You want to know a secret? That’s exactly how I got the nerve to start traveling to these places. I had crippling don’t-leave-the-house-for-weeks social anxiety for just about my entire life.
I felt that fear whenever I went anywhere unknown, and interacted with anyone new. It didn’t matter if I had a first date in an unfamiliar part of town, or tried to dance at a party in front of my friends —it was all equally frightening. I started thinking, “I can’t imagine I’d be any more scared than this if I was facing down a gang of killer bandits on a back road in Mongolia.”
And it turned out I was right. I mean, I haven’t actually faced down a gang of killer bandits in Mongolia — I haven’t been to Mongolia yet. I have, however, faced down thieves, thugs, guns, knives, and all manner of other mischief, and none of it has felt significantly scarier than a first date at a new bar used to feel. Vindication!
Another funny thing happened, too—those confrontations recalibrated my danger meter. Now that I’d felt deathly afraid of… well, literal imminent death, all those scary social interactions just didn’t rate anymore. Nowadays people say I seem very calm and present— which, believe me, no one would have said about me a few years ago.
So, you know, I hesitate to recommend traveling halfway around the world and risking one’s life as a cure for anxiety, but it sure as hell worked for me.