Today’s guest post is from Bret Love from Green Global Travel. In it, he addresses the thing that holds most people back from living their dreams – fear.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain
Fear is a terrible thing. It can be overwhelming, even paralyzing, keeping us from moving forward into the lives we’ve always dreamed of. Unfortunately, fear of the unknown often leads us to settle into a complacent existence in which we never even get a chance to gauge the measure of our true potential as human beings.
We certainly don’t begin our lives filled with fear. Instead it’s learned over time, often instilled (whether accidentally or on purpose) by the institutions that supposedly have our best interests at heart. We’re told what NOT to do from the very first day we attend school, taught to obey the rules, stay inside the lines, and adapt to society’s definitions of “normal” lest we be cast out from the in-crowd for being weird.
I embraced my inner weirdo a long time ago, and have made some of the biggest, boldest decisions of my life out of sheer rebellion against the repression of my childhood. And while some doubted the choices I made along the way, taking the road less traveled truly has made all the difference. But for others it’s not so easy to break out of the boxes our primal selves are constricted to fit into. To them, I say travel and adventure are the cure for what ails you!
Take my partner Mary, for instance: When we first met, she was coming out of a painful separation after a 15-year relationship and almost seemed shell-shocked. In her 20s she had traveled to India, Spain/Morocco and Ireland with girlfriends, but during her married life she increasingly stuck to cities, never venturing too far off the beaten path. The failure of her marriage had left her largely devoid of self-confidence.
Then we went on our very first ecotourism adventure on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was an amazing trip, filled with amazing little inns and luxury hotels, a remarkable helicopter tour over an active volcano and a topsy-turvy boat ride to see the lava flow meeting the sea at sunrise.
But the moment that stands out the most in my memory was the day we went snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay (where Captain Cook first landed in Hawaii, and was ultimately killed by the natives). Mary was terrified of putting her face in the water but, after a little hand-holding, she did it anyway. Later, after she got more comfortable, we snorkeled together in a cove surrounded by massive Hawaiian sea turtles– an experience neither of us will ever forget.
With time, our adventures together got bigger and better. Less than 6 months after her first (extremely tentative) snorkeling experience, we were scuba diving in 20 feet of water with dolphins and hand-feeding sharks in Curaçao. Despite her crippling fear of heights, she slid and jumped down 27 waterfalls in the Dominican Republic, holding her nose daintily each and every time. And even though she is uncomfortable with complete darkness and battles claustrophobia, she was a total trooper when we swam in an ancient underground cenote in the Riviera Maya.
In short, she stopped letting her fears hold her back, and I fell even more deeply in love with Mary as I watched her blossoming with each new experience. Where once she had often seemed fragile and emotional, she soon became more outgoing and vivacious. Where once her fears had seemed almost crippling, soon the amount of time it took her to break through that obstacle and embrace the experience shrank considerably. When we went scuba diving for the second time in Panama’s Coiba National Park a few months ago, she barely needed any hand-holding at all.
In confronting her fears head-on and tackling whatever challenges our travels throw her way, I’ve seen Mary evolve into a bolder, more confident woman that the person she was five years ago wouldn’t even recognize. I can’t wait to see how we will continue to grow together as our travels take us to even more exotic, far-flung destinations in the future (scuba diving in Jordan’s Red Sea, hanging with polar bears in the Canadian Arctic and a safari in Africa are on the agenda for 2012).
I understand that the world can be a big, scary place. But, the next time you travel, I urge you to follow Mary’s lead and challenge yourself to stretch beyond your comfort zone, try something new, take a few steps off your personal reservation and explore new places. Because, once you take that leap of faith into the unknown, you never know what amazing things you might find…
Bio: Bret Love is the co-founder/Editor In Chief of Green Global Travel, a web-based magazine devoted to ecotourism, nature/wildlife conservation and the preservation of global culture. Follow him at GreenGlobalTravel.com.