Fears in the Great Outdoors

I’m terrified of bugs. I don’t like admitting it because it makes me sound like a wuss, but there it is. I’ve climbed mountains and kayaked and snowboarded and hiked and swam in dirty-icky ponds and camped in tents and rappelled off of 70-foot cliffs and taken my baby on multiple adventures.

I’ve been out there.

Do I like the bugs any less? Hell no.

The thing I’ve discovered about this insectophobia, is that I am actually more scared of the bugs when I’m indoors. Call me crazy, but a spider or a bee in my house is a major threat to my territory and my happiness. Throw all the shoes, spray all the window cleaner (only thing in easy reach), holler at them - do whatever necessary to eradicate their existence in my home.

But out in the yard or on the trail, the earth is vast and the bug is small and there are a lot of spaces where it could go and I could avoid it. So I find it easier to feel, if not exactly safer, than at least better about coexisting with the creepy crawlies. I can ignore them. Most of the time. (I still wig out to the extreme if I feel myself run into a spider's web. Obviously I've watched the Lord of the Rings too many times.)

Bugs are just the tip of the iceberg for so many people, though. When it comes to getting outside, it just seems to be a lot more trouble than it's worth. It's risky and scary and hard and just plain unnecessary.

I'm going to have to politely (but firmly) disagree.

I'd like you to strap on your daring footwear of choice and get ready to address those powerful fears that are keeping your trapped inside your own home or office or car.

Fear of heights, getting lost, or feeling incapable of dealing with unknown situations. Fear of being out of control of the circumstances. Fear of being cold, getting attacked, or not being able to eat or sleep properly. Maybe you think you'll be bored or too tired or think that the outdoors "just aren't for you."

Whatever it is, take a little time to try to conquer these feelings. Because like it or not, the outdoors is our world, and the benefits of spending time in it will trump any concern you may have.


At the top of my first 14er
Maybe I talk about this one too much since I've started yoga, but man, learning to control your breathing has so many benefits! The more oxygen you are able to get into your system, the more relaxed, refreshed, and re-energized you will feel. This is why our parents never said, "Take a chill pill"; they were always just like, "Go get some fresh air!"

When you're nervous or scared, you tense up, automatically slowing or even stopping your breathing altogether. This is very bad. It makes your insides all taught, and you can't think properly, and then you start actually freaking out.

So when something outside is triggering your fear response, take a minute to breathe easy. Deep, slow, controlled breaths. Count if you want. Then move forward again. If you still feel tense, stop and focus on breathing again. This is a trick I'm learning to use right now in rock climbing.


You know those scary movies where the heroine is all alone and she does something really dumb, like going into the creepy basement alone after dark or chasing something into a cornfield? Yeah, don't be her. Don't pick adventures that obviously place you in the path of danger. Good risks - pushing yourself a little harder on a run, trying a new yoga pose, inviting an acquaintance to come along - are invaluable to your adventurous lifestyle. They help you grow. But there is such a thing as a bad risk - getting too close to the edge of a cliff, doing a handstand without getting your body ready (it can strain your muscles and really hurt your back), going alone at night to unfamiliar places.

Be bold and adventurous, but know your limits. There is no point in doing things that will almost certainly put you in vulnerable positions with no way out.


Hiking only a mile or so from my house.
I cannot promise that your fears are ever going to completely go away. But you can learn how to deal with them if you practice. That can only happen by putting yourself in those scary situations. If your fear is stopping you from doing something that you want to do, you need to do that thing a lot.

Maybe you want to run in the evenings, while the sun sets. So do that, but run with someone else, pick a safe neighborhood, or choose a trail that others frequent. Maybe you want to explore that forest behind your house. Perhaps you wish you could hike, snowboard, do yoga, kayak, whatever. Or maybe you just want to see more cool things in nature.

Whatever it is, make a plan, and go for it. Be patient, knowing that you'll have to practice doing any of these things before they will come easy to you. Don't become discouraged if your first attempt gets rained out, or you head home all jittery from seeing a few too many creepy crawlies. This is only the beginning.


Definitely prepare yourself for whatever adventure you're embarking on. Taking adequate amounts of water is a good place to start. Wearing proper clothing for the weather is a good follow-up. Know where you're going and how much time you plan to spend there. (More time equals more provisions, aka food and water. If you're taking little ones on the trip, double these portions, haha!)

Then just go. Don't worry about what you forgot. Enjoy your time in the wide open spaces of earth. Inhale new smells, take in new sights. If something goes wrong (it starts to rain, you get tired, you run out of water), just take the next step. We humans are actually very good at a), going without, b) adjusting to new things, and c) dealing with circumstances that may seem impossible. Rest assured you will figure it out or be able to phone a friend.


My first surfing experience.
Before you go off on your adventure (maybe the night before if you're that concerned), take a few minutes and visualize what you want to happen. It sounds cheesy, I know, but it's important. Imagine yourself being happy, relaxed, and excited for these new experiences.

Now, let your thoughts take a darker turn. What's the worst thing that could happen? A flat tire, a broken ankle, a spider inside your shirt, being cold and wet, getting no sleep (if you decide to go camping)? Let your mind play it out. Why would any of these things happen? Could you do anything to stop them?

By doing this, you will realize two things: one, the Big Bad that you are so afraid of is probably not that big, and even if it is, the likelihood of it happening to you is almost nonexistent; and two, you can handle it. Whatever it is, you have already thought about it, and you are mentally prepared. You got this.


Wading in a dirty river with a mostly naked baby.
Just kidding. Sort of. Having a kid with you automatically makes you consider their needs first - above your own needs or fears. And kids, while cautious in new environments, are generally fearless. They'll go right up to the edge of a cliff, pick up rocks and sticks and toads, examine bugs with their faces pressed mere millimeters away from them. Take your own kids out for a mini foray into the wild (be sure to bring lots of snacks, water, and an extra outfit for each of you). Or, if you don't have your own, offer to borrow your friend's kid for an hour of outdoor time - she'll totally appreciate it! Go to a park or something and do your best to see the world from a child's point of view. Do things seem bigger or smaller? Scarier or more doable? More interesting, or less important? What can you learn from them? What are they already learning from you?

> > >

I get it. There’s a lot more outdoors that seems to be out of your control than things that happen at home or in the mall. Honestly, there are plenty of times when I don't want to deal with it either. Doing these new things will take up some of your time and energy, and I can't promise that this will be an easy path.

"Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never truly change at all, because you'll be forever in the control of the things you can't give up."
(Andy Law, emphasis added) 

And guess what? That shaky, I’m-not-sure-I-can-do-this feeling? That’s good for you. It breaks you out of your mold and challenges you. It also frees up your mind from its routine thought-patterns that cause you stress indoors.

If you’re still worried, grab a buddy. Learn to face the unknowns together, one step at a time. You'll have different fears and concerns to help each other out with. Don't wait for someday, better weather, or next year. Enjoy this beautiful fall weather while you can!


  1. Great points! Helping my kids learn to enjoy the outdoors used to feel so much easier and now they've started to worry. Such great tips to get through it and enjoy! I'll have to encorporate them with my kids!

    1. It's weird how we learn to develop some fears, instead of starting with them. It takes lots of practice to get out of them! Helping your kids learn to do that is so awesome :)

  2. I LOVED this post. Loved all your tips and words of wisdom, I so agree with them. I also totally agree about bugs. Outside is one thing, but please don't invade my territory!!

    1. thank yous so much! and yes, seriously, bugs stay away from me. Haha.

  3. I'm scared of bugs too! And you're right, it's definitely worse to encounter them indoors than outdoors, but it definitely shouldn't keep us from going on adventures!

    1. If bugs can get into my house, than they're really isn't safety anywhere, right? Haha might as well get outside more often!