Hodophobia is the Fear of Travel

by Beth Whitman (July 23rd, 2012)

Woman on LakeI was recently interviewed on The Bill Radke Treatment radio program. The topic was centered around hodophobia. Hodophobia is the fear of travel. During this program we talked specifically about why some people hate to take vacations and what we can do to make more out of our time away when we do venture out.

I was invited into the studio along with Dr. Jonathan Bricker, a psychologist who specializes in helping people get over their fear of flying and travel in general. Sure, I can understand the fear of flying, but it never occurred to me that people would allow other things to get in their way of taking a vacation. This concept was beyond my comprehension.

But listening to Dr. Bricker, I started to understand how things that I take for granted (long lines at the airport, navigating through security, being lost in a country where they speak another language) can all add up to a person not wanting to leave their comfy environment. And it turns out there’s a name for that: hodophobia.

Who knew? This is so not my world. Everyone around me travels – for a living or for fun. It’s second nature. But now that I know that hodophobia exists, I’m quite intrigued.

It turns out that people with hodophobia believe that the effort one needs to put into travel is so great, that it’s simply not worth it and that the stress that comes with preparation is too much to bear and the rewards not great enough.

Yes, I’ve met people who never take vacation (and wear that badge proudly). I now see that it might not be that they love their job (or their home) so much. I realize there might be something deeper going on. They likely have a long list of reasons why travel is so uncomfortable that they can’t imagine putting themselves in such a situation.

Just yesterday in the Syracuse Airport, I heard two airport employees talking. One woman said, “I haven’t taken a vacation in two years. Not since I went on vacation with my husband and he told me he hated me.”

The first sentence made me sad. The second sentence just made me sadder. This woman works at an airport where she watches people come and go day in and day out. And she associates going on vacation with her husband who hates her. I wanted to run after her and say, “Be free! Fly away!”

For me, as much as I love my hubby, home and Seattle, the pain of not traveling is far greater than staying home.

I would love to hear from people who have hodophobia. Are you out there? Lurking? Feel free to leave an anonymous comment. I’ll be following up with a post with some tips on getting over this fear.

Travel Well,

Beth

Related links:
Backscatter Whole Body Scanners
Judging a Book, er, Traveler

Photo credit:
Woman on Lake: martinak15

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Comments
1.
On September 14th, 2012 at 11:14 pm, Marcia said:

Yes, I am one of those rare people who have hodophobia. Most people think it’s a fear of flying, and that is the furthest thing from the truth. If I could afford to fly across the country for lunch and be home by evening, I’d do it gladly. For me, it’s about the feeling of being out of control and an inability to sleep if I’m not in my own bed. Also, nearly every time I travel, I come down with some type of illness caused by the stress of travel. I’ve suffered from back problems, depression, vaginal infections, eye infections, jaw problems, etc., some of which linger on for weeks after I get home. It’s just not worth it, since I suffer while I travel and suffer when I get home. I have had a few good trips in my life, but most of them were miserable. I find–strangely enough–that I prefer traveling by myself, because I feel more in control. I like to visit with people while at my destination, but I prefer to drive alone and stay alone in the hotel. It helps me relax and sleep better. (Sleeping pills help too, but I HATE taking them.) But it’s not all bad. I save a lot of money by not traveling. I love where I live, and I make the most of community activities. Oh, and I do like day trips. I like to go visit a nearby town, prowl around, have lunch, etc., as long as I’m back in time for bed.

2.
On September 18th, 2012 at 1:21 pm, Beth Whitman - Wanderluster said:

Marcia,

Thanks so much for sharing this. It really helps me to understand this better.

And thanks for spending time on the Wanderlust and Lipstick site for some virtual travel!

All the best,

Beth

3.
On September 23rd, 2012 at 5:13 pm, Sansa said:

I am terrified of traveling alone. I have no problem going places with other people, but the very idea of going to another city paralyzes me with fear. It’s frustrating too because all I want to do is travel. But for me, I developed a panic disorder that now shows up only when I try to go places alone. I’m determined to get over this, but it is not easy when pushing myself to get on a bus or train will bring up the sensation that I am dying. It’s hard to cope with that feeling, because your body goes into fight or flight mode and your mind usually pushes you into “flight”. I am trying to do baby steps, but now I have come to the point where I have to really face my fear. I just hope I can do it.

4.
On November 5th, 2012 at 4:54 am, Kat said:

I’ve been researching this phobia, and I’ve yet to find anyone else like me.

I can barely travel across my city, even with another person. Even with ten other people. It scares me so much. I can just about travel the twenty minute bus ride from my house into town. Anything further than that and the panic sets in.

It’s not the location. If I could take dematerialize and the rematerialize in Japan and stay the week, I would! But travelling scares the hell out of me. Long journeys make me want to die.

It’s funny really because I once spent 26 hours on a coach. Now I can’t even get on one.

I’ve suffered with general anxiety all my life, and most terribly in recent years. I’m pharmacophobic as well, I’m terrified of taking medication. I guess I’m just scared of anything I don’t have control over.

I can’t tell the medicine to leave my blood stream before it has an adverse affect on my body, just as I can’t tell a train to stop mid journey or a plane to land mid flight.

I have wanderlust and was never taken on holiday (or vacation I think you say in America) as a child, and had the odd school trip growing up. I’ve wanted to travel my whole life. I’d give anything to see the world, but I’m overwhelmed by fear. I wish someone could help me.

5.
On November 26th, 2012 at 6:53 pm, Andy said:

I’m glad to see that I am not the only person who fears traveling. The fears I have are mostly due to not being in control of everything. I’m afraid of getting on a plane because what if I want to get off of it? I’m afraid of being far from home because I wont know my surroundings. When I go to other places I think things like, “Where is the hospital, where is the police station, and so on and so forth?” In the last year I have started to force myself out of my comfort zone. First I went on vacation to a place that I had vacationed at as a child because I was familiar with the area, and then I went on a road trip with a friend that was about 13 hours from home. They were tough but I managed to go and had a great time. I plan to continue to do this but I wish that I wasn’t so scared and nervous because I do know that this is holding me back from seeing all of the places I’d like to see.

6.
On February 15th, 2013 at 1:25 pm, Brittany said:

I am so thrilled to hear from others with the same fear. I’m devastated for them that they have it, but I feel less alone. When most people talk about fear of traveling, they talk about fear of getting lost, missing their flight, etc. These seem like rational fears and simple planning can help avoid these situations. My fears, like those mentioned above, are irrational. My fear is being too far from home and not being able to get back if I wanted to. Why would I want to? I don’t know. But I obsess over the lack of control. Just like the person above, I too wish I could just “beam me up, scotty” to different places because if I could zap back home whenever I wanted I would have no fear.
Sometimes it is worse when with others because I worry about no being able to convince them to turn around or looking crazy in front of them. I also worry that I’ll be forced into a situation that scares me if I’m with others (such as going to the top of a skyscraper). Sometimes it’s better when I travel with certain people like my mother who knows about my condition and would stop or turn around if I really needed to without much convincing.
I now have a 6 hour train ride coming up with my boss that I am terrified of. Getting on that train I have no control and nothing but my own thoughts for 6 hours and I don’t want to look nervous in front of her. I wish I could hear from someone who has suffered the same fears and gotten over them (and how). It would help a lot if I knew there was hope.

7.
On February 15th, 2013 at 2:11 pm, Beth Whitman said:

So sorry to hear this, Brittany.

I had originally heard about hodophobia from someone who counsels people with this fear. I would think that some therapy would help tremendously in getting over this fear.

GOOD LUCK! I truly hope you can get over this and enjoy the world.

8.
On March 16th, 2013 at 11:10 am, Ellen said:

My partner suffers with this & like Andy above it’s more about control. Did pushing the comfort zone work for you?

It’s difficult to know how to help as like the article says, just bringing it up is very stressful for him. Has anyone managed to cure this phobia? I’m wondering if more regular trips not too far away would help, as long as they are not stressful I thought this might neutralise the anxiety he feels.

When we actually get away he has a great time.

9.
On March 17th, 2013 at 7:57 am, Brittany said:

Ellen,
I don’t know if you saw my comments above, but I have since survived the trip mentioned. It is a control thing for me too. I have to say that therapy has been a huge help…and I was a skeptic about therapy.
One thing that really helped was that I took the train alone. Traveling alone is better for me because I feel like I have the control to turn back if I wanted without having to make an excuse or try to explain to someone else. It also takes the pressure away of worrying about looking crazy in front of someone else.
Another big help was visualizing the trip with my therapist. She’d put me into a deep state of relaxation and then have me visualize the trip from waiting for the train to coming home again.
It also helped to look up the area in google images, look up images of my hotel, and look up any other building I knew we’d visit. That way it seemed more familiar to me and less of a culture shock.
Hope this helps. Fear is such a cage. It’s so sad.

10.
On April 9th, 2013 at 4:34 pm, Bibiana said:

I am a lot like the first lady who wrote. I have gotten sick on every trip I’ve been on. I am bipolar, and have other health issues, and too much stress- even ‘good ‘ stress-can make me ill. I do enjoy outings where I live. I enjoy concerts, art, restaurants, church activities, volounteer work, etc. I am also active in my community, and sing with a concert choir. I have what I consider a rich life, and don’t miss traveling.

11.
On April 9th, 2013 at 7:01 pm, Bibiana said:

I enjoy seeing new things and learning about other cultures.It’s just the GETTING there that does me in. I have gotten sick and exhausted every time I ‘ve travelled, and to be honest, I don’t miss it. Like the first writer, I enjoy my life and my community, and have many interests and activities.

12.
On June 16th, 2013 at 2:39 pm, Cathryn said:

Hi
this is such an annoying phobia – I look at pictures of foreign places and wish I could see them close up. I don’t enjoy travelling but can go for a couple of hours in the car or train if I have someone with me and I know I’ll be back later. I sometimes think i could get on a plane but I wouldn’t want to be away for more than a few hours. I think a lot of it is a control thing – travelling by air or train takes away some control, but my fear is that I will be miles from home and I’ll have a panic attack and be unable to get home straight away. I’m better if I have my car and I know that anytime I like I can get in the car and drive home – traffic jams are really bad!! Just feel so guilty all the time that I can’t take my children on a real holiday :(

13.
On January 13th, 2014 at 10:28 am, Moggitte said:

I think I have a legitimate fear of going on vacation. 3 1/3 years ago my husband and I had a dream vacation planned for Ireland. We were to spend 9 days touring Wicklow forest by horse drawn caravan. It sounded so romantic! The first day out, our horse was really spooky. At one point we stopped to check our map and stretch our legs. Getting back into the wagon, the horse spooked and took off.

My foot got caught in the steps of the wagon and I was dragged long enough to had my foot pulled off. I was incredibly lucky in that a nurse literally appeared out of nowhere and took care of all medical arrangements, including getting the best foot and ankle doctor in Ireland down to Dublin. More miracles occurred when the doctor was able to save my foot, even though I lost 15% of my muscles, destroyed the cartilage in my ankle, and left me with severe nerve damage and chronic pain. Still, I am very lucky to have come home with both feet, but the trauma lives on in the form of nightmares and panic attacks.

I also cannot walk far, maneuver stairs, and walk with a cane. I was starting to feel better about traveling and decided to visit my sister in another state. At a bus terminal, I couldn’t find an elevator, no one to help me and direct me to an elevator, only a set of stairs and escalators. I took the escalators. I lost my balance and fell, did a roll and tumble on the moving stairs, gouged both legs and arms, and hit my head. I ended up in a hospital with more injury and stitches to my already damaged leg. Now I am mortified to travel. It’s beyond fear, it is complete and total terror that I will find myself in a situation with no one to help me and I will be injured again.

My husband and his sister have planned a wonderful vacation for the three of us, and all I can do is cry and cringe in horror at the prospect of going to strange public places where I have to rely on others for my safety. My family is hoping that traveling with me will help me move beyond this fear. I feel like I’m going to faint from terror. I hope I can muster the courage to make this trip.

14.
On January 14th, 2014 at 7:41 am, Beth Whitman said:

Moggitte – it sounds like you could likely use some professional help to get you through this. You had a couple of unfortunate incidents and it would be so great if you could get over them to enjoy this wonderful world of ours.

15.
On January 15th, 2014 at 8:03 am, Elizabeth said:

This is all so interesting to me to hear others talk about the same fear of traveling that I have battled for so many years. I didn’t even know it had a name (Hodophobia) until this week! Like some of you, I live a happy, fulfilling life, enjoying so many things near my home. My husband and I love to go to the movies and out to dinner. I am very busy and active in many things, spending hours in my car…..as long as it is within a 60 mile radius of my home. Anything further than that terrifies me.

I, too, get physically sick dreading a trip, and suffer from anxiety and panic if put into a situation where I can not turn around. Most of my family lives away, and I have missed every wedding, college graduation and baby shower that any one has had. It is very depressing. I actually do not have any desire to see the world, no desire to take vacations to far away places. I just wish I could travel to events that family and friends are a part of. Every feeling each of you mentioned is something I have experienced as well. I have had a few successes in travel, and when I get there, I usually have fun. But I have also had some failures, traveling 150 miles, and once arriving, the anxiety was so bad we had to turn around and drive home. Thank God my husband is an understanding man. I try to explain to family, but they just cannot understand how those of us with hodophobia feel.

16.
On January 16th, 2014 at 11:01 am, Beth Whitman said:

Elizabeth – so sorry to hear that this is an issue for you. Have you thought about getting professional help?

17.
On January 19th, 2014 at 2:49 pm, Elizabeth said:

I have seen a counselor for years. I know the traumatic events when I was a child that created the problem. The counselor’s answer for me is to “keep trying”, making short trips and getting some good experiences behind me. I know this is true, but still, when the pressure is on, and there is an important event requiring a road trip in front of me, the anxiety will start. I know whether or not I attend the event will literally depend on how I feel the day of the event; whether I feel mentally strong enough that day to attempt it. Most times I do not. I hate it that I disappoint family members, and the guilt is probably my biggest issue. I will continue to try, but at this point in my life, I feel as though this is probably something that will be with me a lifetime. It all started 40 years ago, so it is deep-rooted. I strongly encourage others with hodophobia to seek help through counseling and medication as soon as the traumatic event as possible. I believe they can win the battle!

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