What are you afraid of? For me, there is no better question when it comes to travel. The risk of something happening when I am in flight, overseas or just on the road is something to consider; thinking too much about what may happen could hold you back from the trip you are destined to discover.
“Fear is not real,” I tell my children, “but danger is.” When I was a child living in Japan, I did not know what a typhoon was until I lived through one. I can remember the moment that I was most afraid: when the wind sounded like the tornado in “The Wizard of Oz” but louder – the echoes of some monstrous train – moving straight toward my little brother, who was hiding in the corner of the room. I do not remember many things beyond that sound. I’m not even sure where my sister or the housekeeper were, as my parents were away on a trip to Taiwan. When the typhoon finally hit, I was sure I was going to die unless I was swept up like Dorothy into the middle of the funnel. I was so frightened, I saw the Wicked Witch of the West ride right through the room from one side to the other and Toto in her basket.
The mind can play tricks with fear. It can convince you something is real when it isn’t. It can also help you cope when in real danger. In the eighth grade, I went to a party that I wasn’t supposed to attend. As me and another person were walking through a dark and unfamiliar neighborhood, a car slowed for two men inside to ask if we wanted a ride. We smartly answered no, but as we walked to the next house we could find, no one answered the door. The men circled the car back down the street, so we began to run. We ran for several streets between houses until we thought we were safe, but the car turned each corner. I remember running into a yard and laying down in the shadow of a tree, praying my body was small enough to not be spotted; all I remembered was the danger.
I survived that night, and I carry those life lessons with me. Just recently, I found my 1968 health report from the University of Michigan that confirmed my Legg-Calve-Perthes disease – a hip-bone disease that can be mitigated through non-weightbearing treatment. Going through those reports was not easy. I remember the terrible fear and shame I felt for being ill, the embarrassing X-ray process, what seemed to be endless days of doctor visits and standing out when all I wanted to do was blend in. I
mostly remember walking after nine months for the first time and how it felt to put fear behind me.
People can do amazing things with their brains. They can overcome fear, even hit danger head on. They can also learn to be fearless when it feels like fear will swallow them whole. I have friends and relatives who have overcome fear and depression, and I have been in many dangerous situations and survived.
You will, too. How?
You will need to move forward and travel beyond
the borders of not only yourself, but the world. Nothing will help you more than a walk on the beach, the sound of a cool stream or the light at the end of a new path.
If you are stuck in a job you hate, suffer from unimaginable grief, have been diagnosed with an illness that has stopped you cold or fear taking the next step in your dreams, sit down and talk with your mind for a minute: tell it — no, scream at it — that you are not listening; tell it you are going to be OK; tell it you are not in danger; and tell it that fear is not real, danger is. You are already traveling.