How To Overcome Your Fear Of Moving Abroad

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Ivan traveling in Rome

For anyone who embarks on a journey of long-term travel, of self-discovery, many realize that we can be our own worst enemy by sabotaging ourselves in subtle ways. Moving abroad or starting a long-term adventure is a big decision and it is easy to imagine all the ways it can go wrong.

Many of us tend to run the same inner commentary over and over again. For example, many of us say, “I am a failure” like a broken record until one day we feel we have had enough and say, “today I will be a success, today I will change my life…” but we don’t really believe it, it even looks silly to us. Our past conditioning’s have so much momentum behind them that we can’t totally convince ourselves of a new conviction. We always blame something outside of ourselves for our shortcomings and failures. We don’t see how we can possibly be part of the problem. We are unconsciously negatively conditioning ourselves. A silent current of negativity directs our behavior and we set ourselves up for failure without even knowing it.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

I have many friends who say that they would like to move abroad or travel long-term, but each time I speak to them they say they still aren’t ready. They still have a lot of things to prepare to have all their ducks in a row. For some it’s that they own too much stuff, they don’t have enough money, they are afraid of finding a new job, etc. Essentially they are afraid of failure.

We think we are being smart when we spend an excessive amount of time thinking of how to prepare for failure, but we need to realize that we will never be ready for failure, because failure always comes from an unexpected dimension. Uncertainty is the essence of life, each moment is new and anything can happen.

Through some of our life experiences we develop certain definite expectations towards failure, with negativity as the foundation. All our expectations towards failure is not just taking precaution, as we may think on some level, these expectations won’t help us in anyway. We cleverly convince ourselves and justify our behaviors because we don’t want to be surprised when failure comes. We keep planning for the rainy day that never comes.

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Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

Most of our failures come as a result of a self-fulfilling prophecy, so most failures will not manifest themselves as soon as we quit indulging in this form of thinking. Secondly, even if they come we have the full capacity to face anything that may come our way.

When I started day-trading, so many people were yelling that the sky was going to fall. No doubt that financially things were (are) not good, but whatever happens we can handle it. Worst case scenario, I would lose all my money. I did. I survived, I learned some very important lessons, and it was not as bad I as I had Imagined.

We constantly use the idea, that goes something like, “I will not be able to face the fear if failure comes surprisingly” – this is the only logic we constantly use to create negative patterns within ourselves. If my wife leaves me unexpectedly I won’t be able to survive.

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Failure will come and you “will” face it. This played itself out in my younger days when trying to approach woman I was attracted to. It wasn’t until I realized that most of my failures were my own psychological creation, and if I got turned down I would be able to deal with it, because in reality it wasn’t a big deal anyway. As soon as I began to live it, I had fewer rejections from woman I wanted to date. I got more confidence, and that in turn turned into its own virtuous circle. I was soon a social butterfly that exuded confidence.

All the negative beliefs and conditioning we have given ourselves, we need to learn to drop them. In dropping them we complete them, we can longer use them to justify our planning to fail.

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Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines

This single belief is the only reason we go on visualizing, imaging different possibilities, and give negative conditioning’s to ourselves.

If you know in your heart that this is something you really want to do, you need to drop fantasizing, visualizing, and imagining about failing. When you drop the idea, you start to experience the space of positivity, because you have removed the reasons you gave yourself negative conditioning.

Not that your trying to be positive you simply allow it to happen because it is intrinsic to our nature. Negativity is something we learned to pick up from our environment. If you always had a hard time with woman, maybe you justified yourself by saying, “why should I go talk to her, she is probably a bitch anyway…or they don’t understand me…etc.” Once you drop this idea and experience being positive, being open, you will see your failures had less to do with the woman you wanted to date, but more with yourself. But of course, many of us don’t like to see this, it is easier to blame and complain. Clearly seeing your faults will start the process of healing.

Having the clarity by “seeing” how you condition yourself negatively allows you to be in the space to drop deeper layers of negativity.

Just bring your whole heart (integrity) and decide to not bring negativity as a thinking pattern, to not lead a lifestyle of negativity.

Prague, Czech Republic

Really think about how much time we waste feeding these “self-fulfilling” prophecy’s of “I cannot face unexpected failure” instead of taking action. An example from my life, first time I moved to South Korea, I had never taught at a public school (orphanage), I didn’t speak Korean, and somehow on the first day of school I was going to teach something I had never taught. Not to mention I have never been fond of public speaking. Was this a scary situation? Of course it was, I could I have fantasized hundreds of ways I was going to fail, but deep down I know that I can handle anything life throws at me and that somehow I will figure it out if I put my heart in it and just take action. Guess what? The sky didn’t fall, but I did need to dodge a few paper airplanes that zoomed my way. Somehow I figured it out. With your back against a wall, we all have the ability to become incredibly resourceful if we don’t give into these negative thinking patterns.

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Our mental set up’s, meaning our usual ways of thinking, set’s up the foundation for us to justify why we should continue to think negative things. Be an active participant in the creation of your life. The moment you start to drop everything that is false within you, the more integrated you will become. The more integrated you become the more authentic you will be. The more authentic you become the more you power you will have to become responsible for every facet of your life. You will have real “will” power to change anything within you that may be holding you back.

Below I will give you some suggestions on how you can take control of your inner life, so that you can gain the mental clarity and mastery to be able to drop any false negative ideas that is responsible for your failures. Once you realize how erroneous this belief is, you need to uncover some of your root patterns, your unconscious tendencies that sabotage all your actions. Many of your root patterns can be seen in your attitudes. While our attitudes are easy to spot in our friends and family, they are incredibly hard for us to see.

Saulzburg, Austria

An attitude is simply a train of thoughts, that has been thought over and over until it becomes crystallized in your brains neural pathways. An attitude escapes our casual observation because it is so fast, when someone pushes our buttons, our attitudes simply react instantaneously. If there is any emotional force behind the reaction we will be totally under its power. Our conscious presence is not there to dictate our behavior out the present moment. In a reaction we always blame the outside for our behavior, we never see the other side of the equation.

The practices I give below are designed to increase your self-awareness. Which is simply learning to recognize your presence intuitively moment to moment. Being aware of your awareness. In becoming more self-aware you will be able to observe yourself more objectively. In time you will get many mental “snap shots” of how you truly are. Through the mental snap shots you will get a clear picture of all your reactions under various circumstances. This will help you uncover your root patterns. These sobering pictures will help us dissolve all the illusions we have and will drop away like dead leaves under the ray of consciousness that we let in.

Daily Practice for Mastery of Thoughts:

1. Thought control.

This is just learning to notice what thoughts you have in your inner space. Learning to watch your mind without judgment. Each time you become identified to a thought, gently bring yourself back to just being a detached silent witness. You will be amazed at the amount and the sheer randomness of all the thoughts that come across your mind’s eye. Pick a quite place with a comfortable place to sit where you will not be disturbed. Take 5-10 minutes every day, once in the morning and once in the evening is ideal, but also try to be observant as much as you can throughout your whole day.

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2. Thought discipline.

Once you have learned to notice the content of your mind more objectively, you will start to see its tendencies and reoccurring thought patterns. Now that you have gotten clear on what type of person you want to be, how does your current thinking patterns mesh with that vision? What is in direct opposition to your goals? Now your goal is to identify a specific thought that is sabotaging you and learning to not entertain it. As soon as you catch yourself entertaining counterproductive thoughts, gently place your attention on something else that is positive or at least neutral in nature. An easy thing to do is just to bring your focus to your body. Notice the energy and sensations within and without your body. Then focus on the sensations of your nose from the incoming and outgoing breath. Putting your full attention on your breath will do wonders do put you in a calm state of mind.

3. Mastery of thoughts.

This practice helps in not letting thoughts overpowering you. At any time you can become silent. Several times throughout your day try to have complete vacancy of mind. Just stopping the total movement of your mind. Most people will only be able to empty, or “stop” their mind for a few seconds before another random thought carries them away. Keep practicing, in time you will be able to achieve 1-3 minutes. Once you can do it for 10 minutes you have gained significant control of your mind.

4. Introspection (Thought Journal).

Another good idea is to keep a thought journal. At the end of the day rewind your day in your mind and mentally walk through it. Write down any thoughts and themes that occupied your day. Don’t judge your thoughts as being good or bad, this is simply material for your own self-knowledge. Don’t share this with anyone. Once a week, let’s say Sunday, review your journal and then come up with specific trains of thought that you want to nurture in the coming week. Schedule them. You will then have a valuable tool to see if you are being successful in gradually training your mind and seeing the effects that it has on your day. All these exercises start to help you develop a sense of responsibility for the way you think.

Before falling asleep, only the most beneficial and pure thoughts should be entertained and taken along into sleep. Just think about all the times you went to sleep with thoughts of worry and how you woke up the next day. Not fun.
I just want to thank you for reading my article, I sincerely hope it adds some value to your life and that it gives you the mental tools to pursue your dreams of seeing the world. I also want to thank Agness and Cez for giving me the opportunity of contributing to their amazing site.

What do you do to overcome your fear of moving abroad?

About the author:


Hello I’m Ivan: travel junkie, mystic in training, blogger, teacher, and student of life. I write over at “Freedom From The Known,” a site where I hope to assist others in discovering both inner and outer freedom. A site where travel meets spirituality.


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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39 thoughts on “How To Overcome Your Fear Of Moving Abroad”

  1. Avatar of Nichelle

    I couldn’t agree more! I have learned in life that everything is created twice- first in the mind and second in action. What you do and how you react with the things aroud you reveals what kind of thoughts you have in your mind.

  2. Avatar of Reece

    What a great article- and you’re so right! I’ve lived abroad quite a lot, but even trying to convince my family to just come on holiday with me seems like a battle.
    As you say, it’s all about fear. What if this, what if that? As they say, 90% of what we worry about never happens. And if the worst does happen? We’ll deal with it.
    Anyway, thanks for an interesting read.

  3. Avatar of Renuka

    Nice post. Yup, it’s important to manage your thoughts, because your life is what your thoughts are. If you have a positive thinking pattern, your destiny will turn out right come what may. Whether it’s moving abroad or finishing a small task, everything takes determination, discipline and focus.

  4. Avatar of Simons G

    Couldn’t agree More! As someone who wanted to move abroad , at first I had many negative thoughts and I was scared.
    It took me 3 years until I made that step, many things changed since then. my attitude, and also the way I think. Today I’m a lot more positive prepared for everyrhig. I don’t believe there is such a thing called failure from the simple reason that there’s nothing you can loose by trying to do something diffident. It’s better to “fail” than live in regret all of your life. “What if”

    1. Avatar of Ivan

      Really happy to hear that Simon :) Yes, there is no failures only lessons. Of course, it takes someone who is wise enough to have that perspective. Wish you the best!

  5. Avatar of Tim | UrbanDuniya

    Fear? What fear?!

    I know some people really hesitate over this… I guess I’m one of the lucky ones who would simply bite the bullet and go. Although there were other reasons why I didn’t move for 7 years… but they were more personal I guess. Cool post – I’m sure a lot of people will get a lot out of this.

  6. Avatar of Stef

    What a great post. Of course I’m also afraid of failure. I don’t know if I will have enough money for my travel lifestyle. I don’t know if I will be successful. You cannot be sure whether this lifestyle or long-term travel is made for you. Whether you always like it. But it’s much worse when you always think what had happened if I have gone travelling long-term. What had happened if I packed my stuff and have moved to… You must face your fears and get yourself out there to know if it’s right or wrong for you. And if you think about what kind of failures would be possible, you often realise that’s it’s not as bad as you probably thought. I mean, if you figure out after 3 months of travelling that it’s not for you, then just book a flight back home. That’s better than having “What if” thoughts all your life.

  7. Avatar of Charlie

    A very thoughtful post, and something that I think a lot of people face – and a lot of long-term travellers faced before they finally woke up one day and made that decision to just go. I think there are lots of ways to decide about changing your life, whether it’s bit by bit or changing everything overnight, but definitely not letting negative thoughts creep in is essential.

  8. Avatar of Miriam of Adventurous Miriam

    Thanks for a very inspiring post, Ivan! I couldn’t agree more – positive psychology teaches us that we can take control of our own lives and be fully aware in the now. I’m a mindfulness practitioner myself and I bring this approach into everything I do. It is an excellent subject, I’m glad to see you bring it up!

  9. Avatar of Heather

    I didn’t study abroad in college because I was too afraid of missing out on life back home. I was worried my friends would move on without me. Of course, I fell out of touch with most of them after graduation and realized how silly those fears were. I started by moving to a new city in my home country, and then moving abroad. I’m now living in my third country and am loving the expat life!

  10. Avatar of Natasha

    I tend to overthink things a lot, so for me the best thing to do is just stop thinking and do it. Buy that plane ticket. In my experience, the anticipation is much worse than the actual event. Of course not everything will run smoothly, but you learn as you go.

  11. Avatar of Victoria@ The British Berliner

    What a great post.

    I’ve lived in various countries a few times and so have no fear of moving abroad. I just focused on where I wanted to live, made sure I had enough money for a year, and then just went for it!

    Granted that most people wouldn’t be able to do that because of fear. Fear of the unknown, but most importantly, fear of failure.

    When I decided to move to Berlin, I was amazed at the number of people who tried to discourage me. Amazed! And most of them had never even been to Germany not to talk of Berlin. I still moved here though regardless. I’ve been here for 15 years and loving every moment. :)

  12. Avatar of Michelle

    Great post Ivan! Happy that you’re living your dream! I’ve lived in so many cities over the past few years (not all of them I loved) but they’ve all been great experiences. I used to be nervous about moving but not as much anymore – I always meet great people along the way :)

  13. Avatar of Phoebe Hine

    So encouraging post! Next month I am going to move to Italy because of my job and I am so happy! I love Rome and I think that one of my dreams is going to come true! Thank you for the nice advices!

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