Telling people you’re quitting your job, packing up your life, living out of a backpack and moving across the world – always illicits a number of strong emotions and reactions. Mostly, you can see the fear slowly move into their eyes. Their words shout encouragement, but the fear lingers in the silence between pauses, between questions.
“Where are you going? What are you doing there? What made you choose Thailand? Where are you going to stay? Do you know anyone?”
My responses sometimes soothe their anxieties, but the impact is limited and short lived. Inevitably – maybe a week, maybe three – they google, or they see Thailand in a headline, or country-wide protests become world news and four people are dead. That fear immediately comes back to them. The first thing they do – is send you the article. Send it to you with words of caution and alarm, and yes, big fat fear.
Well, concerned friends, family and coworkers of current and future travelers, let me explain something to you. Something you should know before you hit that send button. Something that might surprise you – i already know.
You talk to me about danger, and death and safety. I respond that our own city, Detroit, East Lansing, even my little hometown of Lake Orion, can be just as dangerous. People die all the time. People die walking across the street to their car. They die in boating accidents and from drinking. They die doing things I do every, single day. And to be honest, I don’t plan on joining protests, in fact, I plan on avoiding them. But for some reason – that logic, doesn’t ease your anxiety. So you continue.
But here’s the thing. If it’s not me reading about it during my own research, it’s my dad telling me. It’s everyone at work. And even, friends. I appreciate the fact that I have people out there who do that for me. And I know, just like every other traveler, that you’re just looking out for me, and you care and worry. I know. So do I.
I’m traveling for two days across the Pacific Ocean to go to a country I’ve never been before, where I don’t know a single soul, and don’t speak the language. I’d be a fool to think I don’t need to pay attention, or heed other people’s warnings. Or think I’m not going to trip or fall, or have trouble while I’m there.
I’m scared. I’m nervous. But I’m brave and excited and I’m still going to do it. I’m going to walk right into the face of danger. And I’m going to walk with more faith than fear. Faith that I have the common sense, the capability and courage to go bravely into the unknown and walk out unscathed. (Or maybe a little scathed, but not like a return flight home, maybe just a skinned knee and a bruised ego.) It’s part of the journey (whether that journey is in my college town or in the mountains and grasslands of Phitsanulok Province).
So dear friends, concerned people, please understand that while I’m brave and going into this next phase with courage and faith, I’m scared too. I share your worry and doubt. And sending me those articles, however important and informative, are shaking my nerves even more than I’m already shaking my own.
So what I do ask, while I share your anxiety is that you also share my enthusiasm and excitement.
That you share my sense of adventure and that while you’re looking at the dangers, you’re also looking at the wonders and the beauty of the world. And that you send me those too. You send me tucked away places I should visit that I might not find on my own. And send me cool photos of a gorgeous sunset on the beaches of Bali, or a person holding a coconut. Because as much I know there are dangers, I know there is so much beauty and faraway lands that I’ve never seen.
Share that with me too. And I promise when I get back, I will regale you with tales of wonder. And I will verify if those photographs rang true up close, and what else I saw with my curious, blue eyes.
In the meantime, I’ll try and soothe your fears (as I try and soothe my own). And I’ll give you logic and I’ll feed you curiosity. And I’ll promise that when I land in this foreign city, I will walk with more faith than fear. Because if I don’t, I’ll never make it.
I will walk with more faith than fear.