When this newsletter reaches your inbox, I will be halfway around the world. Literally. I am holding out hope that at the moment you are reading this I will be having a wonderful time connecting with a dear friend, exploring a new (to me) part of the world, and gratefully soaking up a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But today, on the eve of departure, I am terrified...
Shortly after the birth of my daughter, a dear friend from high school shared she had been offered a job in South Africa. For many of us, the distant location would be a deal-breaker, but for this intrepid soul and world traveler, it was a selling point. I knew immediately I wanted to visit. After all, what better opportunity to cross a South African adventure off my bucket list than with a good friend playing tour guide?! But my brand-new-mama brain couldn't process the logistics involved - let alone imagine leaving the babe and her father to fend for themselves for such a long trip - so I filed it away to revisit at some undetermined point in the future.
In the interim, every time my friend would post another amazing photo captured on safari or write another restaurant review for her travel blog, the thought would resurface: It would be wonderful to visit... And last fall, when she was in town for a friend's wedding, we had the opportunity to catch up in person. As she recounted her latest travel adventure over a glass of wine, I knew the time had come. I told her I was in!
At first I was positively giddy: Travel! Adventure! Safari! Bucket list! I picked up a floppy hat and the requisite khaki and olive wardrobe items. I downloaded enough books to get me through the nearly 40 hours of flight. I dusted off my "good" camera. I was - and am - all set, but at this moment, I'm a wreck.
Rationally, I recognize there is not one legitimate reason for anxiety. I know enough about the professionalism and safety of the reserve to know I will not be eaten by a lion or caught in an elephant stampede. I am well aware that my husband and daughter will get along just fine without me - and create some special memories together during my absence. I know my dear friend (and fellow introvert) well enough to be confident we will have plenty to discuss during our time together and be equally comfortable in moments of silent companionship.
But I remain inexplicably uneasy. Maybe I am hesitant to experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure without my spouse. Perhaps I have some lingering insecurity about the people in my life realizing they can survive perfectly well without me. It's possible some small part of me actually fears an elephant stampede.
At the end of the day it doesn't matter. We have all found ourselves shying away from opportunities because of an irrational anxiety. Have you ever hesitated to extend - or accept - an invitation to get to know a charming stranger better? Have you skipped your regular yoga class when a sub was teaching because you didn't know what to expect? Have you opted not to join friends at a new restaurant because the cuisine was unfamiliar?
Just because an anxiety is irrational doesn't mean we don't feel it acutely, but we do ourselves a disservice if we allow it to curtail opportunities to learn and grow. We owe it to ourselves to face such fears head on. So I am. And I encourage you to do the same.
What bold action can you take to overcome an irrational fear? Don't just think about it - do it! Ready or not, South Africa, here I come...