Monday, July 26, 2010

Fear Factor

Someone recently asked me, "What was your biggest fear about traveling by yourself?   What was the scariest part?"

I looked at her, honestly, and said it was all scary.

Here's the thing.   I am a 30 something year old female and up until three months ago, I've never traveled by myself.    Ever.   I have traveled extensively, but always with the comfort of others.    Traveling by yourself is an entirely different ball game, and therefore, it is all scary.   At first.

My friends all looked at me like I was crazy, thinking to themselves and out loud, "Right, so then why'd you choose to do two months alone... in Europe no less where you can't speak the language?"

In hindsight, I'm thinking to myself it is really no big deal, now that I've done it, but I answer with something I've thought quite a bit about.

"What's the worst that could have happened to me?"

Head nodding.   Approval.

Then I say something else.

"Really, so I eat something bad or end up sleeping on the street one night, it's not the end of the world."

The second part really shouldn't have come out of my mouth.   No more head nodding.  

"Seriously?  Sleeping on the street?  Lots of stuff could happen to you."

My sales pitch has fallen flat.   I kind of agree with them.   It could have been bad.  I should have picked another example.   I know full well that bad things can happen.   My brother has a great story about sleeping one night in a train station in Rome and waking up with his backpack, along with passport and any cash he had available, missing.   Cut right off his back.

Ok, so poor example.   The point is, that really, millions of people travel alone.   Many much younger than any of us and the vast majority have lived to tell about it.   More importantly, many, including myself, experienced life changing adventures which really is why you travel anyway.

I bring it back to reality.    "There were definitely a couple of really scary moments.   I was most fearful of traveling from Rome to Paris.  I don't know Paris that well, had no idea where I was and truly can't understand the language.    That day was probably one of my most intense.   Fear, anxiety, the whole thing.   But I survived, and more than that, I loved it."

The thing is, anything new is always a little scary.    I remember having an intense fear of public speaking, but with practice and time, I now rather enjoy it.   Sometimes you just need to jump in with two feet and see what happens.   If we never try, we never learn and if we never learn, really... what's the point?  

I was nervous on my first trip to the market in Rome.    Nervous to buy something.   Afraid I may screw something up.

Here's where you should be asking... "Really, what's the worst that could have happened?" and you'd be entirely right.

Anxiety takes over and until the act is done and you can look back, it is a big deal at the time.  Someone could have laughed at me which would have, at that moment, been the ultimate terror.   Tear inducing.

But that didn't happened.  I fumbled through some pseudo conversation about the use of a bag and left the store victorious.   Proud.   Hmmmm... not so bad.  

I arrive in Paris, post freak out, and what's the first thing I do?  I go to the market.   And I'm not scared.   I don't understand a word the cash register person says to me, but I just nod and smile and she sort of dismisses me.  I don't really care anymore if she's laughing at me.  I did the best that I could.  Something that was really scary for me the first time around is now not a big deal at all.  

Today I was out for my daily walk in the forest.    The heat index had lessened over night and I was excited to breathe some fresh air.   I threw on my black hat that John and I got from friends after the recent Susan G. Komen walk for breast cancer in Raleigh.   The hat means a lot as it signifies a milestone reached by one of our fellow group walkers, a clean statement of health after battling breast cancer for past several years.     The hat is also an awesome hat in itself as it has an extra long brim so it shades my face really well.   It also keeps my eyesight focused on the ground as I walk, somehow making my walks go faster as I don't see the long straight road in front of me.

I also don't see anything ahead of me.   Like the giant six foot long black snake stretched across the entire dirt path today.   I swear it had a beady yellow eye and a forked tongue.   If I were a cat, I would have leaped straight up into the air at the sight of this thing.   I seriously almost stepped on it.   Scariest thing ever.   I am terrified of snakes.   I froze and then I start running furiously, never looking back.

Every day I walk this path.   Some days it is filled with people.  Some days it is just me out there by myself.    I am so comfortable there that I forgot to pay attention.    I don't even ask myself "What's the worst that could happen to me?" because this is such a common part of my life that I don't even think about it.  I'm sure it wasn't a killer snake or anything, but I think you see my point.

So I guess the point of all this rambling today is not to let fear stop you from doing something.   No risk.   No reward.    Just don't get so comfortable that you forget to keep your wits about you.   There will be snakes up ahead in your path.   But there will also be the sweet trio of deer and that tiny little turtle waiting if you persevere.    Happy trails...


  1. What a great post! I love the book Eat.Pray.Love, which your story reminds me of. I would like to think I could do something as brave as that, but with three little one's I am going to have to wait a while to find out. :)

  2. I know exactly how you felt! I had hardly gone anywhere on my own, then in October I moved from Ohio to Germany. I'd hardly even been on an airplane before! Scary, indeed... but worth it. :)

  3. really great post. it's been a loooong day, and this was so refreshing to read. :)

  4. ps - i've got something for you on my blog. :)


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