A few years ago, I spoke to a hundred or so young women about courage.
I started by talking about shared experiences– a rough plane ride, the zip line at the outdoor education camp we all went to, skiing on a slope that was too steep and icy. And each time I asked them to ask themselves if that required courage.
Then I told them that although they may have needed courage to do those things, I didn’t. When the plane was lurching and dropping, when others were screaming and puking, I was trying not to laugh because it just seemed like an amusement ride to me. That for me, there was no courage involved, because I was not afraid.
And then I told them about when I needed real courage. When I had decided that I wanted to do something because of the Syrian refugee crisis and was trying to put together a Group of Five (a Canadian government program) to privately sponsor a family. How the initial Facebook post that I thought would bring in partners had no replies. How I had to actually approach people individually and speak to them, and how I was faced with antipathy or argument, or simply by silence and avoidance. How I had to keep asking. How I thought I had a group, and how after initial commitment people had second thoughts and withdrew. And how I had to start again. And again.
Now, once again, I am discovering what it takes to be brave. I call my journey brave travels, but the parts that you consider brave may not be the same as what scares me.
Jumping out of a helicopter or off a cliff? No problem! When the risk is only physical, the frisson of fear it engenders only makes me want to do it more. Travelling to a country that the Canadian government recommends you NOT visit because of the threat of attacks against tourists? Pfff! You’re more likely to get hit by a car in a crosswalk at home. Travelling by myself? I love it! You meet so many new people, and if something goes wrong, it will be resolved, one way or another, sooner or later.
But opening my heart? Taking that first step towards friendship, making that first suggestion, in person, by text, in an e-mail, that you take the relationship from casual to a little deeper? That you get together for an event, arrange your schedules to coincide, that you visit, even that you continue to interact when you are no longer in unpremeditated connection though location? Being rebuffed, and trying again with someone else? That scares the hell out of me.
Reaching out, being open, when you have the fallback of a solid primary relationship? It’s icing on the cake. But when that main relationship is gone, suddenly the risks become real. You are needy. You are vulnerable.
And travels when you have the anchor of a home to come back to? It doesn’t matter what happens, you know you can always come back.
This week, the anchor is being pulled up and the ship will be adrift. For the first time since I was first a university student, I will not have a physical base to return to. The house that I have lived in for 18 years is for sale, and when it sells what little possessions I am keeping will go into storage as I go travelling.
Yes, I will still have connection to this part of the world. My children and my sisters live here. I will have a storage locker. But I will not be able to easily retreat to a place that is my “home.”
So I wonder how my travels will be different, when they are no longer a vacation, but my life. I wonder what it will feel like, in another country for an extended time, when it is not an interlude, but simply living.
I hope my travels will still be brave.