Fear is a Compass: Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear

Self-Help

Fear. I know it all too well. And I’m willing to bet that you do too because every single one of us is terrified of something.

And it SUCKS, right? Don’t you just hate feeling scared? In my opinion, there’s nothing more unpleasant than the feeling of fear. Because when you’re afraid of something, your mind decides to play this little game where it comes up with a million possible outcomes of all of the different ways you’re going to fail, or suck, or disappoint, or even die! You get caught up in the perpetual loop of all the worst possible outcomes, and before you know it, there’s no possible outcome in your mind otherthan the worst-case scenario. 

The thought, “I want to quit my job to start a business,” turns into, “Oh my gosh, I’ll end up running out of money, I’ll be broke, I’ll end up homeless, my friends and family will disown me, I’ll have no one, I’ll be filled with regret for the rest of my life, I’ll get sick and die alone, no one will even remember that I was here, etc.”

Before you know it, a simple thought of quitting your job has turned into this loop that you’ve been stuck in with all of the possible, horrible outcomes that could end up happening to you.

In this blog post, I’m going to change your mind about fear for good. I’m going to convince you why fear is actually your best friend and why you should follow it as if it were a compass! Most importantly, I’m going to teach you how you can let go of fear’s hold on you so you can move forward and do the things that make you happy – without getting trapped in that fearful loop in your head.

Disclaimer: I just want to let you know that I’m not talking about rational fears. I’m not telling you to walk down an alley alone at night because the thought of doing so scares you. I’m not telling you to drive fast and furiously down the highway weaving through cars because it sounds scary. I don’t want anyone being reckless because of my blog posts.

Today, I’m talking about those icky, unpleasant fears that cause you anxiety as you’re going about your everyday life and hold you back from pursuing the things that make you happy. Things like starting a business or traveling the world. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? These fears:

  • “What will people think of me if I ___(insert your dream here)___?” 
  • “What if I fail?”
  • “What if I disappoint my parents?”
  • “What if I can’t get a job because I took a sabbatical and no one will ever want to hire me again?”
  • “What if I lose all my money?”
  • “What if this is a huge mistake?”
  • “What if I die alone?”
  • “What if I regret this decision?”
  • “What if they think I’m a fraud?”
  • “What if I don’t amount to anything?”

I’m talking about the fears that center around failure, rejection, and loneliness because those fears often require us to follow our hearts and go against what society or family tells us we’re “supposed to” do. I’m talking about the fears that we allow to control our day and the direction of our lives.

But first, Fear is Fabulous.

Now, because we ALLOW fear to control us and prevent us from moving forward, fear gets a bad rap. I hate it, you hate it, and it makes us feel terrible. BUT, fear is actually a fabulous thing for two reasons.

Reason Number One: It’s how our brain and biology keeps us safe from real danger.

When we are scared, everything that happens in our body occurs to keep us from getting hurt and keep us alive. The adrenal glands flood the body with adrenaline; the pupils dilate so we can take in more light and see more of our surroundings; our heart rate increases so that more blood gets to our muscles; we breathe faster to take in more oxygen; the blood flow decreases in our frontal lobe as adrenaline in the amygdala allows us to react purely on INSTINCT rather than through planning and logic.

It’s amazing when you break it down and think about how many things happen in the body in such a short moment to keep us from getting hurt when there’s a very real danger present. So really, fear is an incredible thing! We’re so lucky to have it! Fear serves a purpose and isn’t evil or bad in any way. If we didn’t have it, humans wouldn’t have made it this far in history. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post to you and you wouldn’t be reading it. So stop and take a moment to feel thankful that we even have this ability to feel fear.

Now, the reason why we tend to hate fear so much is that fewer PHYSICAL threats are happening to humans today. As we’ve evolved so many of the “threats” we encounter became more personal. That fear is still there, working in the exact same way, but now it comes up in times when we’re really not in danger. Like when we’re about to have a difficult conversation, when we’re able to speak in public, when our boss starts sending us passive-aggressive emails, or when we’re thinking of an approaching deadline.

That alone could be an entirely different blog post topic, but the reason why we’re here today is that fear also shows up to put the brakes on when it comes to pursuing our dreams… which brings me to my second reason.

Reason Number Two: Fear is like a compass pointing us in the direction of what we most want to (and have to) do in this lifetime.

The second reason why fear is fabulous is that it works like a compass, only instead of pointing north, it points you in the direction of what you want the most. Think about it for a moment – What terrifies you the most? I’m not asking what your worst nightmare is, here. I’m asking, what would scare you the most TO DO right now?

Many people think of things like starting their own business, writing a book, moving abroad, taking time off to travel, starting a project or hobby. It’s funny how the thing that we’re absolutely terrified of doing is actually the one thing that we want to do the most.

When I ask myself what I’m most terrified of, it’s pursuing my life-long dreams and everything that I’ve been wanting to do for as long as I could remember. Things like writing a book, starting a podcast, and starting my business. The things that I most want to do that would bring me the most joy, are simultaneously the things that scare the crap out of me and make me want to numb myself with a Netflix binge.

But this is again a GOOD thing. By noticing what scares you the most and causes you to get stuck in the fearful loop in your head, you’re able to clearly see what you want to do most and what you should be doing with your life. Once we learn to embrace that fear and use it as fuel, it allows us to move forward through uncertainty where we can truly grow. 

Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear

Moral of the story – fear isn’t a bad thing; allowing ourselves to be controlled by it is. But luckily for us, we have complete control over that. We can acknowledge the fear and move forward regardless of if it makes us uncomfortable. As difficult as that may be, it helps to remember all of the times when you stepped forward into fear throughout your life and did what you wanted to do anyway.

Haven’t you had some of those times? The times when you’ve taken a risk when you lost everything, where you pursued what you wanted to do over what felt comfortable? Think of some of them right now. Maybe it was the time back in high school where you pushed yourself to join the drama club even though it scared you. Maybe it was a time at your work where you asked to lead a project even though you were scared and doubted your capability. And aren’t you so freaking thankful that you did those things? They were pivotal moments in your life when you came into your own and took what you wanted in life. Your life changed for the better because of it.

You can do it again.

I believe that one of the reasons why people have so much stress and anxiety is because we’re not doing the things we want to do the most. We get trapped by our fear and bottle up our dreams year after year because we’re afraid they’ll lead us to rejection and failure if we pursued them. 

From my experience, stepping forward into fear to do what you love and pursue a dream is the best antidepressant in the world. Yes, there’s going to be uncertainty and there’s going to be confusion. But isn’t dealing with a little uncertainty worth it if you can be happy and have mental health?

If you allow fear to be a cage for you, rather than a compass, I promise you that your life is not going to be nearly as beautiful, enriching, and satisfying. And eventually, you’re going to look back filled with regret. 

So let me ask you a question from Mastin Kipp, the man who’s “Fear Fallacy” lecture inspired this blog post today…

“What if the quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with?”

-Mastin Kipp

I think this question sums everything up perfectly because the quality of our lives is directly related to how much uncertainty we have in it. It’s not about that ONE time that we choose to step out of our comfort zone, the real breakthrough happens when we learn to do this every day. When we learn to embrace uncertainty and risk and do the things that we want to anyways. It has to become a habit.

Think about this way: none of us really have CONTROL over anything. We can follow society’s and parents’ rules flawlessly, but what does that really do for us? Even if I did everything that I was “supposed to” do, I could still find out tomorrow that I have cancer and only have three months to live. The idea that we can control everything is make-believe. It doesn’t matter if you count your calories every day, wake up at 7 a.m. on the dot every morning, work out for exactly 40 minutes, spend your life slowly working up the corporate ladder, and always remember to send thank you notes after your birthday. Those things might make us FEEL in control, but in reality, we’re not.

So let’s embrace uncertainty anyways, and let go of this idea that if we stay inside our comfort zone life will be PERFECT. We’ll all be so much happier if we chose to embrace the uncertainty and step forward into fear because everything that we want is on the other side of it – a better relationship, a more fulfilling career, the vacation of our dreams, friends that are in alignment with us, and above all true HAPPINESS.

As I said on my “20 Facts About Me,” I’m a firm believer that the more you throw yourself outside of your comfort zone, the happier you will be.

Let go of fear’s hold on you

Now, you and I both know that me saying, “follow fear like a compass” or “throw yourself outside of your comfort zone,” is easier said than done. So, I’m going to share six tips with you that will help you to break the hold fear has over you.

Before we begin, you just have to get clear on what you’re most afraid of. Think about that thing that you really want to do, but you feel like if you do it people will be disappointed, or you’ll be unlovable, or you’ll be lost and confused. I know you have that one thing. Most of us have about five things. I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty in recalling what it is, but just in case this is something that you often fantasize about at work and stay up at night thinking about. 

Now, get out a notebook and write them down. Write down a bullet-pointed list of those 1-5 different things you’re scared to do. Then use the next six exercises to help you step forward into fear.

1. Ask yourself, what’s the worst possible thing that could happen?

One exercise that often helps is to imagine the absolute worst-case scenario and let it play out. But this time, instead of letting it play out in your head, say it OUT LOUD. I love this trick because when you let a terrible fantasy play out to completion and you actually SPEAK it out loud you realize just how far- fetched it is and just how unrealistic that worst-case scenario actually is.

It’s an exercise that my therapist had me do, and once I did it, I realized how ridiculous it was that me starting a blog and health coaching business would play out in my head until I would end up having to take a horrible job that I hated OR end up homeless. I literally felt as if me pursuing this dream was going to cause me to become homeless, and I believed it. UNTIL I shared all of this out loud. It suddenly occurred to me, the mind is SO DRAMATIC.

Because our mind tends to build things up. Every day, every week, and every year, we think about this thing until our minds turn it into a catastrophe. Eventually, we can’t even see just how distorted our perspective really is. We don’t even notice just how large we let this scenario become in our minds. Speaking the words brings it back into perspective. 

2. Ask yourself, is that really going to happen? 

Now ask yourself, “Ok, is that really going to happen?” No. Most of the things we spend our time worrying about NEVER happens.

I can confidently say that EVERY and ALL of the worst-case scenarios I’ve played out in my mind has never happened to me. Not once. 

Which reminds me, I was in a book club meeting one day at the yoga studio when one of the women told me that she calls worrying “borrowing trouble.” How true is that? Every day we let our minds go absolutely crazy with horrible things that could happen and all we’re doing is just borrowing trouble or borrowing anxiety from a future that’s not even going to play out.

Again, make sure to speak these words aloud to ground yourself in reality and get yourself out of that fearful loop in your mind. Tell yourself “No, ___(fill in the blank with worst-case scenario)___ is not actually going to happen.

“No, I’m not actually going to end up homeless.”

“No, the plane is not actually going to go down.”

“No, all of my friends and family won’t disown me.”

“No, I’m not going to lose all my money.”

3. Ask yourself, what will most likely happen if it doesn’t work out?

Now that you’ve made it clear that the worst-case scenario isn’t actually going to happen to you, ask yourself this question: “If things don’t go according to plan or don’t work out, what will most likely happen?”

When I asked myself this question, I realized that the answer was really simple. I was terrified that in starting a business, I would end up homeless, but what would most likely happen is that I would need extra money so I would get a part-time job. That’s not that bad! It’s simple. Life wouldn’t go according to plan, so I would simply come up with an easy fix to help me get through that early stage of having to find clients!

When you ask yourself this question, you’ll find that the real answer isn’t this dramatic, catastrophic event that’s going to turn your life upside down. It’s manageable. It’s not ideal, but it’s going to be ok.

4. When you find yourself reverting to the worst-case scenario, ask yourself this…

I know it’s really hard to break the habit of thinking about the worst-case scenario, so when you find yourself slipping, go through the first three exercises again OR ask yourself this hypothetical question:

Let’s just pretend that the terrible catastrophe actually DOES happen. What would be worse, the bad thing happening or dying with regret?

What would be worse for you? What would you rather happen? Personally, I would rather have something bad happen to me than not even try to live my life how I want to live it. When I first did this exercise with my therapist, I said that the worst-case scenario for me would be getting stuck in a job I’m miserable with because I failed as a business owner. But I would still take that outcome over having not even tried. 

5. Reflect on all of the times when you stepped forward into fear

For this exercise, I want you to do some more self-reflection. Get out that journal again or open up a document on your computer. Now, jot down all of the moments in your life when you were scared to do something, but you did it anyway because you knew it would help you grow and make you happy. 

Examples could be moving away to college, going on a retreat, traveling abroad, taking on a project you felt under-qualified for, asking the person you’re currently dating to go on a date, reaching out to your role model, starting a new hobby like skydiving, beekeeping, dancing, or pottery, getting out of a bad relationship, etc. 

When you’re done with the list, write a few sentences or bullet points about WHY you’re happy that you did each one of those things. Share about all of the personal growth that you made because you took the leap. Reflecting on similar instances will help you to put this new fear of yours into perspective.

Some of my own examples include taking a month-long trip through Europe with a group of strangers, asking for the account executive position on the Flagler College Smoke and Tobacco-Free campaign, and quitting my job to become a blogger and health coach. These things all scared the hell out of me at the time but have been some of the moments of my life that brought me the most personal growth and happiness.

Don’t rush this exercise. Reflect on it for as long as you need to take in just how beneficial those moments were for you. Remember, the quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.

6. Try Mel Robbins Five Second Rule

So now you’ve reflected on what you’re most afraid to do and learned how and why to not let fear put you in a cage, but rather act as a COMPASS. But still, it’s hard to remember these things in your daily life, right? You can read every popular self-help book and journal every night but still find yourself holding back when you wake up in the morning and go about your day. What do you do then?

The answer is Mel Robbins, and her five-second rule. First of all, if you haven’t heard of Mel Robbins, you have to look her up. She’s an international best-selling author, motivational speaker with one of the top Ted Talks of all time, co-founder and CEO of 143 Studios, and now has her own talk show. She sets an incredible example for everyone on how you can step into fear, turn your life around, and become a success. And she did it all with a simple life hack, which she calls “The Five-Second Rule.”

The Five Second Rule works like this – “if you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill it.” The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal you have to commit and react immediately.

Whenever you feel yourself hesitating before doing something, whether it be applying for a job, booking your trip, going to the gym, waking up in the morning, count backward from five and them react immediately. Say to yourself, “5-4-3-2-1” and then GO.

Move toward action.

Why? Because as Mel Robbins describes it on her website, there is a window of time that exists between the moment you have an instinct to change and your mind killing it. That window is only about five seconds. 

If you don’t take action on your instinct to change within those five seconds you will stay stagnant, you won’t change, and your life will not transform in the way that you want it to. Because of that little fearful loop we talked about in the beginning. If you allow yourself time to hesitate, your brain will start to play that game where it comes up with all the terrible things that are going to happen to you and all of the worst-case scenarios. Because the brain wants to PROTECT you, and if you want something new that is foreign to your brain, it perceives it as a risk and immediately tries to stop you.

Like I said before, this instinct is amazing, it has kept us alive for thousands of years and we’re lucky to have it. However, we don’t need that fear holding us back when we’re applying for jobs, going on a trip, or starting a business – it’s not life or death here. 

But if you do that one simple trick by reacting immediately and not allowing that nightmare to begin playing out in your mind, you can prevent your mind from working against you and your personal goals. You can start the momentum before the mind starts to craft excuses.

This also helps because you’re NEVER going to feel like it. You’re never going to suddenly feel like doing all these things that are good for you or the things that terrify you. You have to make yourself do it, and make yourself do it QUICKLY. Otherwise, you won’t move forward. You’ll remain stuck in the cage of fear instead of allowing it to point you towards the next chapter of your life.

Takeaways

Before I head out and wrap up this post today, I wanted to leave you with a few takeaways to keep in mind.

1. Fear is normal, it’s OK to be afraid. It’s MORE than ok to be afraid. Don’t shame yourself for being scared of something. Being scared is the brain’s way of keeping you safe, and it’s a survival instinct that exists inside of ALL of us. It’s not unique to you and you’re not weak for having it.

2. However… don’t let fear CONTROL your life. Don’t let fear be the reason why you never __(fill in the blank)__. Because everything you want is one the other side of fear: better health, better relationships, a fulfilling career, happiness, life experience, memories you will cherish, personal growth, and more. 

3. Fear is a compass showing you where to go. The thing you are most terrified of is the thing that you want more than anything in the world. UNLESS you’re in mortal danger. You still need common sense! I’m not saying that if you’re walking around alone at night and the thought of walking down a dark, secluded alley scares you that you should do it. But the thing you’re most scared to do is the exact path that you need to take in your life.

4. The quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with. The more you remain in your comfort zone, the less happy you will be. The more you throw yourself outside of your comfort zone, the more you are slowly becoming the version of yourself you always dreamed you could be.

5. Do the written and verbal exercises I’ve outlined above to get rid of the hold that fear has over you. By realizing that your worst-case scenario is NOT going to happen you’ll be able to relinquish the hold it has over you. You’ll realize it was all in your mind. Do it every day if you have to. You must regularly remind yourself of how dramatic your mind can be while you’re trying to pursue your dreams.

6. Use the five-second rule. Use it to get up in the morning, to go to the gym, to start your website, to write a blog, to make a call, to put together a media kit, to write a book, to cook dinner. Use it all the time, but especially when it comes to the things you’re scared of. It’s a simple trick that will help you to bypass that fearful loop in your head altogether.

7. When all is said and done, when you learn to step forward into fear, you’ll wonder why you waited so long. You’ll find yourself thinking, “Huh, that wasn’t that bad,” or “that wasn’t that scary.” It will give you the confidence to pursue more of what you want in the future and become the highest version of yourself. 

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

As always, thanks for coming to Lost Online. I hope that this post helped you to break the hold that fear has on you and FINALLY decide to live your life on your own terms. Without being held back by a barrage of negative thoughts, fears, and worst-case scenarios.

Remember to let me know your thoughts on the way out! What takeaways did you get from this post? Did you agree that fear is a compass? Is fear a compass for you, or is it currently a cage? Did you try these exercises I suggested? Which ones helped you get rid of the hold fear has on you and step FORWARD into fear? Are there any other suggestions that you would give to others to stop fear from controlling their lives? Let me know in the comments!

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online! 

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

15 Reasons To Travel While You’re Young + Thoughts on Traveling & Social Media

Travel

I got the travel bug from my grandmother, who has been to so many countries that she probably wouldn’t be able to count them if she tried. My grandma goes on at least one trip abroad a year and usually comes back with a very odd and very humorous souvenir for us. Every time I talked to my grandma when I was growing up, I was so amazed at how she would casually bring up some incredible trip she took.

I always wanted to be like her. She’s so well-traveled, cultured, and so interesting – and I’m not the only one who thinks that. She’s someone that everyone loves and is intrigued by the second they meet her. I remember after my friend Pat met her for the first time, he turned to me and said one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Heather, your grandma is dope!” She is a dope grandma indeed. 

She’s a lady who does whatever the hell she wants regardless of what other people think. One of my favorite things she’s ever said to me was, “I don’t think I want a boyfriend, that might cramp my style.” If there’s one person I want to be like when I grow up and one person I want to make proud of, it’s her. And one way I plan on doing that is by exploring as much of this miraculous planet as I can, just like her.

With no surprise, my grandma was incredibly supportive of my love for travel. Not only does she pass on her travel stories and experiences to me, but she’s funded several of my trips. She generously took me to Paris for two weeks for my Sweet Sixteen, paid for my month-long graduation trip through Europe, and took a spontaneous and impulsive trip with me to Niagara Falls this summer. 

Today, my grandma’s writing is tattooed on the side of my body. It reads, “A life full of travel and wonders of our planet.” It will remind me for the rest of my life to get out of my bubble and explore the world as much as I can.

Just like my grandma, I want to encourage others to explore too. To put their money towards a plane ticket instead of products. So here are the top reasons why I believe it’s important to travel while you’re young in hopes that I will inspire at least one person to buy a ticket!

1. Travel expands your mind

I know this is the very first thing that people usually say about travel, but you don’t realize how true it is until you’re sitting in some random spot on the other side of the planet having your mind blown. I remember watching an opera in Rome and seeing flamenco dancing in Spain. Those are two experiences that I will never forget because I was utterly amazed seeing this in person. All I could think of was, “WHAT?! This is a thing?! People actually do this?!” It’s incredible seeing someone who’s spent a lifetime perfecting some dance that you would have never even heard of before.

When you travel, especially for an extended period of time or with a group of strangers, you regularly have those moments where you’re shocked by what you’re seeing or how other people interact in different cultures. You experience and learn things that you wouldn’t have otherwise known until you went there yourself.

Sometimes it expands your mind to things that are unpleasant. On my graduation trip, I learned so much about the Holocaust and World War II after visiting Germany and seeing a concentration camp that I would have never have learned unless I had visited Germany and gone on local tours. It’s best to travel while you’re young for this reason because your brain is still developing so you’re still very impressionable. Expanding your worldview during this time is crucial because you’ll be more open-minded than you would be if you started traveling after retirement. It allows you to expand your world-view and shape new opinions before settling into your ways.

2. It gets you out of your comfort zone

When you go on a trip abroad, you encounter language barriers, you get lost, and you have awkward moments when you encounter customs that you aren’t familiar with. It makes you feel out of place and puts you far out of your comfort zone, which is a great thing!

Interestingly enough, something about traveling to a foreign country also makes you more willing to take risks and try things that you wouldn’t if you were at home. I remember what it was like going zip lining in Costa Rica with Matt or going on an ATV tour underneath a volcano. The Heather that lives in Florida and spends most of her time going to the same coffee shop to write every day would NEVER do those things. But whenever I go on a trip, I take advantage of experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t try or wouldn’t want to spend the money on. Travel makes you do things that you normally would hold yourself back from, but THOSE moments are the ones that you remember for the rest of your life and tell at parties (or on your Tinder dates, lol). 

3. You meet life-long friends 

Something about dropping everything and traveling to a foreign country with strangers makes you connect with them on a much deeper level. When you travel to a new country with someone, rely on each other to get around, experience new things together, and spend entire days making memories and opening up about your lives back home, you form a very powerful bond. 

It’s a connection that you wouldn’t have had with that person if you had just met at a coffee shop or a bar back home. You create life-long memories with that person, making you much closer together and creating a relationship that you’ll look back on for the rest of your life. For that reason, I know that whenever I reach out to the girls I went on my trip with that they will always be happy to hear from me and we’ll catch up as if no time had passed.

Case in point, I just got back from visiting Cincinnati last night and while I was there I got to see my Europe travel buddy, Emily. We were attached at the hip the entire time we were abroad and now I consider her to be one of the best friends I’ve ever had. She had just landed from New York City yesterday morning and raced to come visit me for the remaining hours I was still in Cincinnati. When we reunited we ran up to each other on the sidewalk, threw our arms around each other and hugged in the most dramatic, rom-com fashion.

4. Travel helps you discover what you really want

When I left for my month-long trip abroad, I was very unsure of what I wanted, but the week I came back, I could look at my life with such clarity. I’m not exactly sure why this happens. Maybe it’s because travel allows you to step away from your life’s problems and have some space so that you can look at things with fresh eyes when you come back. Or maybe it’s because travel changes you, so you come back a slightly different person than the one who left.

Whichever it is, all I know is that my questions and dilemmas I’d been struggling with for months had been resolved when I got back: Where should I live? What career should I pursue? What do I really want in life? What projects do I want to pursue?

I was also very surprised by the number of other people on my tour who were having some kind of life crisis or question that they were seeking the answer to while we were away. I wasn’t the only one who had been hoping to solve some problem or answer an important question. For example, I remember that a handful of people were very unsure about whether or not they wanted to stay with their significant other. They were trying to figure out if they saw themselves staying with this person long term after they returned home or if it was best to go their separate ways. The trip helped them answer their questions. I remember one of my friends even bought a journal so she could do stream of consciousness journaling about her relationship and that helped her gain so much clarity. If you’d like to learn more about stream of consciousness journaling, checkout my blog post, “Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It.”

5. Traveling while you’re young allows you freedom before you get tied down 

Yeah you could travel when you’re older, but you also have to consider that you’ll have a full-time job, extra bills, a mortgage payment, a dog that needs to be cared for, a significant other that doesn’t feel like traveling to the same country as you, kids, etc. I could go on and on with other reasons, but the point is that it won’t be as easy to drop everything and backpack your way through South America when you’re 35 or 40. It’s much easier to travel while you’re young because you’re not tied down to anything, and because it will be so much easier to hop back into your normal life without much of a disruption. For example, coming back from an extended holiday when you’re in your teens or early 20’s will have little to no impact on your career because it’s not already established. It’s expected that you’re still traveling, learning about what you want, and changing during this time.

You also have to consider that if you travel while you’re young, you only have to pay for yourself, not an entire family. It’ll cost far less money and you’ll be FAR more likely to actually do it. Simply put, you’ll never feel as free as you do RIGHT NOW.

6. You won’t regret it

You know that moment when you decide it’s freaking time to clean out your closet? Your clothes are overflowing, you can’t find anything, and you realize it’s that time of year to make some donations? You know how whenever this happens you inevitably find clothes in your closet that still have the tags on them and think, “Uggghhhh, why did I buy this!? That was such a waste of money!” Yeah, that doesn’t happen with travel.

I’ve never heard of anyone having buyer’s remorse over taking a trip. You won’t look back at your photos and memories of your summer abroad and think, “Ugggghhh, why did I do that?” “Why did I move to Paris for three months and work at that bakery? How stupid of me.” That just doesn’t happen. Traveling is one of the very few things in life that people spend their money on that they don’t regret. Sure, you might end up going over budget on your trip and be a little bit annoyed at yourself for spending so much. However, the feeling of regret will never enter your mind.

7. Travel makes you humble

The other reason why you should travel, especially while you’re young, is because it makes you humble. You’ll see people all around the world who are living with less than you and realize what little you need to take care of yourself and to be happy. I learned this lesson on my trip to Costa Rica. After coming back I wrote a blog post about this called “A Lesson in Pura Vida.”

I wrote about how I had noticed that the people in Costa Rica lived in what I can only describe as shacks. Their houses were made of tin and they had very few possessions and modern-day luxuries and conveniences. But they were the happiest and nicest people I have ever met in my life. Seriously! It was like they were all enlightened. They walked around with a huge smile on their face and saying hello to everyone. I could tell that they were happy and relaxed – not chronically stressed out. At the time, I went to a private college, drove an expensive car, lived in a gated community, and nannied for families who made over six figures. Yet none of the people that I was surrounded with were happy to be alive. They were stressed out, bitter, and materialistic. They were driven more by possessions and promotions than by anything else (I’m not claiming to be above this). However, these people in Costa Rica had next to nothing, and they were HAPPY. Very, very happy. That trip was humbling and made me reflect more on what’s important in life. 

The second reason why travel makes you humble is that you realize that you’re not the center of the universe. You’re dropped off at the airport in what sometimes feels like an alternate universe. You don’t understand the language or the way people are interacting with each other. Even though you know intellectually that there’s a wide world out there, you typically don’t think much about the world other than your own small existence. Then in the middle of all of this, you’re attending local tours and learning from someone about their political problems or issues that they face in the community. In these moments, it will hit you just how large the world is and how closed off you had been because these issues weren’t on your radar. For example, I didn’t know anything about the poverty rate in Costa Rica as I was going about my daily life in St. Augustine, Fla. It never occurred to me.

Lastly, if you’re traveling while you’re young you’ll most likely be staying in cheap accommodations, eating less expensive food, and finding experiences within your budget. You’re not rolling into your trip to the south of France in first-class seats, sipping champagne, eating caviar, and staying at 5-star hotels. You haven’t hit that age in life where you think, “Alright, I’m going on a trip. It must be luxurious.” No. You stay in hostels, you share bathrooms, you eat at places that are cheaper to accommodate everyone in your group, and you share cramped spaces on trains, planes, and automobiles. Having to be so accommodating with other people and share space is a humbling experience. 

I think that this is an important lesson to learn and it should be learned as SOON as possible. It’s better to become humble when you’re 20 rather than when you’re 45. It makes you a better person.

8. You’re in great shape

Some people decide that having a career and a family are the first priority to them and that travel is something that can wait until retirement, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. Because while you do want to make retirement fun and enjoyable, you also have to consider that you won’t be in as good of shape as you’re in when you’re a teenager or in your 20’s.

Your body can handle walking for miles to sightsee all day, hiking up mountains, getting less sleep, carrying a backpack all day, lugging your suitcase around, etc. The physicality of traveling alone just makes more sense to do while you’re young. And you never know what sort of health problems or limitations you might have in old age. 

9. Traveling empowers you

Before I left for my month-long trip to Europe, I was nervous as all hell. It also didn’t help that every person I talked to said something along the lines of, “Oh my God! Four weeks is SO long! I would never be able to do that. You’re crazy. You’re gonna want to come home by week two!”

I remember the night before I left I sat across from my boyfriend fighting off a panic attack for serval hours and drinking wine trying to calm myself down. The next day I was bawling while I was saying goodbye to Matt outside the airport! I. was. a. mess.

But when I landed in Florida after that month, I came back and thought “Oh my gosh! I freaking did it! That was awesome!” It’s a very powerful thing to see yourself doing something that you once considered to be scary. It helps you realize how much you’re capable of and gives you the confidence to take on new challenges or aspirations. Before I left for my trip, I thought a month would feel like forever and I might want to come home, but when I came home I realized that a month was nothing. I could easily take a trip for two, three, four, or even six months at a time. I realized that the fear that I had was all in my head. I set this limitation for myself that I now realize was completely ridiculous. 

10. You can handle cheap accommodations

I’ve noticed that as you get older, the accommodations that you feel you deserve continue to increase in cost. I know that I was going on a trip to a foreign country right now, I would be perfectly ok in cheaper hotels that my older family members wouldn’t even consider staying in. I don’t feel as if I’m somehow deserving of first-class tickets, 5-star hotels, and a luxurious mattress to sleep on. Those things would be fabulous and I would be appreciative of it, but I feel perfectly ok with slumming it a bit to check countries off of my bucket list.

However, it’s not just that as you get older you feel entitled to better accommodations, your body also needs them. I’m 24 now, and I know that my body can handle sleeping on crappy mattresses and taking a 10-hour plane ride in super small airplane seats. But if I was 70 years old right now, that wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be able to bounce back as well as I can right now. That’s something you also have to keep in mind.

11. You’ll come back with TONS of stories 

The best part of spending your money on traveling is that you come back with tons of stories and memories that stay with you forever. Half the time they’re stories of something wonderful and exciting that you experienced – like when I learned how to make homemade pasta while I tasted wines in Rome (it was Amazing with a capital A). Or sometimes they’re stories of something bad or scary that happened on your trip – like when two of my friends Martha and Emily had a near-death experience during the riots in Paris after the World Cup Final. But even the “bad” memories end up turning into hilarious stories that you get to share and laugh about when you get back home.

It’s been over a year since I went on my tour and I still find myself saying, “That reminds me! When I was on my trip…” I didn’t even realize how many interesting things happened until I came back and would have conversations with people and it would remind me of some experience that I had in Amsterdam, France, or London. I still love telling the story of what it was like experiencing the World Cup Final while I was in Paris or celebrating my sixteenth birthday in Paris which coincidentally is the same day as the French Independence Day. 

12. You’ll have help

One of the added benefits of traveling while you’re young is that you’ll most likely be able to convince mom and dad or grandma and grandma to help you fund your trip. That’s one of the best parts of traveling while your young because you’re family members are eager to help you out financially so that you can make some memories and have a good time. I’m now past the point where my family is jumping up and down to help me pay for a trip, so take advantage of the help while you can!

On top of that there are tons of tours that are cheaper and cater to teens and young adults with a smaller budget but still want to see as many sights as they possibly can. I personally am in love with the tour company EF Tours. I’ve been on two of their trips so far and have loved every minute of it. They get you to all of the attractions, book your flights and hotels for you, hire a tour guide to take you from place to place, and plan fun excursions. They’re also relatively cheap because they use the same hotels, hostels, tour companies, and local business so frequently that they are able to get everything cheaper than it would be if you went on your own. 

You also have the benefits of student discounts, so remember to bring your ID with you and ask if you can use it wherever you go! These perks make traveling while you’re young much easier because the total cost of the trip will be significantly less than you would pay in the future if you decide to take the same trip. 

13. It makes you more independent 

When you’re younger, if you’re anything like me, you may a bit timid and shy. This means that having to get around for the day in a foreign country by yourself can be a bit nerve-wracking, but those moments of travel are good for you, even if they’re a bit unsettling.

I remember there was one day when I was in Paris and everyone that I was friends with on my tour decided that they wanted to spend the day at Chipotle and relaxing in the hostel. I thought this was absolutely crazy. “We’re in PARIS guys! You can have a burrito bowl when you get home!” So I had no choice but to go off by myself if I wanted to do anything interesting. At first I was completely terrified and scared of being alone. What if I got lost and couldn’t find my way back?! But I ended up walking all around Paris and seeing the entire city. I saw the major attractions and went to places like the oldest bookstore in the city to buy a book and tried the best hot chocolate in Paris. I got pictures EVERYWHERE, ate as many macaroons as I could get my hands on, and ended the night watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. It ended up working out perfectly because I was able to do so much more that day than I would have done if I was with a group of 5 or 6 girls. And I realized that I’m much more independent and capable than I thought. I was so proud of myself by the end of the day and so fulfilled by getting around a foreign city all by myself that it became one of the most memorable days of the tour. 

14. Travel makes you more accepting of others

Another reason why I believe that it’s vitally important to travel while you’re young is because it makes you much more accepting of other people.

I feel that today, we need this lesson more than ever. There’s been so much hatred in America fueled by the media in recent years. Mostly because media channels learned that they can make money by pinning people against each other and because this last presidential election was “harrible.” Hugely, “biggly,” and catastrophicly “harrible.”

Because of this we’ve become accustomed to getting offended if someone has a different opinion or experience than us and rejecting them. Our country has been in a place where all people do is fight and hate people who are different. It’s especially toxic for all of the younger generations who are impressionable and mimic the behavior they see while growing up. And I’m not just talking about children. I’m talking about the teens and college students (like myself) that watched all the adult figures in their lives turn against each other for a solid year because of this last poisonous election.

My concern is that if THIS is how people feel about other American citizens than what is our perspective of the rest of the world’s population? If we can’t even learn to live in harmony with our neighbors, how do plan on having successful international relations? Today more than ever, I feel it’s important for people to get outside of their own inner circle and learn about the rest of the world. To learn about different cultures and different views, but most importantly learn that we can all be accepting and COEXIST.

I can hear my grandma in my head right now saying her famous line, “Haven’t people ever heard of the word HUMAN?! We’re all HUMAN!”

15. “Life is short and the world is wide.” – Simon Raven

Last but not least on my list of why it’s important to travel while you’re young is that there’s a HUGE world out there and life is short. Not to end on a morbid note, but a long life is not guaranteed to any of us. You have no idea what could happen in the future. I would love it if the universe would grant each and every one of us a long, healthy, and happy life, but it doesn’t work that way. People get sick and accidents happen. It’s best to fill your life with the experiences that you dream of while you can instead of putting things off for a perpetual “someday.” “Someday I’ll rent an RV and travel around the country.” “Someday I’ll see the seven wonders of the world.” “Someday I’ll go to Thailand.”

Someday is not set in stone. Someday is not promised. 

Traveling & Social Media 

Before I wrap up this post, I didn’t feel as if I could close up this week’s blog post without mentioning social media (particularly Instagram) and traveling. It felt irresponsible to share this post without addressing the problem of people traveling solely for getting attention and become famous online.

One of my favorite travel bloggers and Instagram influencers is Aggie, better known as “Travel In Her Shoes.” She’s someone who became very famous for her love of travel. She would travel for months and months at a time before she even was on Instagram and would take photos just for herself. She lived a very traditional life as most of us do for a while. She went to college, graduated, got a corporate job and was MISERABLE. So Aggie and her boyfriend at the time decided that they wanted to live a life of adventure and passion. They bought an old sailboat online, sold all of their possessions, fixed up the boat, and set sail from Mexico to Australia. Their story got picked up and since that day she’s made a career of her traveling and living the life that many of us can only dream of.

But Aggie recently opened up in a social media post this week about a topic that I believe needs to be talked about. Her Instagram post was inspired by a recent Ted Talk given by Joseph Gordon-Levitt on “paying attention” vs. “getting attention.” The talk is called “How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative.” The Ted Talk is amazing and I HIGHLY recommend watching it as soon as you can. He talks about how (as a result of social media) most people today now view their creativity as a means to GET attention rather than paying attention, enjoying yourself, and collaborating with other creatives.

Aggie shared that traveling used to be very much about paying attention. It was a way to get out of your small little bubble, disconnect with family and friends, find yourself, and fall in love with another country. She admits that now, due to social media and influencers like herself, traveling has become a way to GET attention. “[People] sign up for a sort of their own Truman Show,” as she puts it. They get addicted to waking up each day and getting attention from their followers as they post gorgeous travel photos and share their stories. Because of that, they’re afraid to go back to their normal lives. They’re afraid that if they do, they will be forgotten and won’t receive praise from their online following. And that’s exactly what happened to her. The addiction to keep showing up, traveling, and getting attention is what caused her a falling out with the man she was in love with, getting extremely sick this year, losing her hair, and falling into a depression. Since then, she’s taken a step back and slowed down on traveling and focused on herself more.

I want to talk about this issue because the sad truth is that many people today travel just as a way to get likes and followers. People sign up for trips, buy expensive clothes for their photos, and spend their entire vacation staring at their phone. I can’t say that I’m above this myself. I will admit, my motto was “do it for the gram” for several years there, and my travels were a part of that too. But that’s NOT what travel is about. Travel should be about the reasons I listed above, not to become the next big travel blogger or YouTuber! It defeats the entire purpose of travel. So if you are going to book your next flight, remember that exploring the world is about the reasons I listed above, not about the social media posts that will come as a result. Travel is about PAYING attention, not GETTING attention.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

As always, thank you for coming to Lost Online! I hope that this post was entertaining and I hope that it inspired someone out there to go on an adventure. If it does, PLEASE reach out to me!

A special shout out to one of my Gram (who is somewhere in Morocco right now living her best life) for being my role model, for passing on her travel bug to me, and helping me to come up with ONE more reason for traveling while you’re young (just because I liked the sound of “15 Reasons” more than “14 Reasons).” Not only is she the source of inspiration for this week’s blog post, but she’s also my #1 supporter and reader. Hi Gram (: I love you very much.

Lastly, please send your thoughts and prayers to my incredible friend and photographer Ray Reyes and his family who lost his father, Edd Reyes, very suddenly last week. You can read Ray’s most amazing, tear jerking words about his father’s life in his Facebook post here. And thank you for your patience as there’s been a delay in getting blog posts published at this time. But as we all know, family is more important.

“Time is the most precious commodity we can share with our loved ones. With time, you can do all you need to do and say all you need to say. But you can’t wait forever, because time has already passed, the time is absolutely now and we have no idea how much time we have in our futures.” – Ray Reyes

Remember to comment your thoughts below. I love hearing from you! Can you think of any other reasons why Lost Online readers should prioritize traveling while they’re young? What are they? Did you have a favorite reason on this list? What was it? Do you have a travel bug too? Where’s your next adventure going to take you? Did this post inspire you to take a trip anytime soon? Do you have a family member that has been influential in your travels too?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto and Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.