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Saturday, 25 October 2014

TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A RELUCTANT TRAVELLER

Hi!   I'm Andrew and I feel anxious when I travel.  

There, now I've shared it and already I feel better.  (Actually, not really.)   However, the sorry truth is that, every time I travel, I still feel irrationally anxious about passing through immigration, security and Customs unhindered, my baggage being overweight, missing my flight, joining the wrong passport queue, finding my way to or from the airport, going to the wrong terminal, losing my luggage, not having enough money (or the right money), having something wrong with my visa or passport (or worse - losing it) and a myriad of other dumb things.

Perhaps the problem is that I haven't travelled enough yet.  I have, after all, only visited about 50 countries so far and done a paltry 1,000 flights or so.  Maybe it gets better the more you do it, but so far I don't have much evidence of that.  The even more ridiculous thing is that, of all those flights, I can count on the fingers of one (maybe both) hands the number of nasty things have actually happened to me.  And, despite them having happened, I am still around to tell the tale.  Funnily enough, plunging into the sea or the ground from 12,000 meters doesn't particularly bother me.  The other stuff however leaves me with a low grade of anxiety most of the time, which is why I'm something of a reluctant traveller.

The real annoying thing is that, no matter what risk mitigation measures I take - and this is where I can get quite obsessive - like checking 10 times if my passport is where I put it in my luggage, or arriving an hour ahead of time at the airport, or checking my luggage weight and so on, my mind always finds a new irrational anxiety to latch onto.  What to do?

One of my mantras in past postings has been about transcending fear.  Warriors are not fearless.  They still feel fear, but their courage has them transcend the fear so that they may engage in battle.  Fear is a natural feeling, it gives us the edge to survive by prompting us to mitigate some risk, but ultimately we will not be fearless: something will press our fear buttons.

The fear is driven by the irrational catastrophe scenarios which play out in our minds, so part of the challenge is to still the wild mind, that part which will have its way with us.  We cannot, however, mitigate against every risk.  Inasmuch as we live in a world full of possibility, we also live in a world of unpredictability.  We cannot always know what Life has lined up for us, so sometimes we need simply to crawl, creep or run past the fear, trusting that even if it sees us, it won't grab us by the throat, and just do it anyway.

Oftentimes when we give power and energy to the fear, it brings about the very result we feared in the first place.  When we hold back on affection for someone, lest it be not returned in full, it generally will not be returned in full because of the holding back.  When I ride my mountain bike tentatively on rocky ground because I am scared of falling, I generally do fall because of the tentativeness rather than the boldness which is required.

So that is how we transcend the fear.  We mitigate what is sensible to mitigate, we still the mind as far as we are able and then we do it anyway, engaging in the battle to get past the fear.

For the meantime, I will just keep on travelling, hoping like crazy I don't get a taxi driver in Bangkok who speaks no English and can't find my hotel, and that I won't have to sit next to someone with who farts a lot next time I fly to London.

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