I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so…scared!
On facing your fears, traveling in Central America, and white water rafting.
My first ever camping trip got rained out, a malady that would plague every other camping trip I ever took with my college friends from that point on. It was the summer after my sophomore year of college, and we had crossed the state border to go white water rafting in Wisconsin.
In truth, I was more than a little relieved when, on the second morning, we packed our bags and headed to my friend’s cabin instead of hitting the rapids. I was scared.
If you’re a regular reader here on my ole blog, you’ve probably noticed by now that I sound a little bit like a broken record. I am scared. I am scared of this. I scared of that. I am scared of everything. White water rafting. Bungee jumping. Making phone calls. Traveling alone. Telling boys how I feel.
If you’re not a regular reader, you should probably know this about me: I am scared. I am scared of this. I scared of that. I am scared of everything. White water rafting. Bungee jumping. Making phone calls. Traveling alone. Telling boys how I feel.
Later that summer, we returned to Whitelake, Wisconsin to try again. This time, the sky was clear enough that we could mount our two-person rafts to paddle down the rapids. As I put on my orange life jacket I wondered, as I so often do, “What have I gotten myself into?”
I cried a little. And it didn’t help that out of everyone there I was stuck in a raft with the one person I knew least in my group of new friends. As soon as we hit a little turbulence, I panicked. By the end of the journey, as we peaked over the edge and glided down a waterfall, I was still terrified.
But, I survived. And I even had a little fun along the way.
The trouble is, while I have impeccable memory for many things, I tend to forget that things I am afraid of are actually enjoyable. And that I am capable of doing them. And so, the next time I went rafting, and the next. I got scared every time. I cried every time. I panicked every time. But, every time, I pushed through, strapped on my life jacket, wiped away my tears, and had fun by the end. Even when I was thrown from the raft and got trapped under the boat. I made it. I survived. And I had damn fun doing it.
I forget that I can hold my breath and find my way out from under a boat. I forget that I can get over rejection. Eventually, at least. I forget that I love traveling. And that I am perfectly capable of traveling the world alone. And that I traveled for a year in Asia and came back in one piece.
I come back to the real world. I let time slip by. I forget what I am capable of. And I panic.
I’ve been saying for the past four months, since I got home from Thailand in October, that I’m going to Central America “in about a month.” But I kept pushing it back, not booking my ticket, not making any plans. “I’m not ready,” I’d say. “I’m enjoying it here,” I’d say. “My old job wants me to work for a little longer,” I’d say.
But the truth really is that I am scared. It was in India that I decided that I wanted to go on to Central and South America. “If I can survive India, I can survive anywhere,” I thought.
But now, back in the comfort of Chicago, I forget those feelings.
It really didn’t help either that every time I told someone I am going to Central America they’d say “be careful, it’s really dangerous there.” And every time it tugged at my soul. And I’d start to think, “It’s dangerous there.” “I’m going to get robbed.” “I’d going to die.” And those thoughts just replayed in my head any time I even thought about booking a ticket.
A few weeks ago an article was published about a woman who was killed in Turkey. The comments on the article were all along the lines of “women shouldn’t travel alone,” and “Turkey is so dangerous.”
I found myself yelling at the people in my computer: travel is not dangerous. Women can (and should) travel alone. Turkey was an amazing and safe place. I traveled there alone. I was fine.
And then I realized that those were pretty much the same people who were telling me that Central America is so dangerous and were questioning the fact that I would be traveling there alone.
Granted, I know Central America can be dangerous. I know that. But, hello, I live in Chicago. Which pretty much has one of the highest murder rates in the world. I can just as easily get shot on the CTA.
Still, I’m not ready to go.
And I’m scared.
But I will never be ready to go.
And I will always be scared.
So, over the weekend, I bit my lip and forced myself to book a plane ticket to Guatemala. I leave on March 12, in less than three weeks.
Yes I am scared. No, I don’t feel prepared. But, as I think I’ve proven time and again, I can do it.
And it will be amazing.
Scan all of my old photos is number 93 on my life list. It’s an ongoing project.
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