Feeling: THE FRIGHT
I’m quite aloof when I talk about my trips before I go in the way of how I feel. When people ask if I’m scared, etc, I often say no – but the truth is of course I am. There’s always an element of nervousness in there – going to a complete foreign country so different from home? On my own? Where it’s known to be dangerous and everyone warns you of going anywhere alone?
I don’t often tell anyone when those feelings come up, aside from Mummy Dee Dub and The Pedaller. Mummy Dee Dub because she sympathises and makes me feel better; The Pedaller because he reminds me: “Remember that time you had a freak out before you went back to India? And you loved it” kind of spec. Because the truth is, the fear is delicious.
Altitude terrifies me. The first time I did Everest Base Camp, I was in a constant state of anxiety from the moment we went beyond Namache Bazaar (it didn’t help my guide was sharing stories of all the people that had died doing it. I spent the whole descent repeating, “I will return home happy, healthy and alive”). It lessened a bit the second time I went, but waves of fright came and went. And the third time there was still an undercurrent. It’s like I’m holding my breath until I get back down below the threshold again. Thinking about climbing to 5895m on Kili has had me in little frissions for the past few weeks.
And that’s why I do it.
You wouldn’t go anywhere in life unless you put yourself in a state of fear every now and again – I make sure to do it in lots of different ways all the time. Teaching yoga to all kinds of people that can be quite intimidating is one; doing a speech to a workplace full of women a few weeks ago was another; officiating a funeral in front of a lot of people I knew; and whenever I adventure, I push myself to do things that err on the edge of danger.
Because that fear has little windows of thrill in it. And as soon as you’ve conquered the things that scared you, the sense of accomplishment is so immense and rewarding.
As people, we like the familiar. We like seeing things we’re used to, things like McDonald’s and BK signs, buildings like we see everyday, street signs similar to the ones on our own roads. I think as Westerners, that’s why we often feel so much safer in European countries – even though it’s not home, the way of life is similar to what we know and – I mean this in the most simplistic way possible – the people look more like us.
I loved Europe; loved it, loved it, loved it. But Eastern countries just fuel my fire so much. Seeing ways of life that are often in complete polarisation from what I know help me understand the world so much better, and in turn help me understand myself so much better (though when I see a McDonald’s sign there is a little beat of familiarity).
Whenever I board for one of my solo sojourns there is always a moment of, What the fuck am I doing. But as soon as I’m airborne I know I’m doing the right thing and going where I need to go.
These things make me feel alive. They make me realise there’s so much more to being than size six jeans being baggy. They make me deeply appreciate what I have at home. And they make me see that in living, no way is right, no way is wrong; there are just ways.
That whole, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”; or as I think, “Fuck the fear; go – you’ll grow”. Things that were once terrifying start to become less and less and less, until they’re normal. And then you can step up to the next thing.
I think back to that 23-year-old me on her way to India for the first time, alone, sitting on the plane swaddled in a head scarf absolutely shitting herself – I am so thankful to her for being so brave.
Come at me Kili.