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Fear factor: Strangest travel phobias

Patrick H. Lauke

Escalaphobia, the fear of escalators, can be tough to handle in Hong Kong's moving stairwells. Built in 1993, the entire system covers more than 2,600 feet as it elevates over 443 feet from the Central to the Mid-Levels neighborhoods.

Disneyland’s Space Mountain is infamous for long lines, but the only visitors it literally scares away are those who suffer from macrophobia, the fear of waits.

Slideshow: Take at look the oddest travel phobias

Everyone has some kind of phobia, whether they admit it or not. Some are common and understandable such as 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. “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.

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