I’m not sure if I have a fear of airplanes or things that put me in a situation where I completely lack control. When I was younger, I didn’t really fear them. But in the past few years, the fear grew and developed into something that prevented me from travelling even though I really wanted to. And it’s strange, because I don’t fear being in vehicles. I don’t fear boats either. But there’s something about airplanes – these great big cages in the sky – that inspires an existential crisis in me like nothing else.
So when I decided to book this trip, I knew I was putting myself in that cage, and there would be no turning back. I’m honestly surprised I did it. Because I was at this point in my life where existential thoughts were everyday occurrences. And my life was at a standstill in so many regards. I needed change. I needed something that would shake things up, and I needed to swallow my fears in order to do that.
The plane ride both to Europe and back was terrifying. I was a shaking, anxiety-ridden mess with every shake and dip of the plane. But I was able to stabilize myself when the plane was stable. And to some this may not be a big deal. Some have laughed at me and trivialized my fear. But conquering fears is essential to living. I wrote this to inspire myself before I left:
Fear is not a “thing” that exists outside of you. You are your fear. You create it. And you are the only one who can conquer it. Do not prevent yourself from existing because you’re afraid of anything that could cause you to die. Do not rob yourself of experience. Live vividly. Face your darkness with bold bravery.
I lived more vividly in that month in Europe than I have in the past five years. I became addicted to the thrill that novelty brings. I wrote my thoughts on fear and the necessity of change during a ten-hour bus ride to Bosnia:
Sitting here on this bus, driving in Bosnia, thinking about how strange life is. How you can spend the majority of your life not seeing sights like these. Sucking in stale air. Because it’s comfortable. It’s what you know. And you’re too scared to try something new. And similarly you can spend a ton of time with the wrong people. Maybe because you’re scared of getting hurt by someone new. But let me tell you from experience – comfort is stagnant. Taking chances on adventure, on something/someone new, is so important. I wonder how much time I’ve lost to fear. How much experience. I’m not saying I’m going to turn into this adventurous thrill seeker overnight. But I’ve realized on this trip how much I crave novelty. Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. Something can seem impossible. Your mind can get so trapped by comfort that even if you’re not happy, you’ll stay in that situation because it’s all you know. But what if taking a chance is exactly what you need? Maybe I’m just a lost soul, a dreamer, but I’m happy I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone in life when I thought I couldn’t/shouldn’t. I’m happy to be here, even though this bus smells like pee right now, and winding around these mountains is hurting my ribs.
I remember all of the feelings and thoughts I had during this trip and how vastly different they were than those I usually had. Sure, there were bad parts. For instance, the 10-11 hour bus/car rides (there were about 4) caused severe stomach pain in the last week of my trip. It almost ruined my remaining time there but I persevered through the pain and made sure to rest when I could. I didn’t let it ruin the trip for me. Rest had been missing in all of this adventure, and I suppose going from one extreme (routine) to the other (thrill/adventure) pretty much guaranteed that I would eventually feel exhausted. Balance is what I needed. I wrote about this on my last day in Europe:
Today is my last full day of my trip and I feel a perhaps predictable mixture of emotions. It’s bound to happen right? This trip has allowed me to discover how much I let my fears grip me on the regular for a long time. I became afraid to budge, to try new things, go to new places. I was living in a comfortable bubble, a bubble that I was suffocating in. I hope to never let my fears control me to that extent ever again. This trip has also allowed me to see some of the natural beauty this world has to offer, to taste new tastes and smell new smells, to live differently than the average day. Novelty is so necessary to me. But not everything about this trip was entirely new. I got to see some familiar faces – my family. I love them all so much and being on the other side of the world is hard. People think I have a small family but I don’t. They’re just far away. I wish I could repay them all for their repeated hospitality and genuine kindness. And while I think that too much comfort is stagnant, I’d be lying if I said I’m not ready to go home, because I really miss my own bed, and I want to binge watch an entire season of Friends or Fresh Prince. If there’s one lesson I can take away from all this it’s that living in extremes is not sustainable. One needs balance in all things. Novelty, and comfort. Some precaution, but some adventure too. To be surrounded by people, and to have time alone. There’s no key ingredient to happiness but wellness and health certainly seems to depend on balance.
This lesson is something I have decided to implement in my daily life. Europe was good to me.