Overcoming Fears

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Despite my outward appearances, I am terrified about my trip to the other side of the globe and spending so long away from home. Although I often have pre-trip anxieties, this trip is beyond anything I have experienced before. Often my pre-trip jitters consist of some mild anxiety surrounding the cost of the trip or what to pack. This trip, because of the magnitude and nature of the destinations, is more overwhelming. A constant litany of questions assaults me on a daily basis: How will I manage to be without income for 3 months? If I find New York City’s Chinatown “overwhelming,” what will India be like? Will I make all of my many connections? Does my stomach have what it takes to enjoy rich Indian food everyday for 2 months? Unfortunately, not all of these questions can be answered before I leave and so I am forced to leap without fully knowing what lies on the other side. Yet isn’t that half the fun of it? Still the pre-trip stress can make you second guess your choice to venture outside your comfort zone.

This around the world trip, started out small enough – applying to study yoga with my guru, Sharath Jois, at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. Introduced to Ashtanga yoga over 4 years ago, my desire to study “at the source” slowly began to blossom over the years. Two years ago, I was able to study for one week in New York City during one of Sharath’s tours. Practicing with him was a joy (not a word I usually use to describe my daily 1.5 hour yoga practice). His presence fills the room with light and made the practice seem infinitely “easier” than it ever had before. Studying with him again for a week earlier this year solidified my desires to make the pilgrimage to India and helped me shed my fears, catapulting me to leave my full time job which had slowly become unsatisfying. Taking on several “per diem” jobs allowed me to more or less, make my own schedule and thus take as much time away as I can manage. Thus, I could finally take the time needed to make the required 1+ month trip to Mysore.

After getting “accepted to study” with Sharath, I began researching flights and discovered it was staggering 16 hours of traveling to get from Boston to India, not including any layovers! Unable to grasp the concept of traveling for 2/3rds of a day, I decided to employee my favorite trip planning strategy: using layovers to explore new cities. So, where to? Looking at a map and doing preliminary flight searches on Kayak.com and indie.bootsnall.com Europe and the Middle East were obvious choices, but how to narrow it down? General travel-related books (eg. 1,000 Things to See Before You Die, Around the World in 80 Treasures) and videos helped me finally pick: Istanbul & Dubai for the trip to India and Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong & Hawaii for the trip home. Planning a 3 month world tour from my “gut” by choosing new and interesting “off the beaten path” places was the easy part. Listening to the fearful and anxious chatter in my head afterwards was a real challenge.

Fortunately carving out daily meditation and calm during my yoga practice helped immensely. I found that time on my mat helped me find peace and understanding that my travels were a desire to learn and grow. To experience the fear and confront it head on, to have faith in something beyond myself, to let go of the comfortable and trust that something better was just on the other side; these lessons were clearly part of my next steps when I was able to calm the “monkey mind.”

The other thing that helped was reminding myself that now is ALWAYS the time to travel. Who knows where I will be next year, or in 5 years? I hear so many people say, “I’m going to travel more when I retire” or “I don’t have the time/money/ability right now.” But honestly who knows if you will live to see retirement? We hear tragic stories of people too young to be dying everyday; cancer, hiking accidents, the flu, all capable of claiming children anyone of any age. And although you hope to be making more money/time for travel next year, will that be a reality? How many people lose their jobs everyday? Or have other debts (a new car, a new roof, etc) crop up and ruin even the best laid plans? This idea is solidified every time I visit my Grandfather who tells me “do it now while you are young.” He waited to retire before traveling, only to watch cancer claim his mobility. Life is way too short to postpone the things that are important to you; whether it be spending more time with family and friends or taking that trip to the Grand Canyon. Do it and do it now!

Fortunately, the other cure for overcoming fear is jumping in… Somehow, once I landed here in Istanbul, all the fears melted away and I KNEW I was embarking on the time of my life, excitement and challenge mixing to create a reality I was capable of meeting head on 🙂 and so are you! So get out there and explore, take the leap! “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.”

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