I have never felt more vulnerable than I did during my recent journey to Asia. The moment I left my moms arms and crossed through the security line I felt it. It hit me like a wave. I was so aware of every single inch of my being, every emotion I was experiencing.
I was about to cross into a foreign world, where no one knew my name, where the simple things like ordering a drink at a bar, asking for directions and telling someone I needed to go to the hospital were about to become harder than all the goodbyes I had to say to get there. I was about surrender all control – relying primarily on my sixth sense and praying to God it would kick in when I needed it the most (spoiler alert: it did).
We leave the comfort of our home to experience vulnerability, consciously or subconsciously. We are essentially naked. We are forced to give into a process in which we have no control over. Our emotions, our confusion, our frustration, our pain, our homesickness is now worn like the clothes we put on every single morning. Everyone can see it. If you thought you struggled with control before, think again.
I didn’t leave home because I thought I needed to find myself. I didn’t leave because I was escaping the beautiful life I had made for me at home. I wasn’t running away from my problems. I left because I wanted to learn more about my strengths. But what I never imagined was that I would spend most of my time focusing on my weaknesses, which have become so clear to me now. Communication, control, my faith, my appreciation and my general view on the world.
For anyone who hasn’t traveled – imagine telling a foreign cab driver who doesn’t speak a single word of English to get you to a hospital. Try walking down the street where people take picture’s of you because you are different. Your only options for food are some oddly shaped piece of chicken cooked on a grill in the middle of the street with no running water nearby, no importance of sanitation.
Try being driven in a cab doing 140 kilometers on the opposite side of a two lane road with no shoulders, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic. Your heart beating out of your chest as your six sense screams “get out now!” and then tell me how your strong your faith in God is. Try walking down the street where every single person is sweating pushing their food carts, their only income and their livelihood, literally sweating their asses off, hustling you to buy their 50 cent pad thai – tell me how hard your desk job is.
I realized that although my weaknesses were plenty, I have been given an amazing opportunity to grow and to learn, to focus on each and every one of them. Every morning I wake up, I put my weaknesses on like I would my favorite accessory.
My last adventure I realized instantly how strong I was and I was so proud of myself every obstacle I overcame. On the contrary, this adventure to Asia has shown me how weak I am. I now have a better understanding of how foreigners feel walking into my country, how our prejudice is extremely damaging and discouraging. I have an appreciation for those who come to our country for a better life. I want to hear their stories like they have wanted to hear mine. I realize how lucky I am back home – to have a family who loves me, food on the table, a roof over my head. I had a steady job with opportunity for growth if I wanted it. Most importantly, I have the ability to see the world, to learn these lessons and to actually become thankful.
Being vulnerable has expanded my view on the world. In these short couple weeks I have felt more uncomfortable, more weak and have had less control than I ever have. I put my faith in God and walked onto that plane and I have allowed my weaknesses to strengthen my journey and my being. It has pushed me to be a better person.
To anyone reading this saying “I am too scared to travel”, “I can’t quit my job”, “I have a relationship” or “I am too old”
I guarantee you are replaceable at your job and your job is replaceable as well. If your relationship is meant to be – it will be. And if it doesn’t work out, you’ll definitely fall in love on your journey – with yourself, with the land, with the culture and of course, the food and you’ll forget all about that relationship.
I shared breakfast with an 80 year old man today who is backpacking the same journey as myself. He wished he had done it younger, but unlike you – he gave up the excuses and did it now. And fear? It is the ultimate strength builder. Facing fear builds courage; there is nothing scary about traveling. Just pack your bag, book your ticket, leave home.
Writing from the beach in Koh Samui,
Read more of Courtney’s work on her blog, onegirl-onejourney.tumblr.com