7 Weeks, 5000 Miles, 25 Carry-On Pounds, 1 Survivor


“But I love the idea – whether it’s in my work or where I live – exploring new frontiers, and I like putting myself in strange places and trying to survive and figure things out and gather up an infrastructure. I like knowing that I could figure out a way to live anywhere.” ~Madonna Ciccone

Doing what you love is worth the risk.

Did you know that more people than not – natives and visitors both – survive each day in Guatemala? Es verdad. Yet some of what I hear or read would have me believe that no good can come of being there. Of course there are activities with a greater inherent risk of personal harm, like drug-running, blind-folded mountain climbing, and jaguar wrestling. The likelihood of my participation in any of these sports is relatively low (although I do want to keep my options open in case I’m running low on cash).

I lived a long time in fear. I was afraid to graduate from college. I was afraid to have kids. I was afraid to drive in New York City. I was afraid of public speaking. I was afraid to start a blog. I was afraid of pretty much anything new. My white-knuckle solution was to do it anyway. For years this was standard operating procedure. Exhausting. Plus, when you’re always looking for dangers and problems, you see dangers and problems. Exhausting, and not fun.

What happens in real life? If you’ve decided to do something, you figure out the steps to move toward your destination. If you’re committed, you move forward whether you’re afraid or not. And what’s the usual outcome? You complete each step. You get where you’re going. Or not. Sometimes interesting paths present themselves, or circumstances suggest a change in plans. Stuff happens, you deal.

The choice comes down to how you want to live. It’s not about choosing (perceived) risky activities for bragging rights. You choose what makes you happy. You figure out a functional way to make that happen. Just do it. Having the fear is a choice.

Not that I’m not feeling some trepidation about this trip. I’m afraid that my bag will be too heavy and I’ll….get tired. I’m afraid that my bag is too light, that I’ve forgotten something and I’ll….be inconvenienced. I’m afraid of, um, gastrointestinal situations and I’ll….have to ingest large quantities of Pepto-Bismol. I’m afraid of boredom and I’ll….have to be with myself.

I’m afraid that I’ll get lost. Actually, I’m sure I’ll get lost. And then I’ll get unlost, having had an interesting experience along the way. Or not. I’m afraid I won’t learn Spanish as well as I imagine. Oh dear.

Part of the goal of this journey is to practice being in the moment. And fear can’t live there. Fear is about the future, a story we make up. If we breathe enough life into this story, we can bring it alive. Brilliant strategy, eh? How about, just this once, I stay present? Make decisions based on what is, not founded on the disaster movie script running through my head.

I don’t know. Sounds crazy, but it could end up being an amusing habit.

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About ThesePartsUnknown

I write, I travel, I make art.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Fear, Packing, Travel, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 7 Weeks, 5000 Miles, 25 Carry-On Pounds, 1 Survivor

  1. Evelyn King says:

    And here I thought the craziness was already a habit.

  2. Reny willoughby says:

    My shy son Bryan went off to Chile (age 24) left his walet and ATM card in my car as I was driving him to the airport. He not only surrived but had an experience of a life time and came back an out going man.

  3. Sara Jewel says:

    I love you, Mom

  4. Laitma says:

    Wow. I just wanted to say, I really love your blog and what you’ve posted before. I feel very similar to you in a lot of ways–I’ve always been shy and afraid of trying new things. I spent my high school years as well as my undergraduate freshman year just convinced I’d do whatever my parents wanted me to–go become an engineer, get a degree, work a job from 9-5 every day, grow up in boring quiet suburbia, raise kids… And then I entered college and realized I didn’t want to do any of that, that I wanted to pursue my passions and follow my dreams and see the whole world. I had a brilliant chance to go to Ecuador for a study abroad program with my school, and I was hooked. This past summer I went to Panama for a field course. It was the first time I’d ever traveled so far alone, to a country where I couldn’t even speak the language, to stay with people I didn’t know, completely on my own. It changed me as a person, coming out of there alive and, not only that, having loved the time I spent down there.
    I’m sorry for the sudden dump of random rambling, but I’ve been browsing through some of your posts and just really loving what I see. You’ve got a great style to your writing, as well, and it’s just so very inspirational to me. I think I might have to dedicate my life to traveling–having been to Panama just makes me want to see even more of the world.

  5. Good for you for finding out relatively early in life that you can follow your own heart. Thank you for your kind words and sharing your story — maybe if word gets out there that this is okay to do, more people with go for it!

    Your writing is a dangerous thing — here I was, getting ready to leave for the airport at 5:30 in the morning, and found myself getting drawn into your latest post. I promised myself I can read to my heart’s content during a travel day.

    I do bookbinding and artists’ books too — a subject for a future post…

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