The reactions of people I told that I was moving to London…I remember shades of feeling in their words.
“Why? There, of all places?”
“Don’t have high expectations… you might be disappointed.”
“I wish I could just drop everything and take off too.”
“I know a few people there, I’ll put you in touch.”
What I wasn’t prepared for was admiration, or being called brave.
I was startled when I realised the adjective was aimed at me.
Let me explain: courage and I do not cross paths often.
My list of anxieties is long and often irrational. There was a time long ago, when I didn’t think I could work full-time. My anxiety near-debilitated me.
So being called ‘brave’, was like being called the winner of a race I didn’t realise I was in. But the label, pinned on me by well-wishing people in my life, forced me to ask:
Was it odd that moving across continents on my own didn’t scare me?
The opposite of fear is desire
I’ve been afraid plenty of times after coming to London, paralysed by inevitable waves of culture shock and life tribulations.
Every time a new challenge came and knocked me down, I would push ‘brave’ away; but each time it would push right back, telling me I owned it.
Hesitantly I would force myself to remember why ‘brave’ had latched on to me in the first place. And slowly I would feel better again.
It is far better to understand your moments of fearlessness, than to focus on what frightens you.
For as long as I can remember I wanted to explore the world. It didn’t matter how, I wanted desperately to devour different lands, to let them engulf me. And it’s because of her.
My baba spent summers in the farthest corners of the Russian countryside as part of her field work.
Doning khakis, knee high rubber boots and a cloak of insect repellent, she trekked through pine forests, swamps, marshlands and barley fields to record different types of vegetation.
When I was old enough to get my own snazzy khakis, I began going with her.
The places where we lived offered immeasurable freedom. That same wilderness she tried to map out was an endless playground for me. At eight years old, I sometimes didn’t come home for days, and that was fine.
Those summer trips are how I came to see travel as a gateway into other realities.
The desire for travel became an almost compulsion. It was what obliterated all my logic, all my doubt and all other emotions. Including the strongest of all – fear.
Moving countries is actually nothing new to me.
My family immigrated to Australia when I was eleven. I lived in Japan by myself briefly when I was nineteen.
Neither of these experiences were the same free fall as my move to London but they demystified the experience and opened my eyes to the possibility of a semi-nomadic existence.
Meticulous research (aka internet trolling) also showed me alternative lifestyles much more risque and daring than the well trodden path taken by many Australians and New Zealanders into the colonial homeland.
There are people out there right this moment, checking into budget hotel rooms, loaded with a laptop, curiosity and an irrational confidence that with the help of remote working and technology they can roam the world stateless, and flourish.
Bloggers, lifestyle and travel writers, digital nomads – people who decided to toss convention aside for unapologetically individualistic living.
Next to them, I’m playing it safe.
The rewards of letting go of fear
Over the past year I’ve lost count of the ‘impossible’ things I’ve done. Most of them had been impossible only to me which is what made them so important. Only I know how difficult they were to achieve.
In my life, travel has always been the ultimate trigger for personal evolution. And this accelerated development is my ultimate reward. No fear will make me give it up.
Making fear disappear
What fear can do is buy you a sense of safety. It can reduce the number of mistakes you make (maybe). What this leads to however is a narrow life, devoid of adventure and possibilities.
Maybe you don’t want a life filled with crazy adventures – that’s cool. We’re all driven by different things. Maybe what you want is your own beautiful home or to get married in Santorini, or start your own business or simply change careers.
Maybe it is something more outrageous like becoming a performance artist or breaking a world record or attempting to cycle your way around Europe.
Whatever it is…
There is no safe way to get to where we truly want to be.
So find what out your desires and see nothing else. Erase your peripheral vision – it is your fear’s ultimate hiding spot.
Make your desire reachable. Demystify it.
And continue asking yourself – isn’t it worth pushing past your barriers to see what lies on the other side?