I was 20 years old when I took my first cross-country road trip with my best friend Danielle. I had never changed a tire. I had never driven farther than 3 hours from my house by myself. We were camping, but I couldn't start a fire.
I had been unemployed over a month before, so in addition to being unprepared, I think I had around 500 dollars to my name (and bills due the week we came home)… Danielle had less than that.
I wish I could say I embraced our free-spirited, road warrior escapade.. but in reality, I was a nervous wreck.
There were so many times I felt we were over our heads, especially when things didn't go to plan. From speeding tickets to dangerous inner cities to bad weather. I would stare into a scene from a real life post-card and cry and laugh and worry and exclaim my joy… all in a span of 10 minutes. If that makes me sound unstable, its because I was.
But in spite of this, regardless of my expectations being crushed or exceeded, no matter if my plans were met or if they were about as useful as the magazines we brought to start a fire with.
I didn't want to turn around.
I didn't want to give up.
And deep down, I knew I was doing something that meant a lot to me, and that it was more than just driving around.
It was making me a better person.
There was a voice inside that told me this, even when I was anxious and uncertain and so afraid and disappointed and amazed. This voice sometimes whispered and sometimes yelled, but I learned the way it made me felt when I listened to it.
I learned this voice didn't always agree with want I wanted in the moment, there were times I wanted to traverse hiking trails in thunderstorms, clenching metal chains as I made my way up the cliffs, swearing that I made it this far, and I wouldn't give up. That voice inside me was like “hey dude, who are you proving yourself too? Is this making your life better or are you just being proud and dumb?” meanwhile thunder is rolling and I realize, oh yeah, 10/10 do not want to be struck by lighting today.
I’ve ignored this voice too. I remember seeing the deep red patches on the Doppler radar driving through central Texas, just imagining a bad rainfall and nothing more. We drove through that flashflood while cars were slowly submerging in the medians and we prayed Jesus Would Take the Wheel (Carrie Underwood style) while also listening to AC *insert lightning bolt* DC.. because.. ya know.. THUNDASTRUCK. It was actually one of the scariest moments of my life, all jokes aside.
Here is my point, I think it is so important to challenge your fears and patterns (i.e. me being the total type A planner) and to give yourself opportunities to break from your comfort zone and trust and gain confidence in yourself. I think its important to give yourself the chance to listen to that inner voice that tells you KEEP GOING and also reminds you that you have nothing to prove.
It doesn't always have to be a risky or super scary event that will let you practice this in your travels, I don’t think everyone has to take a cross country road trip or travel to a foreign country alone. Maybe consider that over-night backpacking trip you have been dreaming of, or getting on an airplane even through you are terrified of flying, or taking that big trip with your toddlers (in spite of the sassy remarks from parents WHO WOULD NEVER).
You might get in the woods after dark, and not sleep all night, and decide that it was the worst experience of your life and you will never go again. Or maybe you will gaze at all the stars and go farther in nature than you thought possible. Maybe you will get on the plane and pray the whole time, and kiss the ground when you land. But maybe you will be awestruck by the perspective above the clouds and the new opportunities that come from air travel. Maybe your kids will be miserable and ruin that once in a lifetime vacation, or maybe it will leave you both with memories far more wonderful than any temper tantrum they could throw. It will probably be a mix of everything.
I wish I could tell you there was an easy way to know how your adventures will end up, I wish I could tell you if it would be a positive experience or if it will be a disaster. But that is where trusting yourself and listening to yourself comes into play.
I can tell you this much, you will never know when its time to turn around, if you don't go. So maybe try going, and listen for that little voice that tell you when to keep going, and when to head back.