“Aren’t you scared?” a friend asked me the other day. “Aren’t you afraid something might happen on your trip?”
“Of course,” I replied. “I’m afraid every day of my life. I’m afraid I’ll fall down the stairs in the morning. I’m afraid my boys’ bus driver will fall asleep at the wheel. I’m afraid we will get one of those tainted burgers tomorrow. Aren’t we all scared?”
I think each of us needs to have a healthy fear of the unknown – it keeps us safe. But I also believe we can’t allow that fear to paralyze us into inaction. Way back when I was in high school one of my teachers signed my yearbook, “Always remember – if you smile at the world, the world will smile back.” I truly believe that is true, and that is how I try to live my life. I want my boys to have that same attitude. I don’t want them to be scared of the unknown. I don’t want them to be paralyzed by fear. I want them to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that almost all people in this world are good, caring, kind, and giving people. And that’s what I think we are showing them.
I’m not so naive as to believe nothing can happen to us. I know we could get in an accident or we could be attacked by some weirdo. But you know what? That could happen here in Boise, Idaho too. I find it ironic that we cycled 9300 miles around the USA and Mexico without incident, and then within a few months of arriving “home”, two incidents happened that very well could have been life-threatening. We took our boys out hiking on an old extinct volcano just south of home. As John and I walked back to the car on the dirt road, the kids took off across the desert. A few minutes later we heard, “Daddy!! Daddy!! Daryl’s trapped by rattlesnakes!” John bolted across the desert to find Daryl frozen in place with not one, but two, rattlesnakes a mere 24 inches from his feet. Fortunately, Daryl knew to freeze in place rather than panic, and John was able to slowly pick him up and carry him to safety. Then a few weeks later I was hit by a car while riding my bike home from work. Fortunately, it wasn’t major, but I took the fall on my elbow which was pretty badly bruised and scraped up.
So I guess my point here is that stuff happens. But it can happen at home too. Why should I (or anyone else) think we are more likely to run into problems in Portland or Bakersfield or Mazatlan? Don’t get me wrong – I would be devastated if something were to happen to any of us – any parent would. But I don’t feel like we are doing anything particularly dangerous. I see families out cycling around here in Boise all the time, and people seem to think that’s a good wholesome family activity. If we put panniers on our bikes and go ride around Boise, does that somehow make it more dangerous?
But it all comes back too the fact that we can’t truly protect our kids (or animals) from everything. Life doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee. One day when I was in high school a bunch of ambulances came screaming by my house and stopped at a house a block away. A while later they left quietly. I found out the following day a little 6-year-old boy had slipped in the bathtub, hit his head, and died. So do I not allow my kids to take a bath? At what point do we draw the line?
I think our journey is a great metaphor for life. As we walk through our journey here on Earth, there are no guarantees that all will be smooth sailing. We are faced with challenges every single day of our lives. Some people will allow those challenges to overwhelm them, and some will choose to look them in the face, battle it out, and overcome. My boys now know they can overcome adversity. And they know life isn’t all smelling the roses. They know they will pass through trials and tribulations just like us all. But they also know that perseverance and determination can get them through. They just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and not give up. And that’s what life is all about.
*****This article is part of a series of articles on the dangers of travel.