“You are so brave.”
If I had a dollar for every time someone has said this to me, I could probably stop writing top ten lists and relax for the rest of my life. I’ve heard it from high school classmates, distant relatives, random people in bars and more. Basically, I’ve heard it from all kinds of random people who are only acquainted with the bare bones version of my life as a traveler and freelancer.
You can hashtag this #TravelBloggerProblems if you like, but I think there’s something not quite right in there. There is something there worth talking about.
The reason I hate the bravery trope is simple. It implies that I have some magic personality trait other people don’t. That I can travel because I possess an innate courage which makes it easier for me. That you shouldn’t even bother trying. I have plenty of other things that make me privileged, but excess courage isn’t one of them.
Because you guys, I am not a brave person. Refugees fleeing Syria are brave. Malala Yousafzai is brave. I’m just a girl that can’t sit still long enough to work an office job.
More than that: I am not a bold or daring person at all. I’m scared of answering the phone. I hate confrontation. Every single time I head off on a trip by myself I am totally petrified. Even after all this time.
It’s not about being brave, it’s about facing down your fear and doing the thing anyways.
I was reminded of this recently when I stumbled across this picture, taking on the first day of my Round the World Trip back in 2010:
Looking at this picture I’m struck by two things:
- I had WAY too much stuff.
- I was scared out of my mind.
Seriously, I’m not sure I’ve ever been as terrified in my life as I was boarding that flight to Japan. I had a one way ticket, an ambiguous itinerary and no idea what was in store for me. The next year was a complete blank slate. It took everything I had just to put one foot in front of the other and get through the airport.
All I really wanted right then was to go home and hide under my covers. I didn’t though, and I’m so grateful to my past self for pushing through it.. If I had I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now, I wouldn’t even be WHO I am right now.
I’m not telling you this because I need a pat on the back, but hopefully as a little bit of motivation. If I did this, you can too.
Bravery is a non-factor when it comes to travel. It’s not something you’re born with, it’s something you cultivate (or maybe learn to live without).
It’s about courage: facing those fears head on. It’s about figuring out what you want in life and then figuring out how to make it happen. It’s about taking the advantages you have and pushing yourself harder than you thought you could.
Then you too can look on, bemused, when people call you brave.