Updated: Dec 21, 2020
As we leave the comfort of home to travel the world, climb mountains, and face the unknown and the risky, I'm terrified... especially in a COVID world.
Cotopaxi (19,347 ft) in Ecuador
Trying to fall asleep I find myself pushing away terrifying thoughts...
Thoughts of danger, death, and disaster. All of the 'bad things' that could, possibly, or perhaps might happen as we leave our home to set out to travel again.
My heart beats faster, gripped with fright.
It's been over one year since we settled into our home base here in Georgia.
One year without traveling anywhere (internationally) as a family. One year of not leaving this country.
One year of no mountains to climb, borders to cross, or planes to catch.
One year of 'at home' activities that involve less risk and more comfort and security.
And I realize what staying at home does to you.
It makes you comfortable. It makes the outside world seem more dangerous, and the 'at home' world more desirable.
Plus this year has also been one of quarantine, COVID, and unpredictability. And fear. Lots of fear.
An insidious virus has spread, working its way into the minds of most of the human population, including mine.
It's reached the point that people are hesitant to leave their homes, afraid to enjoy the fresh air, afraid to touch or connect with others, afraid of being a virus, not just spreading a virus.
Our second road trip through Mexico in 2010
So now as my family contemplates leaving the safety and security of our home and embarking on (our third) cross-country-border adventure... I'm afraid.
No, I'm terrified.
That's because fear is tricky like that.
Once it works its way into your heart and mind, it likes to stay -- and to spread.
These particular fears began as we contemplated traveling through Mexico and to Guatemala, since COVID happened...
What if the world goes into quarantine again? What if we get stuck abroad? What if we catch COVID again (we've had it once already) and it interrupts our travel plans?
These fears, though quelled, resurfaced in another form by my daughter's 14th birthday request -- to go skydiving in Mexico. And she wants me to join her.
I'm afraid to do it. I'm afraid for her to do it.
I just heard about a girl who lost her life doing it in the U.S.
The strain on my legs (and on my knees on the way down). The exposure. The discomfort of starting the ascent at midnight. The risks of altitude sickness and yes, even death.
I like my easy, comfortable, predictable life with a cup of tea and a warm bed and a good book.
But as I resist these 'calls to adventure' and explain them away and make excuses about how they're 'not for me' or they're too dangerous...
Fear grows. It feeds on my pretexts and becomes stronger.
And instead of only making me afraid of my initial fears -- which may be legitimate -- it spreads itself to every part of my life.
It becomes hyper-vigilant in scaring me about every possible worst-case scenario in every 'risky' undertaking we consider -- which includes even leaving the house in today's world.
Because with fear in charge, 'risky' becomes relative.
In a world since COVID, risky can mean going to the store, shaking hands, or giving a hug.
I'm not afraid of those things since I believe that dis-ease is caused from within, not from without.
But I am afraid of the judgment of people who fear others as a virus -- simply by the way they treat them when they don't conform to societal expectations or conditioning.
COVID has made it quicker and easier to pass judgment on our fellow human beings depending on whether they do or don't cover their face, shake hands, or stand 6 ft. apart -- and the meaning we give to that action (or lack of it).
I am afraid to travel internationally in a COVID world.
NOT because of COVID itself, but because of the unpredictability of people and governments in a world that is governed by fear.
And yes, I'm afraid to go skydiving, climb a mountain, and a dozen other things.
Yet, there is only one thing I can do when fear infests my heart and mind.
I have to face it. Head on.
Because courage isn't the absence of fear.
It's moving forward and facing the thing you're afraid of and -- if it's really NOT completely idiotic or irresponsible -- doing it anyway.
Yes, some fears should be heeded. They're a warning sign that your life is in danger.
I shouldn't walk in front of a speeding train. I shouldn't jump off the roof of my house.
But MANY things we're afraid of nowadays are not truly life-threatening for MOST people (including COVID).
Like crossing borders, driving through Mexico, not wearing a mask all the time, shaking hands, skydiving, or climbing mountains.
I know because I've done them, or my husband and children have done them. And countless other people have done them.
Plus, I like to do research.
And the statistics show I've got a 0.000002% chance of dying from a tandem skydive, compared to a 0.0167% chance of dying in a car accident.
I'm more likely to get stung by a bee or struck by lightning than to die skydiving.
I'm safer jumping out of that plane than driving down the road on any given day.
Climbing mountains is taking a risk.
And yet, a climber is 313 times more likely to get in a traffic accident than in a climbing accident, 182 times more likely to get injured in a traffic accident than in a climbing accident, and 10 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than in a climbing accident.
(I also read that pregnancy and birth is more dangerous than mountain climbing! And I've done that six times already! 😉)
And unlike traffic accidents, the greater your fitness and skill levels, the safer your climb will be (unlike driving since you can't control the skill level of all the drivers on the road).
Seen this way, mountain climbing actually seems safer and more in my control than a daily drive to Walmart.
"Appropriate skill and fitness levels are of prophylactic relevance when engaging in [mountain climbing] activities."
This is something I can control, while I can't control the other drivers on the road.
Running away, avoiding, or making excuses won't make me stronger or less afraid.
In fact, it only makes the fearful part of me stronger.
So I'll move ahead.
I'll do my research.
We'll cross the border. We'll travel in a COVID world.
I'll book the skydiving adventure.
Because I can't let terror win and make me weak. Or win.
I am in control.
"If you want to change the mind and your perception and your consciousness you've got to expose yourself to the hardships of nature and learn to control fear. Go past [your limits] to get in control of 100% of the brain's capacity." -- Wim Hof
The peculiar thing is, the moment I truly DECIDE and take action to face my fears, they dissipate.
In their place I find excitement, drive, and determination. I spend an hour 'climbing' on the treadmill and making a list of gear I'll need to be safe and comfortable.
When we act with courage and determination we transform the energy of fear into the energy of growth and development.