Fear and Danger


A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.

~ Grace Murray Hopper

US admiral & computer scientist (1906 – 1992)


Fear is overrated.  There, I said it!  And I mean it, too.

Fear keeps us from pursuing our dreams and living a life that we love.  The reasons "why not" are given so much more of a voice in our internal voting system than they deserve.  It's as if the Fear Corporation hired a bunch of hotshot lobbyists to make sure the Fun & Adventure Company got legislated out of existence.  Why do we venerate mediocrity, routine, and doing what is expected of us?  (It's the bananas, isn't it?)

I just read this article by Chris Gillebeau over at The Art Of Non-Conformity and LOVED it!  So very many quotable things that really capture my feelings on travel, change, risks, and life.  This paragraph sums it up perfectly:

…we tend to focus on the sensational and the dangerous, rare as it might be. A few sensational anecdotes outweigh hundreds of “I went to this place and it was about what I expected.” And secondly, choosing to focus on the negatives gives everyone else an excuse not to pursue a big dream. “Look what happened to him… better to stick to the world I already know.”


Photo from The Art of Non-Conformity (used with permission)


It's funny that as I plan my upcoming trip to Morocco — something that I am TOTALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO! — quite often the first reaction I hear is along the lines of, "My friend's sister went there and got harrassed!"  From an etiquette standpoint, part of me wonders why anyone would want to rain on my parade.  (Of course, etiquette and I are not really that well acquainted, so that could explain it; maybe there's a chapter titled Scaring The Buhjeezus Out Of People in the Emily Post book.)  I am obviously over the moon with excitement about this trip, a birthday present from my wonderful hubby, so why would you do that?  If I bought a new pair of shoes, would your first reaction be to tell me, "You'll probably step in a big pile of dog doo with those"?  Really?!  Come on!

As for the fear question, yes, just like in Egypt, there are those merchants who really push and do the hard sell of their shirts, carvings, and other baubles.  And yes, I'm sure just like in California, there are men who whistle and leer and occasionally attempt inappropriate touching.  There might even be pickpockets like in Rome and Naples, good heavens!  …But what I hear over and over from people who have actually been there, and people who live there, is that Morocco is just as beautiful, dirty, mystical, fantastic, rough around the edges, grounding, and adventurous as you'd imagine — and the people are fabulous.  Wherever you are in the world, you look both ways before you cross the street, so what's the big deal?


Have a peek at Josh Fraser's talk to get some perspective:

"The most dangerous thing you can do is play it safe."


When someone says to me, "stay home; it's safer," what I hear is, "you will be rewarded for being cowardly," and my heart breaks a little.  Without stepping outside my comfort zone, I never would have traveled, much less moved, overseas.  I would not have signed up for Couchsurfing, I would not have visited Tanzania, I would not have camped on Mt. Etna, I would not have tried sushi, I would not have met my wonderful husband… a million things, big and little, that have shaped my life. 

I am tempted to quote Chris's article some more, but really, I think you should just go read it.  He points out, in a nice, succinct way, why fears have an inordinate amount of weight in our decision-making process.

If you think your fears are rational and well-founded, I'll refer you once more to Josh Fraser's video.  "Logic" yourself into a place of adventure by eliminating irrational stopping blocks.  Name and question the fear.  It's probably not the monster under the bed you thought it was.


Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


On the other hand, if you don't feel constrained by the mind, but instead have a vague feeling you can't quite clarify, try to define the feelings for FUN and ACCOMPLISHMENT instead.  …What does that feel like?  Feels pretty great! 

Next, ask: How do you get to that happy place from here?  What would make that happen in real life?  Whatever the answers, go with it!  You can do it!


How have you overcome one of your fears?


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  1. I’ve spent a lot of time speculating as to why people feel the need to ‘warn’ you.

    You can imagine the negativity I got when I told people I was about to sail across the Pacific with my partner. My favourite warning came from a bitter old man who lived in the marina. He said, “You’re going to get into a lot of trouble out there. You have no idea what you’re doing. You don’t know what the ocean is capable of.”

    Sometimes I think people just say out loud the things that stop THEM from undertaking bold adventures. Frightened people have constant soundtracks in their heads, and when they discover that someone else is doing the thing they want to be doing, they just recite that same old tired soundtrack that they’ve been listening to for years.

    1. I agree! I think they also feel that their world view is a little bit threatened by someone not validating their fears. After all, if YOU can break the barrier, then they’ve been fooling themselves all this time. How humiliating is that?

      Ah, well! We all do the best we can with the tools we have. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Heh. I got the same sort of reaction before I went on my student exchange in Russia. At some point before leaving their fear overtook me, as well. But that’s not really a reason to ball up and hibernate. I think it’s nice to take caution with a bit of adventure, though. It’s more about being prepared and able to handle the unexpected.

    Plenty of the “bad things” happened to me or others while I was there, but I also had wonderful and unique things happen, and gained a lot of experience. And I miss it sometimes. And, like you said, if we don’t take a risk sometimes we *risk* missing out on the most amazing parts of life :D.

    Enjoy your trip! It will be epic!

    1. Tour Absurd says:

      Absolutely! If you have the option of adventuring and don’t take it, you’re hardly living, eh? Good for you for heading to Russia! Well done!

      I love that line, “It will be epic!” I am hoping for a cast of thousands, perhaps including a younger Peter O’Toole leading a charge into the sand dunes. ;)

  3. Susan Moore says:

    I think people who use fear as a reason not to travel lack the Exhilaration gene. (Exhilarate: make [someone] feel very happy, animated, or elated: “she was exhilarated by the day’s events”

    1. Tour Absurd says:

      Heh, it’s possible. I think it’s more about how society indoctrinates people into the idea of “good.” That is to say, getting along, not questioning, and doing what you’re told. It’s all about what the tribe thinks is good for the tribe. It may have worked at one time, say when we thought ourselves fortunate to have a damp and drafty corner of a cavern to call our own, but times are a-changin’!

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