Can You Travel With Fear of Flying, Vertigo, Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia?

August 12, 2012

cute kitty and angel- scaredy cat treading where angels fear to tread

 Are you a scaredy cat adventurer or a fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread?  I think I am a bit of both.
Can you travel the world if you have vertigo, claustrophobia, agoraphobia and are afraid to fly? YES and I am living proof! (The cute photo by the way, is of our kitten at our old home in the redwoods.)

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it. " - Bill Cosby

Recently, I put this quote by Bill Cosby up on our Soultravelers3 Facebook Page, and I realized I hadn't posted an article yet on this blog, specifically about fear and travel . I have confessed some of these fears with travel in posts like:

Monkeys and Taxi Terror

Crazy Travel Challenges

Sahara Rainbow Adventure

Dental Emergencies During Travel

Scary Mountain  Roads

Travel Disasters, Vacation Nightmares

Car Wreck While Traveling

One long time reader said: "
It surprises me that you have fear. It seems like you're a brave and fearless explorer. Thanks for the encouragement you provide."

I think we all deal with some level of fear and that will come up more when one goes into the unknown and out of comfort zones as travel tends to do. I use to fly with TWA long ago, but, surprisingly, a fear of flying is not that uncommon amongst airline crew at points in their careers.  I certainly, am not always a brave and fearless explorer.

My makeup is very emotionally sensitive and I have had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from various trauma from my life ( from a rape, many severe physical traumas, to being near ground zero of a 7.2 earthquake etc. ) so I deal much more with phobias and fears than my beloved husband or child.

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of it's dream." Paulo Coelho

I was quite fearless as a child and roamed the world ( many neighborhoods) on my bike at 10 ( often worrying my mother as I had no sense of time and rarely made it back before dark as I was suppose to), climbed impossibly high towers with bragging rights even at six, (for going far higher than my much bigger brothers), plus went camping, snow skiing, hiking, water skiing, swimming, skating and diving off high dives etc without any fears or phobias. I loved roller coasters and even tried hang gliding and wind surfing.

Some how by 20, I had picked up some severe fear of flying and even a fear of using elevators. When I lived in married housing at Harvard University at that time, on a very high floor in a tower along the Charles River, I always used the stairs. I did fly when I had to, but I avoided it if at all possible and it was quite terrifying for me when I had to.

Veritgo, claustrophobia and
agoraphobia came later, but I also found many tools to deal with them including daily meditation ( for the last 35 years).  I believe in that acronym  for fear..."false evidence appearing real." Yet, even though I know it is false, I still feel it deeply at times. I tend to sometimes be a worrier and use a lot of energy being proactive to dectect any possible danger ( probably due to my PTSD). My husband once teased that I could worry about a building falling on us in the Sahara, which made me laugh.

Here are the things that have helped me:














Yes, we all must deal with fear and some of us more than others, but it doesn't have to stop one from doing what ever we want in life. I've been at my wall many times on this world tour, and even DaVinci has faced some fears like when we have been on some of the world's scariest roads with our old motorhome, but we endure just like anyone does, because there is often no choice in life, but to walk through things. I am sure Mozart had fear at her first day at her Spanish school at 6 or her Mandarin school at 10. Can there ever be a life with no fear?

I think one must feel the fear ( if it is present) and do it any way. We try to make smart choices and take calculated risks, but life happens, so one has to deal with what shows up.

"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold." Helen Keller

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think  you cannot do." Eleanor Roosevelt

I think this journey has actually helped me with my fears. I still don't like to fly and hate scary mountain roads, but I've done so much in the last 7 years and thrived, that I have more confidence now in what I can do. I've built greater trust in myself, my God and in my universe.

Don't ever let fear or phobias stop you. What do you do to manage your fears?

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Caterina B

Wow! I feel that this post is aimed at me! I don't travel much. In fact, the last time I flew, I had a horrible panic attack. I had never had such a thing before. My husband, who has worked in law enforcement, recognized the signs and coached me through it. I think it was mostly claustrophobia. I had never had any fear of flying before. I had to go to a clinic at our destination and the doctor gave me Valium. That helped a lot. But...I don't know if I will always have to be "drugged" to fly anywhere. I don't even want to think about it. But...that is why I so enjoy reading your blog. I travel vicariously. I know lots and lots of facts about faraway places. My husband is always surprised when we are watching TV and I can recognize places or cultural practices that I see and name them. I really don't know what I will do if/when I ever get the opportunity to fly across the Atlantic. I dream about doing just what you do. Rent or buy a motor home and just travel. I would love to expose our lovely daughter to the World and she is 26 years old! It's about time.

Shamis @ Gawaya Travel Blog

I was curious when I saw this topic probably because I haven't heard of any traveler who is afraid of flying. I'm all about flying so, lucky for me. It's unbelievable that you fear flying. You said you meditate. Have you tried focusing on your fear when you meditate? Essentially why you fear flying, reasons for the fear and how to get rid of it. All the best.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Aw, happy to hear that Caterina! Nothing is wrong with arm chair travel..we all do that some!

When you are ready you will go. It gets easier the more you do it.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Really Shamis? I know quite a few travelers and travel bloggers who deal with fear of flying and other such fears.

I am sure my previous trauma plays a part in my fear of flying. I flew for TWA long ago as a flight attendant and there were others who had some fear of flying.

I particularly hate long flights and bad turbulence ..and really have gotten most out of our travel by walking the world more than anything else.

We'll fly when we need to but do little of it despite all our travel. Greener that way too. ;)

My favorite part of a flight is the same as my favorite part of a dental exam...when it is over. LOL

I've meditated daily for over 35 years and it's amazing but hasn't solved all my challenges in life..other than perspective. ;)


How I smiled at your depiction of contentedly sitting at the base of the Eiffel Tower (many posts ago), declaring that the ground view was the best. Yes, I couldn't agree more. I'm with you on the vertigo!

Your list of ways to cope/overcome is definitely a to tape on the bathroom mirror.

Your honesty is refreshing. Authentic individuals are such a blessing to our (somewhat) homogenized world.

Do you notice that with your health journey you are able to work through fears/stress more easily?


I'm a bit of an anxious flyer myself, so I always have to remind myself about the goal being bigger than the fear, otherwise I don't think I would have gone on most of my trips.

Jeanne @Soultravelers3

Aw, sweet Hulls, yet another thing we share in common! Thanks for your kind words.

Oh yes, I think this health journey has taught me a lot as there have been many times where I was not sure I would make it through the night or the next moment, the pain has been excruciating at times.

It is not a pleasant way to learn, but I am grateful for all that it has taught me.

Interestingly, I learned from one of my doctors that many past traumas like I have had, DO often impact people with gut issues. She pointed out that if one can not defend with the arms in defense, that one starts doing it with the stomach and that whole far-reaching antennae thing I have is typical of both trauma folks ( some of my worst was in my early teens) and those with future digestive problems. ( Over 60 million Americans and 20 million Canadians deal with digestive disorders, so quite interesting to consider).

Jeanne @Soultravelers3

That is the way to do it, Margaret, good for you!


This article was one of many things that helped when flying from San Diego to Boston.. If I can do it then ANYONE can do it. After not leaving the house -past the driveway- for about 2 years I felt like it would be impossible to ever get on a plane again. Let me tell you dreams do come true. With hard work and perseverance. Thank you so much for the piece of writing that has made such an incredible difference in the world.

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