On Fear

I sound like Chomsky, haha… Maybe not. When I tell people I hitch hiked through America or Europe, the first question is almost always certainly, ‘were you scared?’ It’s a genuine question and I understand where it comes from, but for the most part, no. I wasn’t scared. Last summer, yes I was scared. It was my first time hitch hiking, so there was a lot of ideas floating around my head, but this summer I was more excited than nervous when I set out. Of course there were some anxieties beforehand, but as soon as I stood next to the interstate in Maryland, they all washed away and I was roaring to go. I was on the road again, and life was good.

Fear comes from the unknown a lot of the time. I’m never, ever going to deny that bad things can happen when you travel, and I’ve heard some bad stories, but my attitude is that you can’t live your life sheltered this way. I’m not trying to devalue bad happenings; I’m just saying that they happen in a lot of places in life, just as easy in one place as another. My heart goes out to anyone that got hurt while travelling or anywhere. But the media taints it. The media will paint grey black just for a story. You always hear about that one hitch hiker that got murdered. My answer to this is always, ‘yeah, people get shot in Walmart, but you still shop there, no?’ This usually makes it clear what my attitudes are. So when people I meet ask me if I’m scared, I tell them, ‘nah, not when you realise people aren’t as bad as you think.’ Their answer is often, ‘I couldn’t do it.’ I thought that before I set out.

Like I said, before I set out I was very anxious. Scared isn’t exactly the word, but I had a lot of doubts in my mind as to how things would turn out. Beneath this though, I knew once that arm was outstretched and I was pasted in sun-cream I’d be fine. I wasn’t wrong, but it took a lot of effort. Some sleepless nights before I left were rough. I tried to govern myself with the mentality that I’d rather regret going than not going. I make it sound easy but it isn’t always easy, especially in the face of people trying to put down your ideas. Before my excursion the previous summer, my close ones interrogated me making me almost change my mind. Fuck, am I happy I didn’t. Their ideas fed my anxieties but I said fuck it. Sometimes it does take a little bit of not listening to yourself as you lay awake at night. Just keep thinking of the stories you’ll have afterwards. This isn’t always the best way out of a situation, but for something like this you’ll be fine. Thumbs up.

One thing worth mentioning is social anxiety. I had quite a bit of this for a while, though I won’t get in to it. Hitch hiking and meeting some great, interesting people sorted this out for me. Being able to talk to someone naturally is a nice feeling. However, I’ve met people where it runs deeper than this. I’m not entirely sure how someone can sort this out, as I’m not medically trained (and I don’t claim to be), but I tackled it pretty head-on and it helped wonders. Some travelling kids say they prefer travelling solo as social anxieties get in the way, which is fine, though I found hitch hiking made me realise people can be nice and friendly and there’s nothing to be scared of.

If the fear really was something to believe unconditionally, the next statement wouldn’t ring true: every hitch hiker I’ve met loves the art. And an art it is. I’ve never met a hitcher that doesn’t like it. Even just talking in online groups before my first trip put my mind at ease, as everyone seemed to have no doubts or qualms about how great it was. I can tell you now, personally, that it’s worth the chance to just go for it. Regret doing it, rather than sitting wondering what could have been.

I’ll leave it at that. If it makes you think, then success. Fear of the unknown is an awful thing, and I still get some fears about things out of my control in the future, but we’ll tackle them later.


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