How to Conquer Your Fears - An Interview with Adventure Traveller Fearless & Far

“You’re very much capable of having the dream life, the thing you’ve always wanted, but you can’t be scared of putting yourself out there.”

Can you tell us your backstory and what you do now?

My name is Mike Corey – I am an adventure travel YouTuber, podcaster and television host.

I’m from New Brunswick, Canada. I grew up next to the ocean there by the Bay of Fundy. So I’m a kid from a small town that loved nature and was always curious. They say ‘Do what you like to do as a kid’ – so now I consider myself professionally curious.

What first drew you to travel?

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed explaining things that people didn’t understand. Particularly with things like snakes and bugs – things people didn’t like. I didn’t understand why people didn’t like them, so I would ask questions.

That eventually transformed into travel, because it’s very much the same thing. There’s people, places, events that are misunderstood, mislabeled, and are deemed dangerous, gross, harmful, whatever. And people don’t actually really know because they’ve never been there.

So I found a passion explaining things that people don’t quite get. And often that leads me on some pretty wild and wonderful adventures around the world. Sometimes it stirs some controversy, but that’s part of the fun. Travellers should be asking questions, people should be asking questions. At the end of the day, it’s all about learning about the world.

We grow up in a country, a family, a household, a city, and we’re gifted a lens on the world based on all this. When we only have that one perspective, then we can’t, at least in my opinion, accurately see our place in the world or make decisions about it. I think you have to travel to be able to find your place and also understand the world.

People can easily throw stones at you online or wherever they choose to, judging you for your actions or you judge people for their actions, but you don’t really understand what’s going on.

That’s what I’ve learned travelling. I’ve learned that everything I think is so simple is so much more infinitely complicated than just black and white.

With the lens you’re gifted as a child, it’s hard to see the full picture. Travel allows you to take the bits and pieces of various different lenses around the world and form your own. And for me, that’s how I learned how to fit in. I didn’t feel like I fit in for a very long time growing up, it took travelling and picking up bits and pieces of different cultures to put my lens together to see my place in the world accurately. And that’s why I love it man.

What is your advice for people who don’t know what they want to do, or are doing something they’re not passionate about?

After making videos for some travel competitions, I learned some filmmaking and then came back to making videos. When I came back, I was seduced by the algorithm or ‘what was trending’. I was trying to make all these travel videos that were about the top five things to do or the best food or whatever it was, but that wasn’t me. I was chasing these trends, feeling burnt out, because I was scared to do the things that I thought were interesting.

I’ve always been really interested in anything that makes you go ‘WTF, how is that a real thing on this planet?’ Whether it be a food or some kind of animal or a festival or whatever. But I was scared to go eat worms or blubber or cow blood or whatever, I was scared to go to The Walking Dead festival in Indonesia, or, sleep alone on the Great Wall of China, all these things.

Partly because I didn’t know if I was gonna get banned – I wanted to work with brands. I was scared to get a sleeve tattoo because I thought big brands like the BBC wouldn’t want to work with me, I’d be too edgy.

As a result, my videos weren’t doing well. I felt hollow and uninspired. When I thought about what I was doing, I realised I was letting my fears control me. All of these things I was scared might happen weren’t happening, so why did I think they might?

That’s a terrible place to live, man, in the future. Anything can happen there, usually not good stuff.

So I had this defining moment, I was like, ‘Why are you doing what other people are, when you’re willing to do what other people aren’t?’ I’ve always been the guy who will sleep on airport floors or camp out solo in the woods. I’m not afraid to get dirty, or get bitten by mosquitoes. I’m not afraid to try things.

I really enjoy finding the things that everyone thinks are crazy. And being like, ‘Look, you just don’t understand.’ You just have to dismantle it, and then learn about it, and realise that these things you’re scared of, say bungee jumping – if they were actually dangerous, they wouldn’t exist. This is my basis for a lot of things in life – understand the risks, and if the risks are extremely exaggerated, we’re going full speed ahead.

When I realised all this, I changed everything. I said screw it, I started doing all the stuff that I actually wanted to. I wasn’t happy doing the other stuff, so I might as well do the things that were really me.

And guess what happened? One of the brands that I thought would never work with me because of my sleeve tattoo contacted me basically immediately after all this – the BBC offered me a position on a television show. I started getting all of his attention I didn’t have before because I was doing something that was different. 

And so my advice is, do the thing that you love, it doesn’t matter how weird it is. There’s that quote – “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. That’s how I feel.

 

Find your little niche and make hyper specific content about this one passion of yours, and the world will deliver.”

Once you start making content that’s true to you, you have to find your tribe. No matter how weird your interest is, there’s enough people on this planet that can assemble together on an idea and then support you.

If your goal is to have 5 million subscribers, or 50 million and be like the next PewDiePie, then you kind of have to ride trends. But if you just want to make a living off something you love, no matter how strange it is, in this world today, you can 100% do that.

The road to making a steady income feels a lot longer when you’re trying to ride a trend that isn’t truly you. Find your little niche and make hyper specific content about this one passion of yours, and the world will deliver. There are 8 billion people on this planet, let’s say a third of those are online – you can assemble a life around that.

It can take a while of you shouting on the hilltop for people to gather around. Some come, some go, but eventually the ones who will be your true fans will stick around. Kevin Kelly did a really good little paper and book about this called ‘1000 True Fans’. The idea is that all you need to make a living is a thousand people who are down with your message. And again, even if you think it’s very specific, there’s a lot of people who like very specific things.

What draws you to adventure so strongly?

I consider a lot of my travels just to be a quest to try to feel free. For the longest time I was imprisoned by my own fears. And my online alias is Fearless & Far. Maybe it’s a bit of a misnomer because people assume that I’m just like the jackass guy, he’ll do anything. And sometimes it might seem like that, because some of my adventures have been quite out there.

But I consider myself very fearful. And that’s where the name came from, I discovered that being fearless was just a choice you made. There’s no one who is sane on this planet who is also fearless.

It’s a choice, not a state of being – there’s no enlightenment. There’s no point where you just become fearless, it doesn’t work that way. All of these people doing amazing things in the world have chosen to do it despite fear.  And for me, I realised that there were lots of things in my life that were bars on my cage – my fear of public speaking, my fear of being inadequate, my fear of standing out, all the different things that I told myself I wasn’t good at.

But no one told me these things. I just decided that these were the bars on my cage. And at a certain point, there were a bunch of things that came together while I was beginning to travel that made me realise maybe I have built this prison for myself.

So I’ve been on a global quest to break those bars for the past fifteen years of my life, over and over again. Picking adventures, doing specific activities, practising skills to be able to feel free. And for me, that’s what it’s all about.

For me to be happy, and I think for most people to be happy, we need to feel free. We’re unhappy because we have a cage built around us, so we have a responsibility to break those bars, or we have the possibility to at least. But you have to be able to make yourself uncomfortable, which most of us are unwilling to do when comfort is just around every corner.

How has your relationship with fear changed over time?

We’re buddies now, for the most part. I guess the most defining moments for me, if I was going to do a top three would be:

1. I was watching this interview a decade ago with a guy named Jeb Corliss who’s a squirrel suit base jumper. He was being interviewed by some media outlet. And they’re like, ‘Oh, you must be fearless.’ And he said, ‘What are you talking about? I’m not fearless, every time before I jump I’m terrified.’ He explained how he doesn’t experience a lack of fear, but instead just acknowledges how he feels, and makes the decision to do what he was gonna do anyway.

And that was the first thing – realising that you don’t have to be afraid of being afraid.

I definitely was – every time I felt fear, especially with this public speaking stuff, my mind would go blank, my hands would shake. And I’d think, ‘Oh my God, it’s happening again.’ I’d get more and more and more scared.
I had to realise that I didn’t have to feel that way. My first tactic was saying, ‘Yes, I love this feeling’ every time I felt scared, even though I felt terrified. At first your brain will be like ‘Wait, what? No you don’t.’ But do it for long enough and you start to short circuit this pathway, where fear equals more fear.

Going back to the idea of a cage of fear, when we try to pull down an iron bar, it’s naturally going to resist, you’re going to feel very uncomfortable. But if you break it, then on the other side, there’s a whole new world out there. And by saying yes, when you feel no, you start to break that bar.

 

2. I did a presentation once with a group of about ten of us. And again I was terrified to give this presentation. I over prepared, I wrote down my notes over and over and over again. I also had a buddy who didn’t give a shit, didn’t care. He just winged it – no practice.

When it came to me, I was trembling, I barely remember what I said I was so nervous. My buddy goes next and just flops his way through some informal discussion where he’s pausing and loses himself and cracking a couple bad jokes.

And I thought, what’s the difference here? One of us cares way too much, and one of us decided to just have fun with it. We were two guys standing side by side having completely different interpretations of the exact same experience. On paper, I should be more confident, I’m the one that’s been preparing for weeks for this.

The difference was that he decided he was going to have fun, he decided he was going to be confident. And that was a very powerful moment, too. I mean, he can’t just be like, ‘Okay, I’m going to be confident,’ it doesn’t really work that way. But it also kind of does. 

At any moment, you can decide whether or not your experience is going to be fun. Maybe not comfortable, but at least fun. It’s a decision, and once you make it you can relax a little.

3. I realised that all these things I thought I was bad at, that I didn’t think were for me, was mostly me deciding that I didn’t want to try and fail. And in this life, the people who aren’t afraid to try and fail are the ones who reach the destination of their dreams.

“So ask yourself, what are the bars on my cage right now? How many of them are self-induced, self-built? “

 

A lot of the things you say you’re not good at are things you’ve just never sat down and practised. Take public speaking, I didn’t think I was good at it, it scared me.

But then I eventually ended up taking a public speaking class. I was so much of a perfectionist because I was worried what people would think, so I worked much harder than anybody who was naturally gifted. Then I became better than most of those people, and now my entire job is speaking.

You can learn this stuff. It’s just reading some books. It’s just practising. It’s just not being so damn scared of trying. That’s where the name ‘Fearless & Far’ comes from. I’m not fearless. I just understood the fears holding me back.

Then it becomes this thing that you dance with. You get to walk with it, you become friends with it as you understand its purpose in your life.

Has fear then been a net positive in your life?

The worst things that have happened in my life have also been the best things. I believe that’s a decision that I have made. Because I make the decision to find the opportunity in the catastrophe, they became extremely transformative. Anything can happen for a reason, man, if you decide that’s why, if you decide you’re going to find that reason.

As humans, we’re so easily stuck in routines. They can be good, they can be bad, but usually they’re not so great. And then sometimes life comes and hits you with a spike bat in the temple, and you have to decide where to go from there.

Some people go down, and some decide to say, ‘Oh, okay, what’s next.’ That attitude will save you. It’ll bring you places that you’ve never gone, because you can come back each time stronger than ever. It’s an attitude you have to have in life.

That’s why travel is so important, you become resourceful. When you’re stuck at a Japanese train station at 3 am because you got the schedule wrong, and it’s raining and there’s no other train back to your Airbnb, it’s not like ‘Oh, woe is me.’ It’s like ‘Okay, so what do I do now?

And that attitude of being stuck and having to rise up against challenges through travel, especially solo backpacking, is where I got the mindset and the confidence to be able to tackle my own problems in life.

Why do you think some people are able to take the action to overcome their fears so much more than other people?

I don’t know what the ingredient to the secret sauce is, but for me it was catastrophe. After my routine and all my stability shattered, I was able to act out of character. Like I said, if I feel like I’m blessed with one gift, it’s that when disaster strikes, I say, ‘Okay, how can I build a back up from here.’

Once I saw how life changing doing that was, I started to do it willingly. That’s why I go looking for things like bungee jumping, and backpacking and tenting in the forest by myself, these little like ‘micro-crises’ – to reassemble who I am.

I also find a lot of solace and direction in journaling. When life is just playing dirty, I like writing stuff down. Why do I feel this way? Why did this happen? Could I do anything about it?

In the beginning I would write down things in my life – friendships, relationships, happiness, money, passions, different topics, and I’d rate them one to five.

From there I’d ask myself why. ‘Okay, so money is three? Why do I feel money is three out of five? Could I do anything different? What if it was five out of five? What would I have to do to make it five out of five?

Just breaking down each one of these topics in my life, because we don’t ever think about this stuff critically. This can be scary stuff to confront, but once you write it down, and you think about it, and you tease out the bits and pieces, things start to become a little more clear. 

And from there, you can make big changes.

Any more advice for people looking to break down the bars around them?

Try to also understand where the fear comes from. Being able to trace back a route to why you feel this way about something is really powerful stuff. For me, it helped me realise that I wasn’t this unique fear snowflake – being scared wasn’t this dirty little secret that no one could know about. Instead, it was just the logical result of previous events in my life, and something I could overcome.

Also understand that you can make facing your fears fun. It can be gamified. It can be an event that you’re excited to pursue. For me, it was all about reading some books. I remember one of the very first things I read about gamifying this fear response was in ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferriss, forever ago.

I also learned an important lesson from breakdancing. No one really knows what exactly breakdancing is meant to look like, they don’t know the exact moves, just that it’s supposed to be crazy with flips and stuff. And in breakdancing, no matter what happens, no matter if you did the best move or the worst move, you mess up, you fall down, you always step up and end with a confident stance, it’s called the b-boy stance

You do that because people will be like, ‘Oh, okay, he meant to do that.’ That goes for anything in front of people – if you look like you’re having fun, and you act confident, and you don’t acknowledge your mistakes, no one knows you made them. So that’s how I approach a lot of the stuff in my life when I’m the centre of attention.

You have a tattoo for the Latin word to enquire. What does it mean to you?

That was the first tattoo I got – right on my ribs. I get tattoos after I go through a major life change. Each one was when I made a decision to go more down my path.

I got that first tattoo when I was 18, when I realised that asking questions and being curious is one of the most important things anyone could ever do to find their place in the world. And I still live by it.

Do you have any other mantras?

There’s a quote  by Joseph Campbell that I live by, which is “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” And that sums up in a very romantic way my attitude towards fear.

Which books changed the way you think?

I talked about how speaking is one of the most important things we do – ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie – it teaches you how humans work. There’s still a lot of lessons in there that I use. Things like how someone’s name is the most important word in their entire life, because by using it you make someone feel appreciated, which is what we all want at our core. I’ve got several note apps on my phone, and when I meet someone I’ll often write down their name, and something about them. Then I won’t forget it, because I’ve attached an association to it.

I already mentioned Joseph Campbell, he has a lot of great books like ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ or ‘The Power of Myth’.

These books talk a lot about how stories impact our lives. How they all follow a certain structure, and if we can align our own lives with this structure, we can find our purpose in life more easily. Another quote he has is, “We’re not searching for the meaning of life, we’re searching for the feeling of being alive.”

I’m having a hard time reading paper these days – the world’s changed me to listening to podcasts or audio books. But I think paper is really important because you sit down and devote time to it. You’re there, you’re present.

How have you gone about escaping the backpacker bubble?

Nowadays I don’t care too much about catching the pokemon. I don’t need to go to the Eiffel Tower if I’m in France, I don’t need to get photos of all the most important things people think I should see, because some list says it’s the best.

I always try to order off-menu, in the sense that I go find a tour operator, and I’ll ask them, where would you take your family? What’s another temple that’s maybe a bit further away, that’s not on the pamphlet? I’ll try to find out the secret menu, let’s call it.

You usually have to pay a bit more for a private guide or something like that. But if you get some friends together, you can split it and then you go somewhere new, you go somewhere different, where you don’t see very many tourists. There’s always another place you can go.

Finally, what is your advice for young people?

Heavily analyse these things in your life that you think you’re not good at, and think you’re scared about. You could very well be scared, but analyse why you’re scared and how you think that could be holding you back in life.

We’re all in cages of various sizes and with bars of various thicknesses. So ask yourself, what are the bars on my cage right now? How many of them are self-induced, self-built? Of course, we’re all going to have things in our lives that are outside of our control. But there’s always bars on the cage that you’ve built yourself.

And you are very much in charge of and responsible for being able to dismantle those. For me, it absolutely changed my life. I went from a guy who had a phobia, panic attacks, blackout terrified of public speaking to being a full time world traveller who makes good money doing the exact thing I was blackout terrified to do. And people don’t believe me, man. 

You’re very much capable of having the dream life, the thing you’ve always wanted, but you can’t be scared of putting yourself out there. 

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