blog and have been devouring it! I’m headed to India in December to start 7 months of travel and volunteering. Thanks for such a thorough blog…it’s such a great resource for the practical side of traveling as well the emotional one! Thank you!!

    • Shannon O'Donnell September 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

      Congrats on the upcoming trip — seven months is a long time so I know you must be a little overwhelmed as you plot and plan. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if there is anything I can do to help! :)

  2. Aye May 14, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    Hi Shannon,

    This is a big step for you. I’m so proud of you and looking forward to reading the series whenever I can. Take care!

    Aye

    • ShannonOD May 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      Thank you Aye! Just saw this comment, but I really appreciate the support! :)

  3. Joanne Morton Joseph May 5, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Shannon, I am greatly enjoying your blog and insights. My husband and I are selling our home and possessions and about to take off to travel the world for an indefinite time. A few topics I would love for you to explore are – 1. What have you missed most from home? 2. What, if any, regrets about leaving friends/family? 3. What has been your most memorable moment from your travels. 4. Have you ever been afraid for you safety and if so, how did you handle the situation? 5. Has travel changed you, and if so how? 6. If you could go back in time, what if anything would you have done differently regarding traveling?

    • ShannonOD May 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      I so appreciate you taking the time to share some thoughts on the questions and concerns that might make a good fit for this series. Each of these is spot on and I have added them as ideas for next month. I talked about how travel changed me on my 4-year anniversary, and it was a profound shift over the years (http://alittleadrift.com/2012/11/how-travel-changed-my-perspective/). Hope you have a wonderful week and I look forward to more discussions with you in the coming months Joanne! :)

  4. Victoria May 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    What an excellent idea – and a beautifully brave one too. I’m very much looking forward to reading along. Big love x

  5. secretcognition May 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    I deeply enjoy this blog, Shannon. Your honest and upbeat perspective is refreshing and very hard to find on the internet, where snark and affiliate marketing are the norm. Whatever changes you make, I hope one of those changes will be more posts!

    • ShannonOD May 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      And I appreciate your support very much, there have been times I have let it feel like snark is winning out there and gotten discouraged, but I am working to make the site something I once again love writing and sharing so that there will be more posts. :)

  6. Rachel Cotterill May 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I suppose there are always scary things about travel (especially going somewhere new – as with anything new), but there’s always something to be afraid of, everywhere. I’ll be interested to see what’s in your series :)

    • ShannonOD May 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      Scary things are everywhere for sure, and that’s always my overriding argument, but I’ve learned that between loneliness, food, sickness and other things, until you’ve hit the road it can loom as some big unknowns. If you have any thoughts on things to talk about, let me know :)

  7. Mark May 5, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Don’t forget that Shannon!

    • ShannonOD May 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks Mark, sometimes having that perspective is hard in the throes of a achieving a dream … I should tattoo that on myself ;-)