Strangest Travel Phobias
Everyone has some kind of phobia, whether they admit it or not. Some are common and understandable like arachnophobia (fear of spiders), or the fear of flying, which plagues 6.5 percent of Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But other phobias…well, they’re downright quirky. We’ve rounded up the strangest phobias that can be associated with travel and matched each with a challenge—the place to avoid, or to visit only when ready to conquer that fear.
Seattle, for instance, would intimidate anyone with aichmophobia, the fear of pointed objects. Just thinking of the Space Needle would be the stuff of nightmares. Or consider Hong Kong, built along steep, lush hills. Locals came up with an ingenious solution for getting around: the world’s longest series of outdoor escalators, rising 443 feet during a 20-minute ride. But what’s cool and convenient for most is terrifying for those few with escalaphobia—and yes, that term really exists.
Nomophobia, on the other hand, gives a strange name to a travel-related fear that you’re more likely to have experienced—the sense of helplessness that comes with no cell phone contact, or even the anticipation of that situation. Donna Heckert of California’s Treebones Resort knows to alert potential guests to its lack of reception. “There’s a pay phone at the resort, or they can drive 15 minutes south,” she says. “If you have a phobia about being without your cell, the property is so beautiful it might make you forget about your fear.”
If total withdrawal is too much, as with any fear, it helps to test the waters gradually. That’s advice even for those with limnophobia (fear of lakes), the only travelers who’d find the location of Migis Lodge—on the shores of Maine’s Sebago Lake—disturbing. “Our water is exceptionally clear,” says general manager Jed Porta encouragingly. “On a very sunny day you can see 35 feet of depth, and we don’t have sea creatures or monsters to be frightened of.”
See, no monsters! That’s one fear resolved already. Read on for more places that can bring out the strangest phobias.
What It Is: Fear of wild animals.
Travel Challenge: Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park has one of the densest concentrations of freely roaming wildlife. Look out for zebras, wildebeests, hartebeests, and, oh yeah, herds of elephants that gather 300 deep.
What It Is: Fear of extreme cold.
Travel Challenge: Lapland’s IceHotel has been thriving on cold weather since 1989. The world’s first hotel made of ice has 40 rooms, a bar, and a church, all constructed from 45,000 tons of the frozen stuff.
What It Is: Fear of long words.
Travel Challenge: Krung thep mahanakhon bovorn ratanakosin mahintharayutthaya mahadilok pop noparatratchathani burirom udomratchanivetmahasathan amornpiman avatarnsathit sakkathattiyavisnukarmprasit, the 167-letter formal name for the city of Bangkok, making it the longest name in the world.
What It Is: Fear of long waits.
Travel Challenge: Space Mountain has the longest line in Disneyland, but roller-coaster fanatics rarely mind the two-hour-plus wait.
What It Is: Fear of the sun.
Travel Challenge: Yuma, AZ, which averages 11 hours of sun a day and 4,000 hours of sunshine yearly—just the kind of weather most other travelers hope for.
What It Is: Fear of lakes.
Travel Challenge: Migis Lodge, on the 3,500-foot shoreline of Sebago Lake in southern Maine. The lake is 316 feet at its deepest; it measures 8 miles wide and 10 miles long.
What It Is: Fear of smells or odors.
Travel Challenge: Thailand’s Durian Festival, which honors the world’s most vile-smelling fruit, the durian. It exudes a smell so horrible—think dirty gym socks that have been sitting in vomit—that it’s actually banned from public transport in some countries.
What It Is: Fear of escalators.
Travel Challenge: Hong Kong’s moving stairwells. Constructed in 1993, the entire system covers a distance of more than 2,600 feet as it elevates over 443 feet from the Central to the Mid-Levels neighborhoods. The 20-minute ride is the world’s longest for an outdoor covered escalator system.
What It Is: Fear of wind.
Travel Challenge: Port Martin, Antarctica, the windiest place in the world. This city blows away all others with more than 100 annual days of gale force 8 winds—at speeds averaging 40 mph.
What It Is: Fear of losing cell phone reception.
Travel Challenge: Big Sur’s Treebones Resort, where you won’t find the following: children under six, pets, indoor bathrooms, and cell phones. The unplugged destination doesn’t offer a calling plan—or cell reception.
What It Is: Fear of crossing the street.
Travel Challenge: Shibuya Station intersection, Tokyo’s famous cross-street, whose lights simultaneously turn red, traffic stops completely for 60 seconds, and hundreds of people swarm from all directions.
What It Is: Fear of road travel.
Travel Challenge: Alaska’s Dalton Highway, which is 244 miles of service-free road, the longest stretch in the world. Come to think of it, that’s enough to make even hardy travelers think twice.