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Getting Over The Fear

Last night I witnessed an attempted bag snatching.

A couple were walking along the street with their luggage.

A scooter with two men on it drove by .

One guy leaned out, grabbed a handbag. The handle snapped. The lady got spun around. Her husband dropped his bag and took a swing at the guys. The attackers got away with nothing.

A year ago I saw the same thing.

Different country. Same MO.

The attackers got away with a few hundred baht and a credit card that they cancelled immediately.

But wait. There’s more.

  • Three months ago someone stole my friends camera bag.
  • Three weeks ago another friend found they were missing close on USD200 in local currency.
  • Middle of the year, I got mobbed by ladyboys and prostitutes.
  • Four months ago someone stole my shirt and two pairs of socks.
  • Years ago someone came up to me in a park, pulled his cap down low and demanded I “give me your f*cking wallet and watch right now c*nt”.

In each case, there was an adrenaline response.

Everyone felt shaken.

Hearts pounded, eyes widened, mouths went dry. Hands curled into fists.

People swore and ran and punched walls and cried.

This fear can be paralysing.

These shitty, awful things happen.

Everywhere. Every city. Every country. Every town, village and suburb has its problems.

These incidents are not the victims’ fault. The fault is with the perpetrators. These incidents are bad things that are happening to the victims.

But they’re still frightening events. They detract from your enjoyment and the enjoyment of others. It doesn’t matter where you are. Your expectations get rattled, and you freeze. Your brain switches gear. It goes to survival mode. And if you let it, your brain gets stuck in this mode.

If you let them, these experiences can taint every day with fear.

The fear of loss. The fear of being unsafe. The fear of not knowing who to trust or where to go.

But there’s something to keep in mind.

Yes, these things can happen when you travel.

They also can happen in your home town.

On your way to work. Picking up a snack from the deli. Dropping off your laundry. At a bar. In a car park.

The difference is that when you’re travelling, you feel cut off from the familiar. You don’t know what resources you have on hand to help you.

You feel like you have no control. And that feels frightening.

But this fear, while based in reality, is false.

You can’t control what happens to you. But you can always control how you respond. Even while traveling, there are things you can do to make yourself and those around you feel safe. And action of any sort can help you get over the fear.

Dos and Don’ts to get over the fear:

  • Don’t make your valuables an obvious target. Put wallets in zip or button pockets. Wear handbags across you body, with the bag away from the street.
  • Do lock up your stuff. Removing opportunities means you don’t have to rely on other people’s honesty.
  • Don’t take valuables you can’t afford to lose. Grandmas pearls don’t belong out on the road.
  • Do have insurance. This way you know can replace whatever gets lost or damaged. And speed recovery if you are ever injured .
  • Don’t fixate on what you could have done. The past is past. Focusing on what you can’t fix just frustrates your brain.
  • Do focus on what you will do now. Taking action – any action – feels better than being passive.
  • Don’t be a hero. You can’t know what the bad parties are like. Don’t start fights. Don’t get hurt. Don’t get others hurt. Your wellbeing is paramount.
  • Do help people out. If someone you know is in trouble, do what you can to comfort them. Kind words, a hug, a meal – these things can go a long way to restoring their good feels. I have never regretted offering a loan, providing directions, or paying for a taxi home.

Got any other pointers?

Help your fellow travellers feel safe.

Leave a suggestion in the comments below!

One thought on “Getting Over The Fear

  1. Good read.
    It ‘s very true that all big cities have their issues and at some point or the other, either you will be a victim of them or witness someone else become a victim to them.
    In terms of what to do about getting over the fear is to realize that it will take time. It can be a very traumatic thing to go through, instilling an almost irrational fear of places you were once comfortable in and making you second guess every move you make, wondering if you look like an easy target.
    You can’t just get over it because it is a violation of your personal space and your sense of safety.
    I believe the thing to remember, other than the practical advice in your article, is to just give yourself time and surround yourself with people and things that make you feel safe and confident.
    Just my two cents.

    Keep up the good work X

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