Fear can be crippling, makes you feel helpless, and seems to encompass your world at the most inconvenient of times. To put it simply, life is just a series of decisions. Ones that you make. So ultimately, you can become your biggest advocate or you can be your biggest inhibitor. The feeling of fear is a huge part of that. I cannot even begin to put into words how much I’ve learned backpacking by myself for the past 6 months in Southeast Asia. Traveling alone can be the most liberating and exciting experience, when you learn to entertain yourself, are forced to stick to your decisions, and hopefully gain a newfound sense of confidence. It can be difficult for some people to accept that things will go wrong and you will make mistakes while traveling, or just in life in general. My mom always says “You can’t control what happens to you, only your reactions to them“. So I have taken on the attitude that every experience is either a cherished memory or a really great story. This doesn’t just apply to traveling, and it can change the way we live our lives.
Writing this post was inspired by a conversation I had with a fellow traveler, Anna, who I never would’ve met if I didn’t come to Myanmar, a country I wasn’t planning on visiting and knew close to nothing about. Anna moved to Vietnam to teach English for a year after graduating from college, and she is a total badass. I have loved traveling with her and her friend Cynthia and I know I will stay in touch with both of them in the future.
When you let go of your fears, you can almost feel the internal shift in your mindset. When you do, some peculiar things happen:
- Life becomes a lot easier. Suddenly, you stop worrying and begin to enjoy each moment for what it is, whether you are on an around-the-world trip, or just planning a fun weekend getaway. Having faith that everything will work out can truly shift the way you approach any situation in life. You don’t feel the need to stress out about things that will turn out just fine in the end. How many times have you felt extreme stress about something and realized afterwards that you never needed to worry about it in the first place? Think about how much easier your life would become if you just didn’t.
- You open your world to opportunities, people, and experiences that you couldn’t have ever imagined. I truly believe that the best experiences come from the things you say yes to even when your immediate reaction is to say no. Take a boxing class in Yangon with someone you just met from a Facebook group? Sure. Do a homestay on a remote island in the Philippines with a family you’ve never met? Why not. Don’t think of what could possibly go wrong and things will (usually) go right. And even if they don’t, you’re going to have a really entertaining story.
- You feel centered, confident, and capable of so much more than you believed. I have never felt more at peace than I do right now, traveling in Southeast Asia completely on my own. I’ve felt these changes within myself because of the experiences I’ve had only because I made the leap and booked a one-way flight. Did I have that glimmer of doubt when I was planning this crazy trip? Absolutely. But I didn’t worry about it and guess what, it all worked out just fine :).
- You become a “do-er”. You no longer sit wishing you were somewhere else or waiting for the next exciting thing to happen. You make it happen. I recently realized that the people I admire most are all “do-ers”. Like my friend Jackie, who moved to Taiwan when a job opportunity fell through, knowing it would work out regardless. She found the perfect teaching job and a place to live in a matter of days. My new Australian grandma I met on a dive boat, Sylvia, who backpacks around the world staying in hostels at the ripe age of *somewhere in her 70s*, doesn’t let fear get in her way. Like my friend Lizzie, who had a few weeks between jobs and didn’t have anyone to travel with to Cambodia. She went alone and had a fantastic time. Or my friend, Greg, who sold his house in London and booked a flight to Thailand to start a new life, knowing he’d figure it out. All of these people don’t wish or talk about doing something, they just let go of their fears and do it.
So say yes. When your heart flutters with nerves or you feel yourself overthinking something, just do it. When you think to yourself “I wish I could do that” or “what if ___ happens”, stop making excuses and make it happen. Book the one-way flight. Apply for the job. Move across the world. Write the book. Go back to school. People say that good things happen to those who wait, but I say good things happen to those who make them happen. Follow your dreams because you are truly the only one who has the power to make them a reality. Fear will always exist: it’s human nature. So as my favorite trash can quote says, feel the fear and do it anyway.
Do you have any stories of when you let go of your fears and something incredible happened? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section! As always, thanks for reading :).