What about Fear of water? Phobias: xenophobia definition is a bit simplistic; yes 'strangers' but also more towards the fear of foreigners. Usually, used socially and culturally than just 'strangers' but I digress.
People, characters, are pretty much the reason we read any story. Your MC doesn't have to be perfect, they don't even have to be all that nice, but there is one single important thing they must do to gain the readers' admiration.