How to beat your phobias and keep on travelling4 min read

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Thelma & Louise
Thelma & Louise is the online community and travel resource for women who want to travel. Join us to share travel experiences, be inspired and connect with friends and travel buddies both online and in the real world.

There’s nothing logical about phobias, and no amount of science and reason can persuade someone with a phobia to ‘just get over it’. But it can help to know you’re not alone and that there are people out there with enough expertise in the area to help you overcome your phobia and travel without fear. The good news is that most phobias are learned, so it follows that they can be unlearned.

Image by Daniel Novta on flickr

I’ve looked into a few ways to beat the most common phobias cited in the Thelma & Louise Club forum, so we can all start travelling with easy minds again.

1. Pteromerhanophobi: Fear of flying

“There’s something so unnatural about that great big hunk of metal heaving its way into the sky, and staying there.” – Emma_Travel

Image by Dennis Jarvis on flickr

It’s estimated that 1 in 4 people have some fear of flying. The seeds for my fear of flying were sown on a particularly turbulent flight in my teens, but the phobia got a lot worse after I had a baby in my early 30s. A few sessions with Headspace’s Fear of Flying guided meditation helped me feel calmer on my most recent flight, even if it didn’t help me quell my fears completely. I recommend it.

“Yes, I am scared on flights, not because I am scared of flying but because I am scared of not having enough leg room!” – Llynwen

For more extreme cases, many airlines also offer fear of flying courses. British Airways’ Flying with Confidence course is led by a senior BA pilot who gives you a running commentary on what happens at every stage of a flight and, if you choose to, you can go on a flight at the end. The course also covers topics including turbulence and relaxation techniques, plus there’s always a top psychologist on hand. The course has a 98% success rate and has helped over 45,000 people conquer their fear of flying. That’s encouraging, isn’t it?

Put yourself to the test: Hop on a plane to on any of these far-flung destinations!

2. Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders

“The days were ok, but at nighttime I slept in overalls, yep, at over 30 degrees in a bed with a mosquito net and my poor husband had to hug me all night. That’s how I deal with my arachnophobia, badly.” – Ana- community guide

Image by GollyGforce on flickr

Arachnophobia is another common phobia, afflicting about 6% of people. Believe it or not, a fear of these scuttling, venomous creatures is not rational! Yes, there have been some fatalities following spider bites, but they’re far more rare than you might think and becoming even rarer thanks to developments in anti-venom. But arachnophobes aren’t just going to hear that and relax – that’s not how phobias work. Instead, download the Phobia Free app, which has been rated and approved by the UK’s NHS. It was developed by leading psychiatrists and uses exposure therapy to help people stay relaxed around spiders. If you want to confront the real thing, a number of zoos around the world offer courses to help people get over their arachnophobia. Try the Friendly Spider Programme at London Zoo.

Put yourself to the test: Join or plan a trip to Australia or Brazil, homes to some of the world’s most venomous spiders.

3. Acrophobia: Fear of heights

“I’m scared of riding in buses on narrow mountain roads in less developed countries… I am claustrophobic and have a fear of heights and never know which fear is working overtime when I’m a passenger on that kind of a ride.” – PeregrineWoman

Bolivian Death Road by Jan Beck on flickr

A fear of heights is a natural instinct. Fear is a necessary emotion – we’re hard-wired to be wary of loud noises, fanged predators and teetering at the top of mountains. That overpowering fear as the ground gets farther and farther away encourages us to exercise caution in what could be a dangerous situation. But sometimes fear spirals out of control and if a fear of heights is limiting your holidays it could be time to take action so you can do all the skiing, bungee jumping, parascending and rollercoaster riding your heart desires. Here’s a useful article outlining 5 steps to overcoming your fear of heights, and here’s some good advice for acrophobic hill walkers who want to take on some higher terrain.

Put yourself to the test: Join one of these trips to the mountains of Nepal, to New Zealand, the home of bungee, the rollercoasters of Disneyworld, or the skyscrapers of New York City.

4. Claustrophobia: fear of enclosed spaces

Claustrophobia is generally considered a symptom of anxiety and the best thing to do is to get therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) promises to ‘rewire’ your brain and most people who have been on a CBT course experience an improvement in their conditions, or how they manage their condition. But I’m not a doctor, so this one’s best left to the professionals!

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Thelma & Louise

Thelma & Louise

Thelma & Louise is the online community and travel resource for women who want to travel. Join us to share travel experiences, be inspired and connect with friends and travel buddies both online and in the real world.