The Top 12 Travel Phobias You May Very Well Have, and Didn’t Even Realize!

Well, summer’s over.  Got post-vacation depression?  Are you broke and tired?  Does the sound of falling leaves remind you of the sweet swish of your passport pages turning?  Now’s the time to lighten up, do some soul-searching, and take a really close look at some of the fears you may have sadly developed over the course of your recent international escapades.

Sure, you may know you have aviatophobia (fear of flying), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), xenophobia (fear of strangers), and mysophobia (fear of germs); those are all pretty common and boring.  What about all those other angst-inducing scenarios and situations that crop up as often as ridiculously cheap fares on Orbitz?  They’ve probably given you a tic or two, whether you want to admit it or not.  Let’s look at twelve real, honest-to-God, official phobias identified by scientists, psychologists, and very renowned researchers (probably ones that don’t do much traveling) that can develop when you’re vagabonding the globe.  You’ll find that they’re really nothing to laugh about!

12. Nomophobia: fear of being out of mobile phone contact.  Develops after you 1) find yourself repeatedly lost, late, drunk, or confused; 2) have once again left your cruise partner behind at the last shore excursion; or 3) are waiting to hear back from MasterCard about doubling your credit card limit now that you’re on vacation.

11. Agyrophobia: fear of crossing the road.  Of particular prominence in India, Brazil, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and other places where smiling drivers drive a perfect 40 mph in the 40 km/hr zone, use their horn only in emergencies, and wave you across the pedestrian crosswalk with all five fingers.

10. Autophobia: fear of being alone or isolated.  Develops after repeatedly encountering closed currency exchange counters, boarded-up travel info help desks, and hotel rooftop access doors that automatically lock from the inside.

9. Pedophobia: fear/dislike of children.  Of particular concern when 1) taking your middle seat on a 12-hour flight next to a screamer, across from a babbler, and behind a squealer, or 2) realizing that the average age of the other guests at your “family friendly” hotel is about ten years old.

8. Emetophobia: fear of vomiting.  At its most intense when, once again, you strike up a conversation with the beautiful person next to you after you’ve consumed vodka during turbulence.

7. Decidophobia: fear of making decisions. At its worst when your new, drunken travel partner is relying on you to find the safest way back to the hostel at 2 am, and you have no more Euros.

6. Ipovlopsychophobia: fear of having one’s photograph taken.  This is for you, ladies.  Symptoms occur after 1) the airline once again leaves behind your checked bag containing your makeup tote, 2) you’ve finally noticed the hotel security cameras, or 3) you realize your father is following your boyfriend’s blog.

5. Halitophobia: fear of bad breath.  At its most wretched when exceeding the standing room capacity of buses;  in Rome, in August, during a heat wave; and when having to make an emergency trip to a dentist in the Middle East.

4. Sesquipedalophobia: fear of long words.  Particularly prominent when trying to read the menu at a tourist-unfriendly exotic little restaurant you’re dining at with an attractive local you just picked up.

3. Disposophobia: fear of getting rid of or losing things.  Severe symptoms occur after you’ve been pickpocketed, mugged, and had a bad experience with a bellhop all on the same trip.

2. Chronophobia: fear of time and time moving forward.  Of particular concern when you start receiving airline departure check-in reminders, your coworkers start calling you, and/or you can’t even remember the beginning of your trip.

and the number one under-recognized travel phobia is …
1. Phobophobia: fear of having a phobia or fear.  Because the last thing you want to find out when you’re trying to have yourself a *$#&% good time somewhere is that you have yet another new hang-up!

Honorable mention phobia:  Ophthalmophobia (fear of being stared at, especially when you’re just trying to make sense of the local culture)

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Plane Crash… Train Crash… is Your Travel Anxiety in Overdrive Yet??

Yes, there have been two major travel catastrophes in the news this summer: the Asiana Airlines plane crash at San Francisco International, and now the horrific Renfe train crash in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  Neither incident allowed the passengers on board to see or prepare for what was coming.  Terrorists couldn’t be blamed, or bad weather, or even an act of God.  Instead, it looks like inept crew caused both tragedies… which may cause us equal parts rage, and fear, as we ask ourselves: Why should we travel?  Doesn’t traveling mean putting ourselves at the mercy of the people entrusted with our safety?  What if I was in that 0.0001% of innocent people who died because of someone else’s recklessness? 

Everyone who braves their way abroad has to answer these questions for themselves, and the best time to ask yourself (as painful as it is) is after a major travel tragedy.  If you don’t, your fear will stick with you deep down, until you find yourself reaching for your xanax instead of that Eurail brochure.  Think about it: how much does trust, faith, and belief in your own good fortune play into your confidence?  It depends not only on your anxiety, but your personality and your overall view of life

So you might be thinking, are there practical ways to avoid a tragedy like the high-speed Renfe train crash?  For many people the answer is simple:  ride those bumblingly slow intercity trains until they forget about what happened in in Santiago de Compostela.  So how long until people forget?  Maybe by the time the holidays roll around… or maybe not until next summer.  What makes a train crash so upsetting is that people generally feel so much safer on a train than on a plane, simply because they’re on the ground and moving at a slower speed.  There aren’t security alerts blaring over the loudspeakers as is the case at most airports.  There aren’t four officers and a metal detector between you and that cozy window seat.  A train is like an old friend:  slower, friendlier, safer.    

I was on a train in Germany once that made me very nervous.  We were hurtling between Stuttgart and Koln at well over 120 miles an hour.  I couldn’t tell if the animals we were passing were cows, or horses!  So what did I do?  I got off in little old Siegburg because I was starting to feel sick with dread.  Nothing happened to that train I was on, of course; everything was just fine.  I made myself an hour late that night, but I felt relieved to know that I could listen to my gut when I didn’t feel safe on a high-speed train.  Remember, there’s a certain advantage to trains over planes: if your sixth sense is telling you to get the heck off, or you just need to stand still and regain control of your nerves for awhile, it’s a whole lot easier to disembark.  So don’t let the Renfe tragedy get the best of your travel confidence; understand that accidents can happen, that tragedies are exceedingly rare, and that you have a lot more control than you think.  Everything in between is just the essence of adventure. 

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“Travel Rebound”: is it Healthy?

Say you just got back from vacation — a really, really great one that made you feel like the star of a National Geographic feature the whole time.  If you had a phenomenal trip, you may not even recover from jet lag before you start thinking of booking the next vacation.  You may be afraid of these feelings because you fear they’re compulsive, reactive, or will lead to a fixation on travel that you can’t control.  Are you starting to suffer from “travel rebound”?

Understand that many people start dreaming of their next vacation in order to minimize the “downer” that often comes with getting back to your job, chores, etc.  Plenty of travelers liken “traveling on the rebound” to “dating on the rebound”: as in, you miss the feeling of something so much that you can’t wait to jump back in.  Fortunately, booking travel on the rebound is a lot healthier, and more successful than dating on the rebound!

If you’re suffering from “travel rebound,” don’t be overly concerned as long as you’re not extending yourself beyond your physical, financial, and practical means.  It’s when your credit card company starts calling, or (more importantly) your friends, family, and even your doctor start to think of you as an escapist rather than a travel buff that you need to step back and look more at your home life than your passport.

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Yeah, you know you’re seeing a screen like this in your daydreams!