I’m back here at the place I started, my uncle’s house a couple of hours outside of Miami, Florida. I’ve started thinking back to those couple of days I had here before I left, 5 months ago, uncertain about whether I’d made the right choice of volunteering, scared yet excited for my coming travels, but mostly not wanting to leave the safety of somewhere familiar, known, easy.
This is understandable. Change is scary. The outside world is scary. It’s one thing to make a decision in a comfortable place, say at home among family, or while warm in bed, to go for a run the next day, or travel the world, but it’s another thing to follow it through. It means you have to be vulnerable. Put yourself out there. Show people the real you. And that’s scary, really scary.
Travelling like this tests you. The volunteering bits are relatively easy. You’re somewhere with a group of like minded people, often doing something constructive and amazing, but it’s relatively easy. When you get out there, that’s when you’re really tested. That’s when you find out what you’re made of. When you have to make friends at short notice, keep your wits about you when things seem dangerous, keep yourself company when you’re lonely. I’m not going to pretend it was all plain sailing. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes you wish it was easier. That you’d gone with your best friends and it was a party all the time. But the reality is that these tests build you up. You’re forced into closer quarters with yourself more than you ever would be in your ‘safe zone’, and you come out the other side with a greater knowledge of who you are.
One piece of advice often given to small business and startup owners is fail quickly and fail hard, and it applies here too. If you’re always comfortably cruising, never meet adversity, you never learn about yourself. Your faults, your insecurities. Stuff that, once you know it, can help you move onwards and upwards. Tyrion Lannister, a character in Game of Thrones, has a great quote about this: “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
Once you find these things, these ‘weaknesses’, they no longer have as much meaning. They can no longer hurt you, unless you let them. The brain is so powerful because it controls all of this. It can help or hinder us, and when you are completely vulnerable and honest with yourself, by doing something like travelling, the nagging doubts at the back of your mind, the things that used to be deep insecurities, lose their power as the brain works them out and ousts them.
My time in South America was absolutely amazing. I experienced some ridiculously cool stuff too long to list, made life long friends, ate, drank, and partied, learned a language, was thrown into and adapted to new cultures, and volunteered with some children that taught me life lessons no adult could. But sometimes it sucked. You don’t get that in the facebook album, or the compilation movie, or even when you tell people about it back home, but sometimes travelling isn’t fun. Sometimes travelling solo is lonely, tiring and depressing. It can cut you to your core and make you question what you’re doing. But for all the hardships, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. This trip is part of who I am now, and always will be. Thanks for sharing it with me.