How Embracing Fear Led to a Trip Around the World

cute small black travel mini backpack kate spade

Where does fear come from? What differentiates my fear from yours?


The idea of long-term travel is pretty simple. You get on a plane, stop at a few places, and eventually (probably) make your way back “home”. While this can seem frightening or scary to some, for others it is an achievable dream. Wanderlust at its finest.


Right now, international travel rarely requires more than a passport, credit card, and internet access. Even though I like to imagine that my idea to spend a year abroad is unique… it is becoming increasingly popular. Facebook statuses saying “quit job, will travel” are followed by “moving to Thailand for 3 months!!” and photos of months-long trips.


So, it was pretty easy to tell my friends I was going to spend close to a year traveling the world.


A few friends were told in person. Some were told during drunken nights out when they likely thought I was kidding. And most were told on Facebook, where there was (surprisingly, in the world of internet trolls) only loving and positive feedback.


Many friends gracefully offered to hide in my suitcase.

Friends hiding in suitcase cartoon

Source: Some Pets


These plans were a bit more difficult to explain to my parents, sister, and traditional Italian grandmother. Mostly for a few reasons:


  1. It confirmed their suspicions that I was, in fact, leaving my job “for real”
  2. I am a tall, blonde, unmarried, young woman (so apparently travel should be scary)
  3. There are terrorists. Lots of terrorists.


terrorism 2016 newspaper

Source: The Observer

I started realizing this trip was not only about overcoming my own fears, but helping my loved ones overcome theirs as well.


For that reason, many adjustments were made.


I decided not to start in India, but Iceland… I vowed not to step foot in the Middle East (at least for a year)… I chose a volunteer group in Tanzania, rather than traveling through South Africa… and told my dad I would skip Dubai if he invited me with his friends to Israel.


I even bought a rape whistle. And spiked rings.


(I kind of cheated, the spiked rings look like kitty cats and are pretty useless)


Kitty cat spiked rings kitten female protection

Source: Wanelo



After making several changes to ease the panic in my family, the trip finally started to seem like real life. I spent so much time researching, planning, saving money, and slowly getting everyone’s support… that it almost felt like it wouldn’t come together.


I leave in less than 10 days for the first round of this adventure… and it just hit me today.


I’m doing it!!


I have been insanely excited and anxious to start this trip. With all these nerves, it seems massively important for me to step back and recognize that:


I am so proud of myself

Proud of myself female boat beach ocean blue kimono


Before I hop on the plane, I think it is important to look back acknowledge what it took to get here (aside from the logistics of saving money, booking flights, etc.).


The idea for the trip started when I realized I was fighting fears I never knew I had.


I worked tremendously hard. I lived in a beautiful apartment on the ocean, worked a high paying job, was flown cross-country to party, and got my master’s degree at 22. On the outside everything was perfect. Similar to most stories like this, it wasn’t.

I was severely depressed.


Out of fear of failure, I ended up living a life that no one could describe as such. No one could say I failed. The problem was that I had built my life on proving that exact point. Which is, quite honestly, stupid. I proved that I did not fail and was left to live with the life I created.


The saddest part was that I was massively grateful. I knew the value of what I had that other’s did not.


It is indescribably hard to speak up about depression, regret, and dissatisfaction… when there is absolutely nothing to complain about. I felt guilty for being depressed.


My biggest fear became admitting that I was unhappy with a wonderful life.


But when it came down to it, I realized my life revolved around two things. Making money and going to parties. Both of which quickly get old. They did. I realized my life was shallow. I was wasting any contribution I could have on this planet to make myself richer and drunker.


So, in a form of release… I began planning a trip around the world.

I envisioned dropping it all and hopping on a plane, flying back to the states only to see my family a few times a year. I wanted to volunteer at orphanages, work on farms, eat from local markets, and see every corner of the world…


Most importantly, I started to dream about making a difference.


I researched, planned, wrote details, listed flights. Planning these travels became my form of therapy. It was my way of fantasizing an escape from a directionless life style, in exchange for creating new dreams.


Long story short, I never thought the trip would turn into reality. And here we are.


It took several unpleasant experiences in my job and life for me to realize that it is okay to fail, to change paths, and to be imperfect. It is acceptable to simply be human every once and a while.


I learned that it is okay to be grateful for something, even if you don’t want it.


Gratitude is everything. I am tremendously blessed. I am grateful for everything in my life that has happened and will happen in the future.


Planning this trip has already taught me a lot. In particular, I have learned the importance of trying to find a way to shape a life you are proud of. I don’t know exactly how to do this, but I know I am heading in the right direction.


It turns out that my fear of being a failure… was significantly trumped by the fear of a meaningless life.


Better yet, I can honestly say that I am so excited for the future.

girl in a jungle wearing yoga pants green black



I will never encourage anyone to drop everything and travel the world (and if I do, someone please take me off my high horse). But I think there is something all of my loved ones (and maybe people I haven’t met) can get away from this.

Don’t waste your life trying to prove something to others. You are worth more than that. You can do so much more, be so much more.


In one of my favorite books, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing
the biggest regret of the dying was:


“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”


You may just be here to look at some pretty pictures of me in a bikini in Bali or on a cliff in Norway (don’t worry, they’re coming)… But let me give one piece of (unsolicited) advice.


Don’t be afraid to go out in the world and live.


(and thank you for reading 🙂 )



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      Thank you so much Lidia! I appreciate the feedback 🙂

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      Thank you Caleb! That means a lot

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  • Nicholas Belstad June 17, 2016 at 1:38 am

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      Hahaha thanks for sharing Nicholas!

  • Elisha Decraene June 16, 2016 at 12:18 am

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    • Jess June 16, 2016 at 5:34 am

      Hi Elisha! That is very sweet of you. I plan on writing more on this topic and thank you! Hope to hear more from you 🙂

  • John Sambuco June 9, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    Jess, I am very blessed to have such a wonderful daughter. And yes, I will be afraid for much of your trip. That’s what parents do! We also support your dreams and are there for you when ever you need us. See you very soon and love you lots. Dad.

    • Jess June 9, 2016 at 8:54 pm

      Love you Dad <3 🙂

  • Gail Embretson June 7, 2016 at 9:56 am

    PS: If you get bored or lonely, I think your cousin Audreyyyyy would join you for a leg…

  • Gail Embretson June 7, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I think you are my new favorite person.
    Thank you for your vulnerability. You write beautifully, with honesty that teaches… Keep it up. I love you and can’t wait to travel with you through your blog.
    Profoundly true what you said about failure being good for us. Always be true to yourself & follow your passions! In our weaknesses we find strength. Go confidently and stay safe. Most of all have fun! Life is short, I want to leave this world exhausted from the riches life & this beautiful big world offers us. We have to get up off the couch & go do it❤️❤️❤️
    Love you bunches,
    Aunt Gail

    • Jess June 7, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Aw thank you so much Aunt Gail! Love you a lot and thank you for all of your support!

      PS Ummmmm yes Audrey is invited literally whenever she wants to join!

  • Anonymous June 7, 2016 at 5:01 am

    We are so proud of you, Jess! Now… BE SAFE (haha)! Thanks for taking us on the journey with you!! Hugs, Momma

    • Jess June 7, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks Momma Bear 🙂

  • Crystal June 6, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Love love love. Go do your thing girl. Explore the world. Find yourself. Be real. Cry a little, laugh a little. Find happiness. Come back with stories. And don’t have any regrets!

    • Jess June 6, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      Aw thank you for being so supportive Crystal! Sending you lots of love and can’t wait to share stories with you 🙂 <3