On Being Brave

“Oh you’re so brave for traveling alone”

“I could never travel alone”

“You’re so brave”

I’ve heard everything along these lines when I tell people I’m traveling alone or going to travel alone.  It baffles them and then they presume I’m brave. They may be right, they may be wrong.  I mean, what is brave, really?  Someone who can move to another country with no knowledge of it beforehand?  Heck yeah.  What about someone who can try stinky tofu without skipping a beat?  In my book, yes.  How about someone that rides horses everyday?  To me, definitely.  It’s weird how things like that work.  I might not always think what I’m doing is brave, but my mom’s friend might.  But here’s the thing.

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I’m actually a scaredy cat.  

Are you ready to hear what I’m afraid of?  Do you have a cup of coffee to get you through this list?  Good, here we go.  Big dogs.  Energetic dogs.  Horses.  The dark.  Getting food poisoning.  Missing a flight.  Having a flight cancelled.  Getting lost in the woods or stuck in a canyon.  No one finding me if I get lost in the woods or stuck in a canyon.  Breaking a bone.  Getting stung by a bee and ending up being deathly allergic.  Mountain lions.  Getting robbed or mugged.  Losing my passport on a trip.  Getting hurt on a trip.  Going missing on a trip and no one at home has any idea where to find me.  Anyone I love dying.  See that list?  Not that short. Most of these things are things I worry about at home, not abroad.  But you know what?  It doesn’t stop me from doing what I love.

I feel more impatient than brave.

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I didn’t want to wait around for my friends to be ready or able to afford to travel.  I was absolutely terrified and cried when I left on my own the first time.  I had (and probably still have) the “I want to go and I want to go now” mindset.  And I’m glad I did (or do) because I’ve seen and done some amazing things that I never would have imagined.  I’ve met people that are wonderful and I never would have met at home.  I was tired of all the planning leading to nothing.

“Let’s go to San Diego!”

“We should go to Myrtle Beach for spring break!”

“Let’s road trip to Canada!”

“We have to go to Machu Picchu!”

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I’ve heard all of those so many times and I was ready to actually start doing these thing and going to these places.  I was sick of just reading about them and dreaming about seeing them one day.  I was sick of the armchair travel.  It just doesn’t work for me, which I guess leads me to my next point.

I guess I am actually brave.

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I did it.  I booked a ticket to Mexico after reading a book about Central America.  I ended up staying for two and a half months going all the way to Panama by myself.  I would travel with people i met there, but spent a lot of time on my own.  The next year I booked a ticket to Taiwan.  You know why I decided that?  Because it was cheapish and I remembered seeing something about it maybe two years before and thought “I should go there someday.”  So I did.  I hated it at first, but it grew on me and now I can’t wait to go back.  I decided to spend a month in the Philippines, too.  A country known to not be the safest.  I almost let it get to me and almost went to Hong Kong and Beijing instead.  I didn’t.  I spent a month on some of the most amazing beaches and crowded buses and even got food poisoning.  Totally worth it.

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I guess I am OK with being called brave.

Now at home I’m not as afraid to do things alone.  I actually like it.  I even moved across the US to Utah, again, alone, because I wanted to see more of the US and couldn’t afford to just explore.  Of course, it was right after I spent two and a half months in Asia so I had even less money than usual.  But I did it anyways.  It stayed that way all summer, and winter, and the next summer, because I met awesome people and explored the US.  I don’t regret any of it because I’m doing what I love.

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Now people expect me to be gone.  They always ask where I’m going next.  People I know are used to it now.  If I tell someone new about what I do, I get the usual comments.  

“You went alone?”

Yup!

“Why?”

Why not?

“Weren’t you afraid?”

Yes, but not once I was there.

“Do you speak Chinese?  No?  How did you going to do anything?”

Nope!  I learned the basics and pretended I knew what I was doing.  And you know what?  If I didn’t, people helped me.

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If I don’t hear one of those, or after I hear those then give answers, I get the brave comments.  It’s a little weird to hear, but it’s exciting at the same time.  Wow, these people really think I’m brave for doing this?  I might not know what to say, but I do appreciate hearing it.

So, what do I think of being brave?  I guess it’s OK.  I might not feel brave at home as I worry about everything, but I’m brave abroad.  I love not knowing what’s going on all the time and experiencing new places.  Even if I am brave, I don’t think I feel brave because I love it.  

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