Friday, February 12, 2016

An Open Letter to Scared Travellers

First of all, I totally understand. Even the simplest trip, so much can go wrong.

As I settle into my second exchange year, and become more accustomed to travelling, I get a similar question all the time, for different reasons, but from countless people. "Aren't you scared?"

Of course I am.

And that's what's great.

I have no idea what's going on most of the time. I'm in an unfamiliar culture. What if I lose my passport? What if I get robbed? What if people are mean? What if I get lost? What if..what if..what if? Those are the common, mostly global fears. There's also a second kind of fear, and this stems from the region I'm currently studying in. I'm presently in Istanbul, Turkey, and if you've seen the news, some of you may think I'm in some danger being here. But, so are you. Every day. Sitting at home. Driving to work. Sitting in class. I know it sucks to say, but something bad can happen anywhere.

This reasoning is how I try to explain to skeptics how I step past my fear and try to see as much of the world as possible. I received this advice from a colleague before I left, and I've clung to it. I stand by it. This reasoning, along with another tried and true saying you might've heard: "life begins outside your comfort zone." And oh, how it's true. It's like you're standing on the edge of a cliff, and all you have to do is jump. Dig into your feelings of fear, test them. I've travelled alone a lot now, and I still get worried showing up in another country unattended, but so far I've had nothing to worry about. However, each time I go, I still get worried...and I still go.

The same conclusion can be brought about both kinds of fear. Don't let it stop you. Don't let anything or anyone stop you. I would rather get lost every day for the rest of my life, than feel stable. I learn more, I see more, and I'm humbled by every experience.

Yes, humbled. As if this couldn't be filled with more cliches, I've got to throw another one in. As a person from the United States, I was unconsciously scared of the rest of the world. It was far, it was different, and it was...well, foreign. The food was different, the language was different, the culture was different; oh, the horror. We always think that people are fundamentally different, insurmountably different if we leave the place we know. But, people are people. In every country. People have families. People have problems, jobs, friends, pets, homework, a favorite coffee shop...most of the fear I mentioned above negates all of this. And by breaking through that barrier to learn that the line you've drawn in your mind between you and the rest of the world is total crap, well, it makes it easier to do again and again, for the rest of your life (which, is kind of my plan).

Basically, I get your fear. Every bit of it. Now smash it to bits and get on that plane.

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