A few years ago, when I was preparing to travel to Belize, a friend of mine asked me what my plans for the trip were. Specifically she wanted to know if I had a place to stay arranged before I arrived.
When I told her no, she was aghast. What would I do if I got there and there wasn’t a room available anywhere? She wouldn’t have been able to handle traveling so far away without making those arrangements beforehand.
I guess that’s what separates me from a lot of people. I get a big thrill out of not knowing what is going to happen next; it’s adventurous.
I wasn’t always like this. In fact, I was quite the opposite. I grew up in a small city in North Dakota where the most adventurous thing you could do was take a road trip to Winnipeg, Canada.
It’s one of the safest parts of the world I’ve ever been to. There’s really nothing to fear there.
When I was growing up, I was so unaccustomed to anything adventurous that visiting nearby Minneapolis was a scary thing for me. The city is so huge and there are so many people there. It was far outside my comfort zone at the time.
Of course, the idea of Minneapolis being scary seems laughable to me now. After all, that’s where I currently live.
I can’t help but contrast how I was back then with how I am now.
When I was in Morocco a few months ago, I took a walk through a park in downtown Casablanca. The city is renowned as being more dangerous than most places in Morocco, but I felt perfectly fine.
It helped that I had lived there for more than a month by then. My apartment was just around the corner from there. But still, this was a long way away from that child who wouldn’t venture more than a block away from his parent’s house.
Between that time when I was a child and now, something had changed. At one point, I had stopped avoiding scary and uncertain situations and started embracing them. Instead of seeing the unknown as something to be feared, I saw it as something to seek out.
Most people see fear and uncertainty as things to avoid. They’re considered bad things. Yet, they are important parts of being adventurous.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” This quote sums up my attitude towards life. Go out and do things you’re afraid of. Run towards them rather than away from them.
One of the scariest moments I’ve had while traveling was crossing the Costa Rican border into Nicaragua. The border was a confusing maze of metal fences, beggars and mud. It was so hard to maneuver that I had to hire a local to guide me through it.
It didn’t help that I was walking across the border. I wasn’t in a bus or car – feet only. If I had taken a bus, the process would have been easier and less scary.
But even though it was scary, I enjoyed myself. It was exciting to work my way through the maze-like border.
Crossing the border into Nicaragua also had a sense of uncertainty about it. I didn’t know what I was going to do on the other side. I wasn’t sure if there would be a bus I could take or if I needed to find other forms of transportation.
Arrangements would be made once I got there. I was traveling into the unknown.
Once I crossed the border, I found out that there were no buses to take. However, the local who guided me through the border crossing found a reliable taxi for me. So I took that all the way from the border to Granada.
The ride cost $50, but it was worth it. It was a unique and adventurous experience.
There were some scary moments and a lot of uncertainty, but it’s an adventurous story I’ll never forget.
I wasn’t alone while making this trip. My wife was right there with me. I could see how scary it was for her. After all, this was her first time crossing a border in a third world country.
But in the taxi ride away from the border, I told her that one day we’d look back on this portion of our trip fondly as a great, adventurous experience. That was over three years ago. Today we both look back on it as one of the greatest experiences of the whole trip.
It might seem crazy to do things like this, but I find it fun. When you face down a scary situation, it feels good. You feel alive.
That feeling is something you can only get when you embrace and love fear and uncertainty.
It’s weird to think that I used to be scared of exploring past a block from my parent’s house. I’ve come so far. But the more you love fear and uncertainty and seek them out, the more adventurous your life can become.
photo credit: inottawa