Written by Pauline Viaud
I wouldn’t describe myself as generally fearful or anxious. I decided to travel alone for the first time fast enough. It was an experience in South America of a few weeks, quite intense and not so easy.
Yet, a year later, I decided to travel alone again for a year in Australia.
Actually, once I made the decision, I announced it, asked for a work agreement for a sabbatical year, and that was it! I asked for a visa, bought a plane ticket, and I was gone!
I wasn’t afraid at all at the time. I told myself that I was trying something and that if it didn’t go as I wanted, I would simply come back sooner! I wanted to give myself this gift: going on an adventure.
TAKING UPON YOURSELF
We all have fears, but they’re different for everyone.
I’m always a bit stressed at the airport, for example: do I have my passport and all the papers I need? Once in the gate lounge, I relax!
When I arrive at destination, I experience new stress: going through customs, waiting for my luggage… Actually, I manage these moments one after the other, step by step, without thinking about the next one, and it passes!
I don’t really know what to put behind the word “fear.” Do a few minutes of stress count?
Overcoming your fears is it perhaps taking it upon yourself to go beyond what you would normally do?
DOING IN PERU
For example, as I was travelling alone as a woman, I had to reach out to others more: whether to ask for information on the street or to post an ad on a Facebook group to find people to do an activity with. And you know what? It always went well!
In Peru, I spent a few days with a couple I met at a hostel. I wanted to Bolivia after. The woman said to me: “It’s simple, you take this minibus, you go to the station, and you buy your bus ticket,” and while she was explaining this to me, a colectivo arrived and she almost pushed me (very gently) inside.
I talked only a little Spanish; I didn’t take the time to prepare what I really wanted. So, I had a little bit of stress!
I think she didn’t realize that it had been a bit brutal for me! But when I arrived at the station, I found my itinerary, my bus ticket and I took a colectivo to go back! 😊 Phew!
Overcoming your fears may be simple to DO – a word that I like a lot – or seize the opportunity to try something new!
TRYING IN THAILAND
During a trip, I joined two couples of friends in Thailand. When we rent some scooters, there was five of us, so I had to take one for myself. In my life, I’ve rarely driven a scooter!
But I took upon myself to try, while being safe, and it went really well!
I remember the feeling of liberty on these small roads on the Koh Lanta island! It’s a wonderful memory. I’ve repeated the experience in other countries, for example, in Vietnam, where a friend and I made longer distances, each on our scooter, with our luggage, in complex traffic.
LISTENING TO YOURSELF IN INDONESIA
In the Sulawesi islands in Indonesia, a place known for the presence of whale sharks, my current travelling buddies wanted to go swimming with them. I wasn’t up for it at first for many reasons, but finally, we were five, and I decided to go with the flow.
I arrived with the second wave of tuk-tuk. My friend Alice, who has more experience in scuba diving, had just done it and warned me that it was special and a little scary. The water was cloudy, the whale sharks were agitated, and the safety conditions were so so… OK… But she gave us advice like not to go near small fishing boats, as they excite and feed the sharks.
Seb and I decided after a few moments to go anyway, but gently. I said that if I wasn’t feeling it, I was going to turn over. We had our masks and fins; we entered the water. Of course, at this moment, I was scared!
We stayed at a good distance from the boats, the water was cloudy and when we saw the first large mass of several metres approaching in the water: ohhhh it was scary! We remained calm and careful. We saw several sharks (they’re harmless to humans, but an accident can happen, with a swish of their tail, for example). I don’t think I stayed in the water for long. I saw them, I was happy, but since I wasn’t so calm, I preferred that this experienced remained brief. This remains a mixed memory because we weren’t in good water conditions to observe them.
One of the five of us wasn’t comfortable in the water. We all advised her against going in the water. I said that I couldn’t help her in the present situation, as I wasn’t very comfortable myself. So, she chose the option of approaching the sharks on the water, staying on a fishing boat.
I’ve learned from this experience that listening to yourself, not forcing yourself, is the most important thing. We can experiment without putting our self in danger.
APPREHENDING IN GUADELOUPE
I had some apprehensions before I could call them new experiences, like during my diving “baptism” in Guadeloupe.
I also think of the time I ended up in a taxi (true or false?) alone or the nights in creepy apartments… It was also in these moments that I imagined the worst things. I tried to remind myself that imagining a scary scenario wasn’t going to help, so I stayed positive and let this unpleasant moment pass…
When I was in Thailand, I spent a couple of days dedicating myself to diving, which is an area that I’m not familiar with, so I could be more comfortable and better enjoyed the sea bed.
TASTING FEAR IN AUSTRALIA
My worst fear, and this with a capital F, is skydiving in Australia! I always said I wanted to do it one day. I was with two travel buddies, in a beautiful place, famous for this activity. The three of us were in. We registered: the jump was scheduled two days later. And at that moment, I admit that I was terrified!
As soon as we talked about it, my heart wanted to come out of my chest! I never felt that way before. Especially since the guys looked on the Internet for the risks, the number of accidents and deaths… Nothing to reassure me! I had taken an insurance in case of a problem, and I only told my brother what I was going to do the next day. In general, my mother and my sister are much more anxious than I am and, as I was afraid for once, I didn’t want to speak to them so that they could scare me even more!!!
We had a drink the night before while saying that perhaps it was the last! And that night, alone in my tent, was restless… But I decided to be confident, no matter what.
When the three of us got on the tiny plane with our instructors and started the circuit, my whole body began to shake while my instructor harnessed me. Just talking about it, I relive these intense emotions. He asked me why I was shaking. Seriously? 😊
Then he said to me in a very Australian style: “Relax, everything is going to be fine.” I was the last one to jump. When we reached 4000 metres, everything happened extremely quickly. I saw my friend Julien literally fall from the plane… And I wasn’t courageous enough to watch Thomas!
When it was my turn, I put all my confidence in my instructor, my brain was in “off” mode. I didn’t have much to do except bend my legs and put my head back (a position called the banana!). I told myself the day before that it was absolutely necessary to scream to be relieved (and maybe not explode!).
During the free fall of almost a minute, I successfully completed this mission, and I yelled so loud in my instructor’s ears. Then, I opened my eyes, the parachute opened, and I was flying over the heavenly islands of the Australian east coast… What sensation could be brighter? OK, well, I gritted my teeth again before and during the landing, because we were arriving pretty fast over a forest! This skydive remains a wonderful memory.
I don’t think I will do it ever again. But sometimes, when I have to do something that scares me, like a (small) jump in the water, I tell myself: “I skydived, I can do it!”
CONTINUING TO MOVE FOWARD
I’m not travelling TO overcome my fears, but in reality, it’s what’s happening. Because in adventure, opportunities present themselves. I’m proud to tell these few stories to have overcome my apprehension, but the most important thing is not to put yourself in danger, listen to your inner voice and accept your decision when you refuse a proposal – whatever the reasons may be. Even if it’s not fun, it doesn’t matter.
I’m now travelling as a couple. I realize that I often rely on my boyfriend and that I push myself a little less. And in fact, I find it a shame because ultimately going further than what we think we can do is proof of strength, and I want to keep moving forward. It’s up to me to do what’s necessary and not to delegate in case of difficulty. 😉
This post was translated from French to English by:
Hello! I’m Cassandra, 23 years old and in my second year studying translation at Laval University in Quebec City. I’m learning to translate three languages: French, English and Chinese, which is both exhilarating and challenging! I love jogging, reading and travelling. I’ve just got back from a one-month-trip through Europe.