I’ve come up with a new interactive feature that I hope you’ll enjoy. Are you itching to find out about the exotic world of travel writing, desperate for hot hints on destinations and money saving travel tips, or just bored and looking for a monkey to prod with a stick? Well now’s your chance…
I call it “Reader’s Questions.” Okay, yeah, that’s pretty lame. But if I called it ober dictum you wouldn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
Anyway…. it’s a fun and occasionally insightful new feature that we’ll slot in from time to time between travel stories.
If you’ve got a pressing question you’d like to ask, please post it to the comments, contact me by email through my website, or get it to me via Facebook or Twitter. I’ll answer your most interesting questions right here on the blog.
We’ll get the ball rolling with a whiff of danger…
Jill from Ontario, Canada asked: Do you enjoy risk-taking? What was your most frightening experience?
I did jump out of airplanes a few times when I was 18—my first three times in a plane, actually—but I’m not motivated by the pursuit of adrenalin sports. I’m not averse to risk, but I don’t need it to get a rush either. It’s not danger that attracts me but life.
Most things that seem frightening really aren’t so in the moment. When things happen they happen fast, and you have no choice but to take action, to shift immediately into solution mode.
For example, my first time in a plane I jumped out with a parachute. When it opened the chute was all twisted up, one of three problems short of catastrophic failure that they’d told us about in the very brief ground school I attended the day before. I never thought about it at all, about the ground rushing up or the speed of my descent. I simply took note of the problem and immediately began to untangle it. We’d been trained, I’d gone over and over it, and it was time to act.
It’s tough to think of a time when I was truly and completely frightened in the moment. I suppose that, just as the most challenging aspects of travel for me are the mental ones, the fearful aspects are as well.
In that regard, the most frightening experience I can think of offhand was my arrival in Panama City. It was my first time alone on the road, and I’d purchased a one-way ticket into Panama and out of Belize so I’d have no way to cut the journey short. That first night, sitting there completely alone in a tiny hotel room, in a place where I didn’t speak the language, with the street noise—loud engines, shouting people, what sounded like gunshots—coming in through the window, I realized I’d gotten in over my head. Never in my life had I felt so alone, and I didn’t know how I’d make it through. All I could see were the months and months that stretched ahead. It was all a blank. Total uncertainty.
Think about what that means. Our lives are composed of routines we take for granted—work times, school times, TV shows, regular meals, brushing one’s teeth… These comforting routines lend shape to our lives. They give us some sort of structured reality, and they connect us to the lives of those around us. I’d severed all that in a single stroke. I had no idea what the next day would hold, or even the next hour. And it completely terrified me. Of course that turmoil passed with the light of dawn, but it was a long, long night.
In hindsight this was all just a part of learning to let go. And I think that’s one of the greatest lessons of travel. Learning to accept things as they are. Not imposing your own pre-conceived agenda on a situation you can’t control. Knowing when to sit back and wait, and when to follow those paths that the Road will show you if only you’re patient enough to listen.