Almost Fearless

Getting the Nerve to Go


Whatever you do, don’t do what I did. I always knew I wanted to travel. I came up with various schemes that would land me abroad. I bought a book on teaching English overseas when I was in college. I researched the Peace Corps 3 years ago. I looked into volunteer travel programs. But until I turned 31 and hit a critical mass with my job, I never went overseas for long term travel. I threw up obstacle after obstacle for myself. I talked myself out of going.

Now that I’ve made the decision to go, those things I thought would make it impossible, have melted away. I couldn’t make the decision and just leave the next day, but in a few months worth of planning, saving, and researching, I have everything in place to travel for the next 6 months or the next 6 years.

If you’re struggling with whether or not to travel overseas on an extended basis, don’t worry you’re not alone. It’s natural to have concerns and reservations. For me the key was to simply decide to take this urge to travel seriously. Then one by one, I tried to answer my own objections. Your objections may be different, and your answers will definitely be. Getting the nerve to go is not about reckless abandonment of your responsibilities, but rather a measured, reasoned examination of the facts. What exactly is preventing you from going? Are they real concerns? Can you work around them? As I went through this process, here are some of the things struggled with, and how I ultimately answered the questions for myself.

Overcoming my internal objections:

What if I don’t like living abroad? Then I come back. I have an escape route.

Won’t I be throwing away my career? People change their careers all the time. It truly is not the end of the world.

What about my debt? Pay down high interest rate credit cards. Defer your 4% student loans, or make payments from the road. Sell or rent your house. Everyone’s situation is different.

How will I make money? For me it is freelance, working remotely. In this day, it’s so much easier to work anywhere you can get an internet connection.

How will I finance it? Save some money. Live well beneath your means. Pick a country that is cheap. Work on the road.

Where will I live? Rent an apartment. It’s not much different than living in the US. Instead of searching on craigslist, find the country specific sites.

What about my dogs? I have two dogs, and they’re coming with us. A simple microchip, health certificate and travel crate will get them overseas with us (obviously really depends on your country of choice).

What about my kids? I don’t have any, but a year abroad could be an amazing learning experience for your family. Many people have done it.

What about my stuff? Sell it. Store it. It’s just stuff and no reason to ditch your dreams.

Where should I go? Start researching! Use your interests as your guide. I always wanted to learn Spanish, so I picked Spain and Mexico City as my first two homes.

What about learning the language? People have gone both ways on this. Some get by with no second language. I am studying before my trip. My Spanish teacher estimates I’ll be fluent after three months abroad. Your mileage may vary.

What if I don’t do it right? This always haunts me, but I have to let go of it. I might end up picking somewhere that isn’t perfect for me. I might pay too much for an apartment. I might be making a decision that I will regret. It’s okay, do your best, and don’t let perfectionism freeze you in your tracks.

What if I can’t do this? You can! Don’t let uncertainty prevent you from trying.

Should I really do this? Yes, if you want to!

These were the questions and answers in my personal journey… What are some of the things that prevent you from traveling?

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • I realized what your blog needs. A links page. What’s up with no blogrooll? 🙂

    and what’s this about deferring student loans? I can defer my direct loans…hmmm

  • My story is similar. I always thought I would travel, and have also researched various options over the years only to have the books, magazines, articles languish in a dusty corner because I didn’t take it seriously and realize that I can do it. Time has come though and this time I vow to look at each fear in the face, break it down and kick it’s ass!!

    I worry about money (but there will surely be enough), career (but, here in my country there is a job glut out there right now), housing (but I can buy another house) and family/friends reaction (but they love me, won’t they be happy?).

    Most of all, I worry I won’t like it and/or that I won’t have the courage to face the whole world. I will though, I know I will…I just have to get out there…and I will. Your story, and others have inspired me. I am already facing those fears one by one – 2009 will see me out there!

  • My biggest fear is that I will love traveling so much, I will never want to go back.

    Actually, that’s my mother’s biggest fear, lol.

    I’m moving to Germany in September to do research. The threat of my research failing is far greater than the fear of moving to a foreign land by myself.

    I agree that you need to let go of your fear of “not doing it right.” If you do make a bad choice, learn from it. That’s your journey, and it’s perfect just the way it is.

  • Where should I go? That is a great one. I researched every livable and habitable continent (scientist on Antarctica doesn’t count) until I did what was logical: go somewhere you understand the language (or in my case, speak!). And if I don’t speak the language (ahem Brazil), learn the basics and get over it. My mother and I had a conversation with an old Italian couple in Rome speaking Spanish and Italian and it was brilliant. Don’t get cold feet!

    Anthonys last blog post..A Ticket to Ride and Permission to Enter

  • Matt: Too true. I need to put that together.

    Gillian: I can’t wait! And believe me, it will fly by faster than you know.

    K: Germany, how exciting. Although, you’re right, you’re research will be the main focus…

    Anthony: I can’t believe you’re leaving so soon. You’ll have so much fun!

    Chad: Agreed. There are plenty of people who will tell you wait not to do…

  • So, where exactly are you now? In Spain still? Also, how did you figure out what kind of visa you needed because don’t you need a different one(as opposed to the tourist visa) to be able to work there?

  • Wow, this post really struck a chord with me, except that my situation isn’t about getting the nerve to go, it’s getting the nerve to stay! Thanks for putting some of those questions and answers in writing. It’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one thinking those thoughts.

  • Hi Shrishti,

    I will be in Spain on 6/28. I am staying on a 3 month tourist visa. I will be working remotely for a US company if I chose to pick up some freelance contracts. To the company’s perspective, there isn’t much difference between me working at home in Boston or working at home in Spain. It’s all online.


    Thanks and I’m glad that it was helpful. You know if you want to do it, just accept nothing less than making it work. The only thing than can prevent you is indecisiveness!

  • Good luck Christine, i can’t wait to hear how things go once you’re in madrid!!

    I’m really curious as to how you managed to find a freelance gig for US company… sounds like the perfect thing. I’m trying to get into freelance writing (possibly fashion related) but dont know where to start… if you get a minute i’d really appreciate your ideas/advice! Thanks, and have a fantastic trip.