How Do you Beat the Fear of the Unknown? Suggestions Anyone?

Jammie in a helicopter right before we got engaged on a snow-capped mountain top in Northern California. I was super nervous:)

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” This was a question Jammie and I asked ourselves over and over again as we planned the biggest move we had ever made. We were planning to give up perfectly good jobs during a horrible economic time and an even worse hiring environment.

The Dream

For what? The open road. The grand experiment. One year, four cities (all starting with “B” – Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Bombay (Mumbai)), three months each.

As explained a couple posts ago in “We Have Quit Our Jobs to Travel the World”, this was a very deliberate choice. A conscious lifestyle 180. We had wanted to do it for a long time but every time we got close to doing it, we backed out.

When we finally took action and decided to just go for it, we still struggled with our fear of the unknown. How would all this turn out? Would we be OK? Was all this a mistake? These were tough questions with no good answer.

The Ultimate Disaster

To avoid future ulcers, we decided to picture the ultimate disaster, the worst case scenario and decide how we would deal with that. We figured that picturing the worst-case scenario might be the best place to start.

Source: Wikipedia

Here were some of our doomsday scenarios:

1) We tell everyone we are doing on our trip and then for some reason, we can’t leave California – it’s super embarrassing and we have to tell people the trip is off.

2) We quit our jobs and some major unforeseen expense hits and we end up broke, crying in some abandoned Bangkok alley.

3) We get some horrible disease far away from home without access to the medical care we need.

4) We realize that instead of being an incredible epiphany and the amazing lifestyle design experiment we had envisioned, we hate our new life and decide we have made the worst decision ever.

Even putting those scenarios in writing was difficult!


In spelling out our doomsday scenarios, we were actually following some good advice from lifestyle design blogger and bestselling author, Tim Ferriss. He calls it “fear-setting”.

In his first book, The Four Hour Workweek, he says that before taking off on his own transformational trip he asked himself “Why don’t I decide exactly what my nightmare would be – the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip?…”

Tim says “As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario, I wasn’t as worried about taking a trip. Suddenly, I started to think of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once.”

What he also noticed was that on a scale of 1 to 10 “1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4″ whereas his “best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario… would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect”.

Discovery: the Positive Potential FAR Outweighs the Chance of Disaster

looking at the bright side...


Jammie and I found the same to be true in our situation. We could rebound from all the above worst case scenarios, regroup and be OK in the long term. Sure, each of the above would be a major setback. But if we responded strongly to any of our doomsday scenarios, we would probably recover. Just because there was risk involved did not mean that we should avoid going on the trip.

And the positive potential was huge: we would fulfill our dream of traveling, living and working internationally while doing some good for other people.

Even better news was that the chances of us achieving the positive potential of our experimental year were far greater than the chances of our worst-case scenarios taking place. Put this way, deciding to go on our 1-year trip was a far easier decision. This just had to be done.

What’s scary is staying the same –

The only genuinely scary thing would have been to do nothing. To let more years pass on the hamster wheel without aggressively pursuing the dream. By giving in to the feeling of unease about change, that vague fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, we would have given up on a chance for something better in life.

How about you? How do you handle the fear of the unknown? I am sure Jammie and I could learn from you. Leave a comment with your best tip for beating the fear of the unknown.



Bjorn Karlman


3 thoughts on “How Do you Beat the Fear of the Unknown? Suggestions Anyone?”

  1. Brilliant stuff. I have bookmarked this post. I’ll be going back to it a lot in the next few weeks as I embark on a journey into the unknown myself. “By giving in to the feeling of unease about change, that vague fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, we would have given up on a chance for something better in life.” I don’t want to give in to that!

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