Perspectives From A Timid Traveler: Part 2
“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.” – Wilfred Peterson
As a self professed anxious adventurer, diving headfirst into the full-time traveling lifestyle we now find ourselves would have been an absolute disaster if I hadn’t been planning and preparing in small ways before we left. Not all of us can have the sense of adventure of Robinson Crusoe, or the courage and trailblazing spirit of Sacajawea, but we gotta start somewhere. In the beginning, I found it helpful to start with small things like seeing my own city through the eyes of a visitor from out of town. That meant, going to different parts of town I never had before; trying new restaurants instead of sticking to my regulars (or at the very least trying a new dish!); and taking opportunities when I could to step outside of my comfort zones. One of the ways I did this before we left was to get my sailing certification with my husband. I am not someone who reads the wind, the sails, or the tides like a natural. I struggled big time, but I did it! I will never captain our ship and have resigned myself to be a permanent winch wench, but I was super proud of myself for completing the course and for doing something that was challenging and new for me. It may not seem like much, but it definitely felt like a stepping stone for me on setting the stage for cultivating my sense of adventure. So ask yourself, “what is one thing I can do this next week to be more adventurous?”, and then do it!
Travel As A Change Agent
“Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind.” (-Marty Ruben) I love this quote because that has absolutely been my experience. Travel, especially to foreign countries, has a way of changing you whether you want it to or not. I mean sure, there are ways to dig your heels in, refuse to experience the culture you are surrounded by, only eat foods that are familiar, not do or try anything new, exciting, or outside your comfort zones, and experience only the ‘touristy’ version of the abroad experience, but what’s the point of that?! I mean seriously?! Some of the best experiences we have had abroad have been renting a room with locals outside the touristy areas. Not only is it MUCH cheaper, but it gives us a much more authentic look at what day-to-day life is like in the countries we have visited and gives us a local’s perspective. We’ve known incredible hospitality and generosity, but also the real struggles that come with living in countries where there has been war, poverty, natural disaster, or are still developing- places where there is no safe drinking water in the home, no plumbing that can handle toilet paper, no close-by markets or grocery stores, limited or no city transportation, and other simple things like kitchen supplies and extra pillows- things we take for granted. When you open yourself up to new experiences, it’s hard not to come out the other end with a more profound sense of gratitude, a deeper love for and connection to your fellow [wo]man, and with a sense that you have been changed, hopefully for the better.
Take a “No Thank You” Bite
When I was first starting out in college I worked at a daycare and one of the things we would always recommend to our preschoolers when exploring new foods was to try a “no thank you bite”. This meant, they could always turn down another helping of something they ended up not liking but that at the very least they got to try something new, and you know what? At least half of the time, they ended up liking that new food they put in their mouths! For me, I assumed that because of my pain issues I wouldn’t enjoy kayaking (or would be too uncomfortable) but when I actually did it, I had a blast. Snorkeling was another story, however, and after taking my “no thank you bite” I passed on a second helping and decided to stay on board the ship where I could take pictures of everyone else snorkeling, which suited me just fine. It’s easy to assume that you know yourself well enough to know what you will like or not like, but in my experience of almost two years non-stop traveling, you may be surprised at what you enjoy or don’t enjoy, but the reality is, you won’t know until you just try it. So do yourself a favor- just take a bite.
Change Is Your New Friend
One of the most noticeable differences between my husband and I is in how we perceive change. For me, change meant the scary unknown, for Nick, change and the unknown are the ultimate adventure. ‘Pre-travel me’ was able to acknowledge that change is an inevitable part of life, but I still clung to the routine, the familiar, the comfortable, and the need to plan/map everything out. Nick, however, is at the opposite end of the spectrum and thrives in a constantly changing world. In fact, routine, and familiarity are a recipe for boredom for him- so much so, that he will intentionally ‘get lost’ while driving, just so he can find a new route somewhere- he is the epitome of a trailblazer. I am not. I have panic attacks if my GPS doesn’t work and I don’t know exactly where I am going. So this whole relationship with ‘change’ was one I obviously needed to address if I was going to harness my inner Sacajawea.
This process has been two fold for me- letting go of the illusion of control while tackling the ensuing anxiety, and truly embracing the here-and-now. This practice (and I do mean practice!) has led to a metanoia for me- a genuine shift of mind and new way of thinking. I’ve gotten very good at telling myself, “whatever happens, happens”, and “we’re here now, so let’s just enjoy the experience”. These simple phrases have literally changed the way I see my life and have helped quiet the anxiety I found myself perpetually experiencing as my world, surroundings, home, and life constantly changed as we traveled the globe. So my advice, for those not thrown into the deep end of the nomad lifestyle- get lost on purpose sometimes; don’t plan everything out all the time (in fact, challenge yourself to go out for an entire day where you just wing it every step of the way); and soothe those anxious thoughts with some positive affirmations. Go on! Get your inner Sacajawea on!
So here’s what I have noticed about myself and about my life since embracing a life of adventure- I am less anxious and fearful, much more flexible, more confident, much more willing to try new things, have a more positive outlook and attitude, am less attached to things or places to find my comfort and am more able to self soothe, am able to handle obstacles and issues that come up more effectively, and have found a new sense of joy that comes from the freedom of living a life outside of routine. Not that the life of a nomad adventurer doesn’t have its drawbacks, but for now we are enjoying living in the moment and embracing the unknown, timid no more.