If you had 1 year to live, what would you do? Would you go out and spend all your money? Would you acquire fancy things? Would you spend your money on treatments; try to find a way to cheat death? Would you hide under your covers paralyzed by fear and sadness? Would you spend more time with your loved ones?
A few years ago a friend read my tarot cards. And while I don’t give too much weight to that newagey bullshit an interesting theme did emerge — allowing fear to run my life is my primary source of misery. Looking back on my life I can see where that narrative originated: a child of loving but slightly *cough* overprotective parents growing up in an environment where everything seemed safe and sterile. Private schools. Privilege. Yet I wasn’t so sheltered that I was oblivious to the world around me and when it entered my sphere it terrified me.
As I got older I began to approach the things I feared with curiosity.
Suffering a viral attack on my brain served only to make me more curious about the human body and mind. Watching an act of terrorism on live TV made me want to learn about conflict, religion and identity. My primary interests became the very subjects many understand least and fear most.
Buddhists say that the fear of our own annhilation is silly because if you sit still long enough you begin to realize that we are dying every single moment. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing lasts forever. This idea of 1 year to live? Terrifying, but for every one of us a reality. So what are you going to do about it?
My relationship to fear is to run towards it. Lean into it. Ask questions. Poke around. Because more often than not what follows is the discovery that there’s actually nothing to be afraid of after all.
Fear is like painting a scary picture and then running from it. We scare the pants off of ourselves. It makes us do silly things like stay at home and watch Fox News or buy lots of shoes instead of going out there and facing the inevitable head on.
This is why I travel every chance I get.
To fight back against fear. To annihilate complacency. To make sure I don’t get too comfortable with the lies of security and consistency. Because these things don’t last. In that case I’m going to embrace that fact and learn as much as I can about life and the world I’m living in before it’s too late. I aim to experience the world as it is, not as I wish it would be.
One of my yogi friends once told me that the chances of being born into a human life is like a gold ring falling from the sky and landing in the ocean on a dolphin’s nose. This life is precious and, whatever you believe, you must consider the series of events that took place — karmically or chemically — to place you exactly where you are.
People often tell me they hope I find whatever it is I’m looking for out there in my travels. And, while I don’t think they mean it as an insult, it stings like one. So I’ll say it clearly: I’m not looking for anything when I travel. Nothing exists outside of me that I can’t find within me. We are already whole as we are. Whether we have 1 year to live or another 30, the only shame is to let fear dictate our actions during that time. I don’t travel because I’m seeking something. I travel because it scares me. I travel because it pushes me to connect with that fear. I want to experience what it means to be part of the human race, really. I travel because I’m alive — and goddamn — what an opportunity it is.