Time to stop being a scaredy-cat!

Time to stop being a scaredy-cat!

So I recently returned from a month travelling the U.K. and Europe.

“That’s great!” you might say, or “good for you!”.

Yes it is great, and it is good for me, but not just for the reasons you may think.

Sure a holiday is lovely, everyone loves to travel and experience the wonders of the world…or do they?

Not me, or at least I thought I didn’t. I have to confess, I am not a good traveller. In fact, it terrifies me. For twenty six years of my life I have managed to stay relatively close to home, within my comfort zone, nice and safe and happy. Or was I happy? I mean sure I would see my friends go off on some amazing adventures and perhaps feel slightly envious, but then I would think about having to face an aeroplane, big crowds, unfamiliar languages, being far from my home, from my dogs, from my safety and my comfort. That envy would quickly disappear.

In time I came to accept that travelling was just not for me, I would have my comfortable life in my comfortable home and explore the world through books alone.

That is until someone I went to primary school with tragically died in a car accident at the age of twenty five. I was not close to him and I did not know him as an adult. But the fact that this young man had travelled the globe, seen and experienced some of the amazing things the world has to offer, lived his life to the fullest and survived everything that I am terrified of, only to have his life taken from him driving on a road that I have driven many times before, just shocked me out of my delusion.

I had fooled myself into thinking that I am safe if I stick to my routines, if I stay within borders and follow these rules. When really, life is fleeting and fragile and when your time is up your time is up. Do I really want to let fear get in the way of experiencing life outside of the bubble in which I exist? What is the purpose of life if not to enjoy it? Why else are we here? I don’t think it is to work, eat, sleep and repeat. 

So, with this realisation, I started to think about booking a trip. Just thinking about it at this stage, it was a pretty ingrained fear since childhood so the mental shift was first step enough. Nathan and I started discussing places we wanted to travel to. My pick was Scotland (hello, Outlander!). Nathan chose Italy. So we settled on two weeks in the U.K. and two weeks in Europe. This way we would both get to see the places we wanted, plus some others.

First order of business, booking the flights. Cue anxiety and panic. Actual panic. If you know me well, you know I have a phobia of flying. I literally had an anxiety attack and got off a flight from Sydney to Melbourne whilst the plane was waiting on the tarmac (a tiny one hour flight) and instead chose a 12 hour train journey home because I couldn’t face trying to fly again. My dad and my sister live in Sydney, so holidays aside, you can see why the inability to fly is problematic for me.

I enlisted the help of a professional Psychologist who specialises in fear of flying and also anxiety in general. Through months of psychology sessions and one practise flight I learnt about the various components of the brain, when they developed and what their role is in a fear response. To manage my fear, we looked at four main components; Goal Setting, Mental Rehearsal, Self Talk and Arousal Control. Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I challenged my negative thought patterns and was able to de-construct my unhelpful and often unfounded beliefs around flying and travel in general. I learn’t how to breathe, how to calm my heart rate and trick the fear response in my brain. Through Exposure Therapy I brought on the panic time and again so I could practice managing it.

Now I’m not going to lie, this was not a walk in the park, it was more like a terrifying roller-coaster where one moment I thought I was doing fine and had everything under control, to completely panicking the next moment and wanting to cancel my trip altogether because I felt like I was going to die and I thought I couldn’t do it.

However, through consistency (and lot’s of cuddles from my Psychologist’s German Shepherd who also joined in our sessions) I reached a point where the roller-coaster levelled out into a much more manageable plateau, with an occasional bump. The skills I learn’t have helped not just with my fear of flying but with anxiety in general.

On the 10th of August, I flew from Melbourne, Australia to London Heathrow (with a stop in Singapore) with no drugs, no panic attacks and no tears (apart from the four times I cried before leaving the house and saying goodbye to my dogs). This is something I never thought I would be able to do.

This kind of sounds stupid to say how proud I am of myself, because most people are probably thinking “what is this girl on about? So what you got on a plane, you went on a holiday, big deal”. Honestly it’s not so much the getting on the plane (I mean it is) but its more the fact that I set my mind to conquering something that absolutely terrifies me, I put in the hard work, and I did it.

I can’t explain the sense of freedom I felt going from just accepting that I will never ever see the world, to having endless possibilities open to me.

A healthy dose of fear is obviously important for self preservation, however too much fear (and unfounded fear) can be limiting, it can prevent us from experiencing all of the wonders that life can offer us and stop us from reaching our own potential.

If I hadn’t spent the time, the money and the energy challenging my fear, I never would have experienced the London Underground, drank Scotch Whisky in the Highlands of Scotland, cruised the canals in Amsterdam, met the German side of my family in Munich, had lemon gelato in Italy or walked along the Seine River in Paris with my husband.

The London Underground, London, UK

Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh, Scotland

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Marienplatz, Munich, Germany

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Seine River at night, Paris, France

A message to anyone letting fear or anxiety stop you from following your dreams: don’t settle, challenge your thoughts and beliefs, enlist the help of a professional if you need to, whether that is a psychologist, a counsellor, a hypnotherapist, a life coach, a career advisor, a naturopath, a spiritual advisor or a reiki master. Whether your fear is travelling, getting a new job, buying a house, moving interstate, becoming a parent, public speaking, social situations or even fear or failure. Whatever it is, don’t just accept it, overcome your fear, put in the hard work, it’s not easy but it’s definitely worth it!

As Shia LaBeouf said in his encouraging, slightly aggressive and terrifying motivational video ‘what are you waiting for, just do it!’

I’ll do a few more blog posts about my trip on here, mainly about all the vegan food I devoured, but if there is anything specific you would like to know about my travels, please do reach out!

Also, a special shout out to Singapore Airlines, I had a great experience flying on their Airbus A380’s they have put so much effort into providing a calming and peaceful atmosphere from the relaxing music played while boarding to the creative safety video, and their staff are absolutely fantastic.

Now just a quick disclaimer here, if you don’t have an interest in travel, that’s fine, I’m definitely not suggesting you should, you do you! This post is more to share my experience with challenging one of my biggest fears, and encourage you to do the same, whatever your fear may be!

Until next time,

Kiah x

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