When you read this, I will be in Europe. (You can follow along on my adventures on Instagram; follow me @amylsorensen.)
(My first time in Europe...wandering a street in Florence, my favorite Italian city.)
In January Haley decided to do a semester abroad in Spain this summer, and then in April she had the idea of going a week early, to see some of the sights in Europe. I decided to come with her because I was worried about her traveling around Europe on her own. (And because I wanted to see some of the sights in Europe too!)
I was talking to a neighbor about this trip, and she said "I can't believe you're brave enough to travel to Europe without your husband. Or even at all! I would be so afraid."
"What would you be afraid of?" I asked her, sincerely curious.
"Getting lost. Or mugged. The airplane crashing. All of those terrorist attacks in Europe!"
I thought about what she was saying. It reminded me of my mornings spent running up Squaw Peak Road, which is a steep, twisting, narrow mountain road near where I live, with narrow shoulders, and how whenever I start to run it, I am overcome with "what ifs." What if I got hit by a car? What if I accidentally fell down the mountain? What if I stumbled on the road and got injured? What if someone from the shooting range shot so wildly that he shot me? What if a mountain lion followed me?
Usually, before I start, I have to take a deep breath. I have to remind myself of my precautions: I only run with one earbud in, and the volume on my music extra low so that I can hear the traffic. I stick to the shoulder. I run with my cell phone so if anything But when I get started running up that road, I leave the "what ifs" behind. What I find instead is a running bliss that is unique to that place, inspired by the steep uphill, by being on a mountain, by the view around me (three different mountains I have hiked, and trees so close i can touch them if I want to, and wildflowers and the blue blue sky). It is a hard run, but it is beautiful, and if I let my "what ifs" stop me, I would never feel that feeling.
I listened to my neighbor and her litany of fears, and why she would never travel without her husband or, likely, with her husband, and I found words tumbling out of me. I hope I was gentle and not judgmental. "I decided a long time ago," I told her, "to not be limited by fear. To not let fear stop me from doing what I want to do. If I let myself be afraid, I would never do anything."
If I'm honest, I can tell you: I am afraid. I'm afraid that we will miss our carefully-scheduled trains. I'm afraid of getting lost and of losing Haley. I'm afraid of not knowing how to navigate the Tube or the Metro and of ending up somewhere dicey. I'm afraid our hotel in Amsterdam—right in the middle of the Red Light district—will be dodgy. I'm afraid of pick pockets. I wasn't afraid of airplane crashes, muggings, or terrorist attacks, but I am, a little bit, now.
But still—when you read this, I will be in Europe. Because you know what else I am afraid of? Never experiencing anything beyond the small confines of my everyday life. Never sitting at a street cafe in Paris while French is spoken around me and I don't understand anything but I am there. Not having any more museum moments, when you go to a specific museum to see a specific piece of art which is, yes, amazing, but you also find your piece there, the one that everyone else might overlook but that is a piece that changes something for you. The prospect that I will never see the great architecture of the world, or wander down ancient streets I don't know the name of, or stand on a bridge over the Thames or a canal or the Seine.
I want to be amazed by what is around an unknown corner, humbled by history, astounded by churches.
I want to run down cobbled streets or on a path through a garden or past storied monuments. (Yes...I am packing my running shoes!)
I want to go, and see, and experience what the world wants to show me.
I am afraid of the bad things that could happen. But I won't let my fears stop me from experiencing the good things that can be found only by stretching. By going out into the world anyway.