Travel, Fears, and How They Coexist
I was lying flat down on my apartment floor, paralyzed with fear and pain, beating my arms on the floor, crying, and screaming aloud about why this had happened. A routine Monday morning had been interrupted by a call from my aunt, telling me that my mom had unexpectedly passed away. You see my mom had a certain invincibility to her. She volunteered, worked her ass off for years at a job where she was undervalued, rarely missed a service at the church she had spent decades at, and took care of everyone else before she took care of herself, which too, was flawless, being that I knew of her only ever having to go to the hospital once. Fear enveloped me. When my father passed away several years ago, it set off a string of events, each unraveling my life more and more. But I had now come way too far and created too good of a life for it to all just unravel again.
This is one of the days I find myself missing mom more than most. She'd want to hear me verbally say that I had completed my taxes and talk about what happened in Boston, if just to say she loves me and to hear my voice.
Last Monday, April 15, some of those fears and emotions returned, as strong as they had since my mom's passing, causing me to email the words above to my best friend Matt. That's because that while my mother and I didn't talk on the phone frequently (Just once a week most of the time), April 15 would've been a day that she called, even though it was me who typically called her. I just know that while being miles away from tragedy that dominated every news station, she would've just wanted to hear my voice and be assured that I was alright. And it's a moment that I would've wanted to hear my mom's voice and tell her that I loved her too. Because it's moments like those in which I realize that time is life's real currency and one day we'll realize that we have less time than we think.
It's been four months since I got that call about my mom's passing. I didn't stay on the floor very long and my life didn't unravel. After a couple minutes on the floor, I stood up, collected myself, and made a conscious decision to not let fear envelop me, but rather confront it and use it as opportunity. I took that moment and my life by the horns and decided that it wouldn't be death that won that day, but rather the well lived, legendary life of my mom that would win the day and be celebrated through my actions both on that day, and the days to come. From as young as I can remember, my mom had ingrained in me this idea of taking every opportunity, whether good or bad, and making the absolute best of it. What better way to apply that then at this moment when she was no longer there for that principle to be spoken, but only lived.
It's tragedies like the events that happened in Boston that often bring into question the value of travel. Is travel safe any more? Do the rewards of travel outweigh the risks? Are the fears worth the cost of travel? If I've heard these questions once, I've heard them a million times. My mom often worried about me, much more than my other siblings. She didn't always understand my lifestyle of travel and worried that it would end up costing me. I'd be remiss if I didn't say that I've had my share of close calls, such as being at Centennial Olympic Park the night of the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing, Do these events question and challenge my lifestyle of travel? Yes, just as much as losing someone who I love has challenged my lifestyle at home.
I don't think anyone would have blamed me if I would have taken the entire next month off from life, work, travel, and writing following my mom's passing. I could have separated myself from the world, crawled into my own little cave, and no one would have faulted me for it. But I didn't (Which isn't to say that others shouldn't do that). The day of my mom's funeral I wrote the following post about the silver lining in the clouds and just a couple days later I was back in the swing of life in Seattle. Did it slow me down? You're damn straight it did. But I think life often slows us down, making us come to a near standstill, to give us perspective, broaden our worldview, and remind us what's important. We don't stop, we don't quit. We renew, replenish, and continue on.
I have a lot of fears. I'm scared to move somewhere that I have to make friends all over again. I'm scared of ever getting into a long-term relationship that I may fail at. I'm scared of starting a business that may be unsuccessful. I'm scared to write a book that will get all one-star reviews on Amazon. I'm scared to drink vodka again. I'm scared that the next Star Wars movie will suck. I'm scared to travel to a country that I don't know the language of. But if no one did that thing they were scared of, what creativity, strength, and uniqueness would there be to the world?
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
The fact is that my desire to challenge myself, be a better human, travel the world, and be changed, overrides my fears every time. I truly believe that life isn't so much about what happens to us, but rather how we react to what happens. I won't stop moving, going, traveling. Some part of travel and adventure finds its way into my life on a daily basis. There may come a day when I want to do nothing else but settle, but that day is not today. Until then, I'll book last minute trips, try foods that look disgusting, dance with strangers, attempt foreign languages, climb mountains, and explore the world.
What fears have you conquered through travel?