Photo: Nicoleta Ionescu/Shutterstock

18 People Talk About Their Greatest Insecurities as Travelers

Student Work Interviews
by Katie Scott Aiton Jul 10, 2014
MatadorU students and faculty share with us their greatest insecurities as travelers.

“Being seen as the hostel/campsite weirdo just because I’m traveling alone and would prefer to stay alone. I hate the looks of smug pity when I say I want to read my book rather than join the eclectic band of backpackers going on a daytrip to Chichen Itza or wherever. I hate that I feel I have to justify my want to wander around, deliberate and solitary and glad.”
Ailsa Ross

“It is usually my hallmark to not give a holy flying shit what anyone thinks, but when traveling abroad I am quickly reduced to an awkward teenager with bad skin, stoned for the first time, and debilitated by the searing paranoia that everyone hates me. Whenever I dig myself into a place it’s always with the feeling of being at worst an interloper and at best a lucky outsider. I want the people who are gracious enough to share their food, floors, stories, and hooch to think I am impossibly cool and respectful. But often when the chasm of disparity is at its greatest I am in total fear that I seem like a foolish, spoiled, self-indulgent girl with disheveled hair and too many goddamn bracelets. The remedy of course is to surrender to the fear and hope by delivering kindness and gratitude you can upend a first impression and be the girl with too many goddamn bracelets that held eye contact, listened intently and bought the last round.”
Reda Marie Wigle

“The size of my backpack. I’m not a light packer, and I’m okay with this. Nobody else seems to be, however.”
Candice Walsh

“For me, it’s those moments as a solo traveler when you’re ‘between’ your people. You survive a 28-hour bus ride on winding mountain roads with guardrails made of crime scene tape and bamboo sticks. Thanks to the shared horror of the experience and a bottle of Thai whiskey, you become fast friends with your bus-mates and spend the next week at the center of a raucous pack of people who you’ve only just met but have somehow come to love with all your heart. And then it’s over. You’re heading north, and your people are heading south, and in that moment after you’ve said goodbye to everyone, you wonder if you’ll ever find another group as awesome as the one you’ve just left.”
Carleen Krug

“Getting out of my comfort zone or really succumbing to my glutinous love of being lazy. Traveling offers such a great opportunity to reinvent your identity free of the ties you have back home and really get stuck into anything and everything without the fear of being judged. I’ve found each time I’ve set off on a new trip I’ve had grand plans about not missing out on anything and never refusing an invitation. However, the more trips progress it can sometimes become easier to take the easy way out and fall behind excuses of too tired, too shy, too dangerous or too scared. It’s then I have to actively call myself a lazy so & so, get up and actually commit too living a little. That and shit hair!”
Joe Wilson

“I am not scared of the flight itself, what terrifies me is airport security. It goes without saying that I have never ever in my life had any problem passing through the security checkpoints, but I am not calm until I have made it to the other side. (And no, I never carry any illegal items, but I’m sure I look suspicious!).”
Ana Bulnes

“My greatest insecurity as a traveler is the process of getting there. As someone who has a real fear of flying, the act of getting myself on that plane is a process in itself! I would usually have at least one nightmare the week leading up to the flight. Alcohol was the tool of choice used to calm my fears the day of the flight — I would have a drink at home right before I left for the airport, then head straight to the airport bar ASAP to polish off two more drinks right before boarding. And I would need a couple of drinks during the flight to help alleviate my “fight or flight” response of elevated heart rate and sweaty palms. It was horrible, not to mention that by the time I landed, I usually felt hungover and exhausted. But I am happy to say that my fears have improved somewhat, though they are definitely still there, and I now take prescription anti-anxiety meds that really do help — no more hangovers! I know I will probably always have a fear of flying, but I also know that I will never let this phobia prevent me from doing what I love — to travel the world!”
Alisa Roup Kennedy

“The greatest insecurity I face while traveling is that I might be disappointing someone, somewhere. Because I’ve crafted my life around travel, I have had to break various ‘real-world’ commitments, like leases, or skip important family functions due to time and space. I worry that my choice to live a life of travel breaks hearts, whether it be my close friends, new acquaintances, family members, bosses, and neighbors. I’m often greeted with encouragement and support from these people anyway, but I can still feel their pain every time I move on.”
Jill Kozak

“Missing a flight. I have been known to oversleep or somehow get a flight time wrong in my head (once I even fell asleep at the airport and missed my connecting flight). I always feel like such an amateur when an airline has to book me on a later flight because I showed up 40 minutes before departure instead of 45. But what I really dread is having to explain to a friend (or even worse, a colleague) that they can pick me up seven hours later from the airport because I missed my flight. Idiot!”
Andrew Delmenhorst

“Often we plan for hours and days to put together a trip. One of my greatest insecurities is when we get to the place and find it to be completely different from what we had imagined or planned.”
Pranesh Kumar PP

“I tend to have a few concerns while I’m traveling, however one hits the top of the list persistently: Money. Checking my bank account while abroad makes my heart beat faster than walking through a dark alleyway at night in Bangkok.”
Abby Gallagher

“Occasionally there are thoughts that stir in the back of my mind of everything I’ve left behind. I have been away from home for two years and have no idea when I am returning. Sometimes I think of the stable life that I have thrown away, for what? Travel? I have missed important milestone events like weddings, babies, and was also unable to be there as much as I would have liked when one of my closest friends battled depression. Sometimes I feel selfish, sometimes I feel irresponsible, sometimes I want to go home. But home to what? I haven’t seen my friends in two years. We made a promise to keep in touch via email and Skype, but time kills the best of intentions. As time passed and lives got busy, I started hearing from them less and less, and I too was guilty of not keeping in touch. I still get updated with the milestones, but I have no idea of day-to-day struggles or happiness, and I’m reminded of how it’s the little things that make up a life. My greatest insecurity as a traveler? The fear that I no longer belong at home.”
Stacey Kalinnikova

“I’m often insecure about not speaking other languages. While I was in Germany, I met a number of people my age who could speak three to five languages fluently. Luckily for me, English was always among these, and we had little difficulty communicating. But I was impressed by (and envious) of the way their conversations would jump casually from English to German to Italian.”
Sachi Ainge

“Not being able to stop. Five countries in five years — wonderful! But where is home? Do I have to pack everything up again? (How have I managed to collect even more stuff?!)”
Philippa King

“My greatest concern as a traveler is that I will accidentally offend someone at my destination because of a lack of knowledge of the cultural norms. I’ve traveled in places where there are still male-only cafes, where it’s indecent to walk into a church with your limbs uncovered, and where you can get a bad reputation for being a female alone with a male. Everyone has their own perception colored by the glass of their local culture and their upbringing. While these differences make the world rich and vibrant with variety, those same differences cause me much mental anguish as I concern myself with accidentally offending someone simply through our differences. Then, there’s the additional anxiety that I will naively place myself in an unsavory situation due to lack of knowledge about my locale.”
Morgan Sheets

“Theft! I carry a lot of gear, expensive cameras, lenses, tripod, laptop, hard drives etc… As a photographer I need all that. And I’m often worried that I could get mugged, or lose something on the way.”
Daniel Nahabedian

“Definitely the first attempts at language. My brain knows what I want to say but my lips stumble through pronunciation. Knowing I’m coming across like a stammering, sputtering, child always turns my cheeks red. Double insecurity points if what I’m trying to express is meant to be angry. Nothing less intimidating than a cranky foreigner communicating in broken babel-speak.”
Justin Guerra

“Safety is my biggest insecurity. I’m very cautious to tell people when I’m traveling alone.”

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