Growing up, I was the kid who was scared of everything. I remember spending endless nights in my parents’ bed, scared of natural disasters, thieves or anything else my fearful mind could think of. While I have grown a lot and have come to terms with the fact that sometimes, bad things happen and we cannot live in fear, I occasionally see that little girl make an appearance.
That little girl has prevented me from doing the things I want. I love being in my comfort zone and having my routine. One day, I was browsing Pinterest and unsurprisingly saw a cheesy quote. But surprisingly, this quote stuck with me. It said, “A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it was built for.”
I realized then I was treating myself like that ship on the shore. I had the ability to do so much more than I was experiencing. With this quote in the back of my mind, I signed up for six weeks in Budapest, the experience of a lifetime.
My first few days in Budapest were loaded with fear, anxiety and loneliness. I began believing there was something wrong with me. I was in a beautiful place with fun people. Why was I unable to relax and take everything in?
To combat my anxiousness, I surrounded myself with people. I felt much safer when in the presence of people who seemed to know what they were doing. I too pretended to be confident but was fearful inside.
I have never been good at directions. I have gone to Baylor for three full years and still get lost driving to the grocery store. With this in mind, it is safe to assume that the many transportation systems in Budapest were overwhelming. I made sure I was always with someone who knew what they were doing so I did not have to risk getting lost in a big city that I was still scared of.
About two weeks into our program, I realized I had not gone anywhere alone. My friends would go running, to the mall, or to coffee shops by themselves, and I still was anchored to the people around me. I did not feel confident in my ability to navigate. The little girl from my childhood appeared to convince me the people around me were dangerous.
It unsettled me to see that I was still controlled by fear. I was still hesitant to send my ship out to sea.
On the bus ride to our day trip to the southern Hungarian town of Pécs, I turned on a Ted Talk by successful TV writer Shonda Rhimes. A year ago, Rhimes decided to say yes to everything. Before this decision, she was scared of a many things. She hated public speaking, acting, and interrupting her busy schedule to play with her kids. However, she decided to say yes to all of it. Rhimes noticed that as soon as she began saying yes to the things that scared her, those fears lost their power.
I decided to, in a way, give this philosophy a try. I decided to embrace the things that scared me.
If I needed to go to the grocery store, rather than begging one of my friends to escort me, I decided I would go alone. If I wanted to grab QUICK coffee really, I would go alone.
People on the street still scared me and I was still bad at directions, but I decided to embrace it. If I took the wrong tram and got lost somewhere, rather than seeing it as a catastrophic event, I would see it an opportunity to see a new place.
I am still working on this, fear each time I venture out into the city. But I have come to terms with the fact that scary things can happen whether I am in my comfort zone or completely outside of it. It is the things we experience when we put ourselves out there that mold us into confident people. I have recently realized the beauty in vulnerability. It often is not until I share my fears with others that I am set free of them.
Traveling can be scary. The unknown is scary. But by not allowing my ship to sail I am preventing myself from experiencing what the world has to offer. Do not let your fears get the best of you. Come sail away with me.