Tuesday, June 16, 2015

the different countries of fear

In New York, in the months preparing to embark on the longest and most chaotic international trip of my life, I feared I would never leave in the first place. I feared that working a full-time job, bartending on the weekends, and being a full-time student wasn't enough. "I am, no way in hell, going to ever save enough money to sustain myself for the following months, nor am I going to be able to register for all these online courses," I thought, occasionally. I feared my feet were rooted on the grounds on which I walked every day. Alas, I bought my one way ticket to Europe, and never looked back.

Within my first week of being in Italy, my first stop in Europe, I thought "OK, this is it. I'm doing it. There's no need to be scared anymore." If only we lived in a world where emotions functioned on logic. That kind of pep-talk never worked for me, but yes I still do it. My fears escalated by ten fold. Even though I was loving every second of Italy and with b, exploring Florence and then Rome, living together in our own little hut, I feared I had made a mistake by leaving a job I liked, a home and family I adored, and a school I loved to simply travel the world. I feared irrational circumstances: that my friends and family would forget about me, and I would, somehow, never make it back. I even had dreams about people I know claiming they did not know me anymore. I was out of my comfort zone, and that scared me deeply. How could I leave behind my comfortable little bubbled life back home in the greatest city in the world?

After that first month of initial home sickness, when I had finally found home on the road, b and I were in Poland visiting my family. At this point, I had come to terms with the fact that I would not see my friends and family for a long time, yes I quit my job, and I had found online courses to register for so no, I would not have to give up school, and all that was OK. But fear is tricky. Each family member we visited, I feared, even more every time, that they would see me as a misguided hippy with no purpose. I dreaded the inevitable questions they would ask me (so, what made you do this? how are you continuing school? what about work? and money?) I would sigh and answer anyway, but to my surprise, every single one of them were welcoming and embraced our aspirations, wishing they had done the same at their age, and pointing us as an inspiration to some of my younger cousins.

From Poland, we had flown to Australia. I knew, of course, that this was going to happen. But my brain kind of didn't. I was in denial. I feared being on a continent I had never been without anyone other than b. I thought, "what if something happens to us? I have no one I really know on that entire continent. And oh, it is SO far away." Sure enough, my first week on the Gold Coast I had terrible nightmares of tsunamis washing over us. But like any other one of my fears, they were wrong. I did have a dear family friend in Adelaide, and b and I instantly grew bonds with tons of new friends we met in Sydney and in some cases, have never felt more at home. And there were no tsunamis (not that knowing someone would've really helped that situation, anyway).

You guessed it: fear quickly came to me in another form. This is where I started to recall, consciously anyway, facing something I feared pretty much every single day. We walked up to the check in desk for our flight to Queenstown, New Zealand and it didn't take five minutes for the lady to say "do you have your return tickets?" My heart raced because I knew what was next. We were being forced to buy our plane tickets back into Sydney that moment, or we could not get on the plane. Instantly, I heard myself think "I knew we were going to spend unnecessary money going to New Zealand. I knew it. Why do we even need to go there? Isn't Australia far enough?" We landed and had no place to stay for the night, except in a tent on a campsite. My heart dropped. This must be a joke, I thought. This isn't happening. And in no time, we rented a camper van and camped through the entire country, facing challenges (fears) every single day. Sleeping in a van on the side of the road being just one of them (what if someone robbed us? shook up our van?). But I am so glad it did happen, all of it. I am so glad I dished out the money that very moment to get on that plane, I am so glad I gulped my fears back down into my stomach and slept on a campsite that night and later in a van, because New Zealand turned out to be thee most beautiful country I have ever seen in my entire life.

In South East Asia, you can bet my fears came to greet me every single day. I feared every single little wooden boat we got on in Vietnam and Thailand (it happens a lot more often than you think) would somehow topple over. I feared that the sleeping floating, again wooden, river house we stayed in outside of Chiang Mai would collapse. I feared thunderstorms on the beach. I feared jumping from a cliff along the Phi Phi islands. I feared snorkeling. I feared getting my things stolen, and even things like getting too tan or crossing the street in Ho Chi Minh.

Whenever it seemed like my fears were gone, and that I was this epic, world traveling, special, finally fearless human being.. they weren't. I wasn't. Fear always caught me. It was like, the only thing I could count on at one point, was fear to be present. It was always there again, taking new shapes and forms in new places. It follows me, ever so diligently.

My fears never, not even once, manifested into the irrational circumstances I had came up with in my head. They were my defense mechanism projecting the worst possible outcome in any situation. They were fiction. But they look out for me. And they tell me I'm going to do something new, something thrilling and exciting and possibly life-changing. Naturally, I tried to steer away from fear as far back as I can remember. Now I run towards it. Reluctantly, still, at times, but I know now that is where the juicy stuff is. Thats where life is. When fear is around, I know I'm doing something right. At any time, in any country, fear is my safety net.

art on the beach in perth, australia
 seoul hiking, south korea

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