Working Past Fear

News flash. I’m not fearless.

I’m often told I am and it makes me laugh. I think “Are you kidding me?!?” Of course I have fear. Lots of it.

The well-meaning commenters see it as a compliment to tell me I am fearless. I understand the intent. Especially the extra layer of concern that is draped over the compliment for a woman who travels solo as I do, quite a bit.

To the recipient of the compliment, though, it’s dismissive. It’s a disservice to how hard I work for triumph over fear and uncertainty. Because I’m successful, sometimes, doesn’t mean it comes easily.

The bottom line is that everyone has fear. Well, maybe some people don’t but that’s a special case. As Lt. Worf says on Star Trek: The Next Generation…

Only fools have no fear.

And certainly being fearless is quite foolish. It leads to bad decisions. Having some fear simply means I’m thinking in terms of risk management rather than racing thoughtlessly into adventures.

Fear is an oft-discussed topic amongst adventure travelers. To outsiders, our lifestyles seem to be anything from irresponsible to reckless, but that’s simply their own fear talking. And a lack of understanding about what we do. For us, this lifestyle is important enough that we’re willing to work through fear. The other part of the equation is that what we do isn’t as dangerous as it seems to those inexperienced in adventure travel.

In her book Rising Strong (find it on Amazon), Brene’ Brown says:

You give up a lot when you venture into an environment that you can’t control and where your senses don’t serve you in dependable ways.

She wasn’t talking about adventure travel but it resonated with me in that sense, nonetheless. Whatever leaps we take in life, the uncertainty often strips us bare before we reap the beautiful and exhilarating rewards of challenging and overcoming fear.

I had a lovely, long chat with Ted Simon at Overland Expo East last October. He’d been musing on a quote from one of his books…

There is a way to convert fear into positive energy. When I had discovered it along the way, I used it quite deliberately to project confidence and sympathy. It had never jailed me, and it gave me an unusual and exhilarating sense of power over circumstance. But it seemed to function only when I was alone.

The quote struck a chord with me. Because traveling solo is a very different experience in fear than traveling with companions. The resulting empowerment of handling anything and everything on your own is extraordinary.

I am not fearless. But I am brave. Especially when it comes to building the life I want on my terms, embracing fear and overpowering it.

Adventure on, friends.

Ted was kind enough to let me keep his note with the quote on it. And I hope he feels the coffee I spilled on it adds character. 😉