I was 18 before I visited a country other than the homeland. In what was an eye-opening experience, I travelled solo (originally meant to be part of a trio) through New Zealand, tramping, camping, and spreading my metaphorical wings. It was an amazing experience, one guided and enhanced by number of serene coincidences (or fate if you believe in that sort of thing). It made me realise how farking cool travel was, living in this pseudo-reality between the hum and beaten drum of normal life and ever-lasting happiness. A place where friends are instant and long-lasting, memories are etched for good and you wish it would never end – needless to say, most aren’t, they fade, and it does, respectively.
For a 2 year cycle around my university exchange, I collected new countries (25 to be exact) with zest and zeal – so much so that I was convinced I would surpass my (much) older brother’s tally of countries (then sitting at around 40 odd) and dreamt of such (unfinanced) lunacies as cape-to-cape odysseys, books on the inhabitants of no-mans-lands, working for the UN headquarters in Bhutan, or similar.
Then, and to this day I can’t really explain why, it stopped. A couple of forays each to India and the United States (the latter already tallied) were the few notches in an otherwise unworn international travel belt for 8 years… 8 years!
I say I don’t really know, but I think I do… It all boils down to fear: a fear of dying; a fear of not being in control.
And I think that’s interesting… I’m far from being ‘over’ my fear. I won’t be catching an overnight bus from Cambodia to Thailand, or jumping on a small wooden boat that wouldn’t’ve met Elizabethan safety standards, but I am here, taking the first steps to some happy middle ground. When a fear of death is your biggest issue, I think you’re luckier than most…
So here’s to being back on the horse, irrespective of what’s gone right, wrong, or downright chest infected. Here’s to the tens of thousands of people that lost their livelihoods to the monsoonal rains; to the tourists that get drunk on $1 beers and watch games of football from a world away; to the hookers across the street trying to lure said tourists; to the touts offering everything from motorbike rides to marijuana; to the hard working, honest, smiling people that have the wealth of others rubbed in their face every single day; to the swathes of kiwis heading home after 2/3/5 yrs in London; and, most importantly, to the Wallabies tomorrow.
Fear is healthy when it keeps you alive. Fear is unhealthy when it stops you from living…