Full disclosure; I once let my fear of traveling to India heavily influence my decision to change jobs. And then, once in the new position I had to go to India to fulfill my job. I had to face my fear, understand it and find my way through it. This situation was not going to go away. The time to deal with it had come.
I asked myself, what is the basis for these feelings? Loss of control? Concerns over personal safety? Helplessness when confronted with abject poverty? All of these? Not to mention my runaway, monkey-mind, foaming, wild-imagination that was all juiced up and on a marathon envisioning what could happen.
Now many of you when you think of India may have visions of scenes from the movie Eat, Pray, Love, the beauty of the Taj Mahal, the goodness of Gandhi or special and exotic foods. These images never crossed my pre-frontal cortex. My thoughts were working overtime, I was in heavy flight or fight mode.
I reached out to my friends, and they encircled me, coaching me through my thoughts, and providing excellent advice. On the word of a good friend I bought a guide-book to expose myself to the beauty and historical intrigue of this land. This started the process of lifting my fearful thoughts.
Some friends had lived there for several months and knew things such as it is best not to arrive at the airport earlier than two hours prior to your flight because the armed guard will not let you in. These kind friends wove an intricate combination of caring, wisdom, and compassion that held me in support.
The Accidental Tourist
The trip went very well and I met some of the most gracious and lovely people. And yes, my horizons were greatly broadened. I saw extreme poverty, but I also experienced the joy in the faces of young men flying colorful kites on a holy day, while perched on top of their neighborhood homes constructed from scraps of wood and fabric. They found happiness in the midst of poverty.
Ironically, as I was flying out of Mumbai I watched the movie The Accidental Tourist, a story about a man who writes travel guides about staying within your comfort zone while in foreign lands. He learned, as did I, that there is much to be gained from pushing the edges of your comfort zone to include new experiences. Life provides many opportunities for lessons. You could say that “life” is just one big lesson enticing you to grow.
Here is what I learned from my experience that I believe can be applied to many aspects of our lives.
Lean into Your Fear and do the research to learn as much as possible about what scares you. Knowledge puts you in a position of power.
Ask for Help when frightened or doubtful. Friends and friends of friends will step forward to assist you once they know you need help.
Be Open to New Experiences. Growing as a human at times is uncomfortable, and that’s okay because the benefits of being open far outweigh blocking what might be.