“Do it afraid.”
The suggestion shocked me. Fear had always been my sign to proceed with caution; or, more often, to not proceed at all.
So, when the beautiful Spaniards I met on vacation in Bahamas suggested I come and visit them in Spain for a week, I initially balked at the idea. What kind of crazy woman sojourns to a foreign country by herself, to meet up with essential strangers, no less?
But on the other hand, what kind of single woman with no attachments, the summer off, and a $250 standby ticket (compliments of her flight attendant sister) doesn’t take advantage of this incredible opportunity?
So – what seemed to be the key factor dividing these two perspectives?
After having lost my mom at a young age, my very conservative single father not only frowned upon taking risks – he flat-out discouraged them.
At times, clinging to the ‘safe’ option has served me well. For instance, although a teaching degree was a far cry from the jazz piano program my heart longed to take, the former course of study has afforded me security to live comfortably as an independent woman (and has given me lots of extra time to explore music as a hobby).
However, my ingrained proclivity for making ‘safe’ decisions has caused me to neatly avoid a number of life experiences – or embark on paths that look like the most responsible choice – that I now look back on with regret.
So, after being confronted for the first time with the suggestion that it might be OK to “do something afraid”, I made a flash decision to travel to Spain (accompanied by a quick prayer that these nice-seeming boys didn’t end up being serial killers). And two days later, I found myself in the air travelling towards Madrid.
The boys had generously offered to organize the entire trip, which would include a brief tour of South Spain (and hopefully not involve kidnapping or a torture chamber).
It occurred to me on the flight down that I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. It also dawned on me that, although I had written down the suggested hotel names and addresses, I wasn’t entirely clear about the week’s agenda,. Since these guys are all locals, I’d left all of the details to them, and didn’t do any of the usual research or planning typical before embarking on a trip. Essentially, I’d put myself in a position of almost entire dependence on some guys from another country I’d met on vacation for only a few days.
The result? Apart from an initial sensation of sheer terror?
Memories I couldn’t have dreamed up or will ever be able to erase.
The food – the food! I didn’t eat a single thing I recognized the entire time. The boys proudly introduced me to one traditional dish after another. We exchanged many laughs as they closely observed my responses to (and attempts to correctly cut) each new dish – most of which I just summed up as being “interesting”!
The scenery – breathtaking! Although I am a very proud Canadian, I realize how much beautiful history our buildings lack since we are such a young country. The architecture and landscape boasted such pride, character and passion.
But, it was the people who impacted me most of all. I know it is easy to generalize as an observer, but, they just seemed so much happier.
On the beach, I was stunned to watch all shapes, sizes and manners of bodies unabashedly donning all types of swimwear (or lack thereof!). As one Spaniard put it, it wouldn’t be unusual to see a “granny, topless in a thong.” Clearly, they either hadn’t received – or had quickly dismissed – the North American memo that your body has to meet certain standards to wear certain styles (unless you want to bear the silent or spoken condemnation of others). I couldn’t help but think what a contrast this scene was to a recent conversation I had with a dear friend and mother of three, who wouldn’t don a bikini for fear of others seeing the stretch marks left by her pregnancies. What a waste!
Children stayed up later. Couples kissed in the street. Live music swelled and intermingled. Friends conversed over drinks and assortments of shared tapas.
I sat back and marveled.
Could this have turned out differently? Could my fears have been founded? Certainly.
But, can we ever know with certainty when the potential risks outweigh the benefits?
I can’t say for sure.
What I can say for sure is that this time, even if just this once, I’m glad I chose to “do it afraid.”