Years ago, during my undergrad at Western I read a book called "The Gift of Fear." I write so often about setting my fear free to wander on its own. Fear is often regarded as something that holds us back. By myself included. However, "The Gift of Fear" lends a new perspective to fear.
While I strongly believe in wandering despite my fears. I also understand that sometimes my fear is valid and can keep me safe if I trust it.
Okay, enough of vague, spanning, generalizations. Let's dive in!
My colleague often speaks about her fear of hiking Washington trails alone. She spent many years in California where the trails were wrought with other hikers. She always felt safe on the busy trails.
I, on the other hand LOVE an empty trail. I feel free to dance, leap, sing, shout, stop and pee, huff and puff, blow snot rockets - whatever, you know how I operate by now. Hiking a deserted trail feels exhilarating to me, rather than terrifying.
However, I rarely hike far from home when I hike alone. I often have cell reception, and if I don't my partner knows which trail I'm hiking. I take reasonable precautions to keep myself safe.
When I ventured into the North Cascades alone - just a few hours from home, but without cell reception and entirely alone - I felt my familiar exhilaration on the trails. I felt free, joyful and so thankful to be alone and in silence. I couldn't understand why my colleague felt unsafe on solo-hikes. That is until, I walked past another solo hiker, a man, in his mid-forties. And in that moment I understood my colleague's fear. I felt it in my gut, something wasn't right.
Admittedly, I was underprepared, no pepper spray (pretty much the only weapon I feel comfortable wielding), no whistle, very few lessons in self defense. But nonetheless, I picked up a sharp rock and carried it with me the rest of my hike back to Gyspy-Rita (my van-home).
This man, who gave me a creepy-crawly feeling in the pit of my stomach did not attack me, did not follow me (to my knowledge). In fact, I never saw him after our paths crossed. But the very lesson "The Gift of Fear" teaches is: trust your gut. If something feels wrong, be prepared for the absolute worst. So that is what I did. I prepared myself.
And who knows, maybe this guy saw the way I looked at him, or saw me pick up that rock and thought better of messing with me. Maybe he never would have hurt me. But it doesn't matter. The Gift of Fear taught me never to feel ashamed about being rude or making an assumption when I felt unsafe. So, no matter where I go, I trust my internal voice that says "NOPE, fuck that!", and I truly believe I am safer for it!
So as we all wander this beautiful planet, may we never let our fear hold us back from realizing our dreams. May we wander boldly and wildly. And may we also trust our inner voices and take precautions when we feel deep inside that shit could go sideways!
Wandering Warriors, you have so got this! So go out and wander the world! Happy Feminist Friday to you!