This is part of a series of interviews with inspiring travelers. Today I’m interviewing Ginger Kern about travel fears and her Travel Savvy ecourse. All photos provided by Ginger.
Tell us about yourself and your travel experience.
I was 18 months old on my very first trip, which was a flight to Scotland to surprise my great-grandmother. Of course I don’t have any memory of that jaunt across the pond, but the next couple experiences abroad when I was a teenager stuck in my mind and influenced my choice to study three languages in college, apply for scholarships to live abroad, and work in Germany for over three years.
What has been one of your favorite destinations and why?
I enjoy experiencing countries like Belgium that have three (or more!) official languages and multiple cultures within their geographical borders. You might hear people switch from Flemish to French mid-sentence, or from French to German. I like how it keeps me on my toes!
What sorts of fears did you have when you first started traveling?
There was definitely the fear of doing something “wrong” that would make people know I was a foreigner. I didn’t want to stand out, or do something culturally inappropriate. I didn’t have many fears around safety at the beginning as I had hosts I was traveling to stay with, but my first completely solo trip (a weekend to Amsterdam, in 2009) brought up lots of “what if” worst-case scenarios around traveling alone as a woman in a big city, not knowing anyone, having to decide who I would trust.
None of my fears manifested, and I quickly learned that the fears I create in my head are MUCH worse than what actually happens in reality.
What has helped you overcome those travel fears?
What helps the most is the process of learning to trust my wisdom and capacity to stand my ground and set clear boundaries, or to retreat and make myself invisible if needed. I’ve learned to read non-verbal communication really closely, and I’ve honed my ability to intuitively know if a person can generally be trusted or not, even if we don’t share a language in common. And the only way to hone that ability is through practice, which can start at home. Noticing when and why I trust one person as opposed to another, and suspending judgment and panic-mode until I actually have a reason to fear someone.
With your extensive travel experience, you’ve developed the Travel Savvy eCourse. Can you tell us about the course?
Sure, it’s a video ecourse I created after seeing that there were lots of great articles on separate topics drifting out there in cyberspace, and that plenty of books exist, but that none took you, as a newbie traveler, through a step-by-step process to becoming confident and savvy…with a personal feel.
People in my community, The Traveler’s Mindset, would ask me the same questions over and over (“What if I don’t speak the language? What if I get mugged? How can I find the best flights? How do you know where the best places to stay are?”) and it became clear that people want to learn how to travel savvy!
What will people get out of the Travel Savvy eCourse?
Truthfully, if you take the course, you’ll get your questions and worries answered so you can be totally confident in traveling abroad.
I had a participant who was living and working full-time in Washington, D.C. go through the Travel Savvy eCourse and within 6 months she was heading off to teach and live in Beijing, China – a place she had never been before. This wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t taken the course and had still been paralyzed by her questions and fears.
I had an older woman take the course as well, one who had done a lot of traveling and had even lived in Italy before the internet was everywhere. She loved the Travel Savvy eCourse because it got her up to speed on the technological opportunities to connect with locals while you explore. She also liked how I showed participants how to travel authentically, and go deep, even if they only have a short time in another culture.
One of the modules is about transportation. Do you have any layover tips?
Absolutely. Resist the airport bars! Drink water, tea, and low-sugar liquids, not alcohol. Your body is already being thrown off from lack of sleep, processed plane food, and dehydration; the last thing it needs is more toxins to work through.
Otherwise, take the opportunity on your layover to connect to Wi-Fi, hop on Twitter and search for up-to-the-minute news about your destination. It may be that something amazing or unfortunate has happened, and it’s nice to be aware of those sorts of things before you arrive.
We love day tours, especially food tours. Do you recommend new travelers sign up for tours?
Sure, it’s quite relaxing to have a local guide show you around, and you often learn much more than if you were to try and organize something yourself! I especially love food tours as well. There’s much to be discovered about why a country or a people is the way it is if you look through the lens of its cuisine and how food is prepared and consumed. (Some questions to ask: do people here go for slow meals? Fast bites on the go? Lots of family gatherings? Solo meals? Why do they do that?)
You interact with a lot of new travelers. What kinds of things hold them back from traveling?
(Lack of) money and (lack of) time are the top two reasons (excuses) wanna-be travelers give when asked what keeps them from traveling more. I’m being edgy here for a purpose – stick with me.
First, if you desire something highly enough, you will prioritize it. You will do anything to make it happen. You’ll look from another perspective, you’ll try new ways to solve your challenge, you’ll create opportunities to bring in more money, or have conversations with key people in your life to create more time.
If you don’t, that’s your choice to not act. To not try everything possible. To not ask yourself or better yet, others, “What might I be avoiding doing?” or “What might I not be thinking of?” If a new traveler wants to make a trip happen, s/he will do what it takes to create money and to work out a trip schedule that fits in her/his life.
What is the most common question you get from new travelers?
“How do you choose where to go?” The answer? I listen to where my heart is pulling me to go…which might be to a brand new place that I’ve been curious about for a while, or back to an “old” place I know and love well.
How do you encourage them to take the leap, even for a short trip?
Easy. Start right now. Make it real. Literally. Wherever you are (yep, you, the person sitting in your chair, reading this article), pick up a pen and write down 3 places you would be comfortable going to, even if they’re just a dream right now. Pick the top place that pulls your interest most. Now head to matrix.itasoftware.com and search for tickets for a 7-day trip to that top place. How much is the ticket? Write it down next to that place.
Ok, now you’ve got a starting point, a number to work towards if money is your barrier to traveling. Now if you’ve actually done this, you’re ahead of the 90% of people who won’t even suspend their disbelief for long enough to pick up the pen and write down those 3 places. Congrats!
Seriously though, taking the leap is as simple as breaking down a big trip into small action steps. Just keep asking yourself, what’s next to figure out? What’s next after that? Then take the action. And of course, ask for help when you need it!
Bio: Ginger Kern is a coach, TEDx speaker, a Fulbright alumna and the Curator of Global Shapers’ Boulder Hub. After working in Europe for over three years and traveling to 25 countries around the world by the age of 25, Ginger wanted to bring the ‘traveler’s mindset’ back to the United States. Through her transformative travel coaching, The Traveler’s Mindset, and speaking at universities and organizations across the U.S., Ginger turns people into adventurers who are confident and powerful on the road and in their everyday lives.
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