On Embracing What Scares You

In just over a month I will be flying to Madrid…by myself….being away from Dan and home for eleven days, attending the International Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest. For many people, that would be cause for excitement and celebration, but for me…well, the nightmares and feelings of panic have begun. I am working on turning that around, though- what a wonderful opportunity this trip is- or will be- if I can get my head on straight.   Traveling with this guy is a joy…

I am Secretary of the ICA, so there is no turning back. I have to be there to serve the organization, and to perform on the Board recital. I truly want to be there to experience the beauty of Madrid. Originally, Dan was going to travel with me, and we were going to add on days in Barcelona and Portugal, as we did with our trip to Italy two years ago, but his schedule at the theater is just too busy for him to get away, and we have to have some foundation work done on the house in the fall…it just didn’t make sense for Dan to go this time. Intellectually, I understand, but my heart hurts to not share this experience with him. And- I will just go ahead and admit this- I am terrified of traveling to another country by myself. Chickenheart- that’s me when it comes to things like this.    

 Our trip to Florence, Assisi, and Rome changed me forever- such beauty and history everywhere. 

My fears were mollified somewhat when my best friend decided that she would go to the conference early with me (the Board gathers for several days of preparatory meetings before the five day conference). I love traveling with Diane, and knew that together we would somehow end up in the correct country…something I can’t guarantee for myself. But…my dearest friend in the world is dealing with breast cancer, and will be going through rounds of radiation that will prevent her from attending the conference after all. I will miss having her with me, but the most important thing is that she does what she needs to do to be healthy.  Travel buddies…always an adventure (and lots of laughter).

So, now I have to face one of my biggest fears, flying alone to a far away country where I know very little of the language. I was in the Spanish National Honor Society in high school, but that was twenty-nine years ago and that ship has sailed. I am also such an introvert, that the thought of going to this conference without someone that I feel very comfortable with gives me the heebeejeebies. There will be many people I know there, but it is just different. And…I have to perform in front of all of those people as a Board member this time. I feel the pressure building…pressure of my own making. 

Basta! Enough. Now that I’ve put my fears out on the table, it’s time to face them and embrace them. I have been to Madrid before during my Master’s degree, on tour with the orchestra. The city is beautiful, and I will never forget my visit to the Prado, some of the most amazing art I have ever seen. How lucky I am to get to revisit Madrid and see it with older and wiser eyes. Travel is an amazing gift, opening our eyes to different people, different ideas, different vistas, and to history. Travel has the power to open our minds and our hearts, something I want to keep doing until my last breath.  Our hotel room in Assisi looked out at the Basilica of St. Francis…breathtaking. 

This trip will be really good for me. It will prove to me that I am stronger and more brave than I think I am. I have flown by myself many times, and I will have books on my iPad, music, and- very importantly- Bose noise canceling headphones- to help me pass the time. I will practice Spanish phrases to help if I get a bit lost, and I will map out where I will be going beforehand. I have my handy Rick Steves travel guide, and I know what to expect, having flown internationally just two years ago. I will be busy working at the conference, and the eleven days away from home will pass quickly…and I will have many stories and photos to share with Dan when I come home. 

I’m fifty-two. It is high time to quit living in fear about things- especially opportunities to see other parts of the world while attending a conference where I will get to be inspired by the best clarinetists in the world. I will learn so much about my instrument and myself. Going without my safety net of Dan, Diane, and home will be good for me, even though I will miss them. Maybe this is my chance to prove something to myself that I have needed. Maybe by embracing what scares me most I will conquer the fears once and for all. I’m counting on it- life is way too short to travel with fear as a companion.   Here’s to many more adventures!

4 thoughts on “On Embracing What Scares You

  1. A few years back I took a short weekend trip by myself, at my husband’s encouragement. He was working and in school and I was not. While away, I went out to dinner alone for the first time, and then went and saw a play, alone. It was great! Gave me a sense of confidence afterwards, because I was really afraid to do it. As far as the language barrier, I think practically everyone else in the world speaks English. I’m sure you won’t have any issues, especially since you have been there before. It’s sad Dan can’t go with you to share the experience, but I have no doubt that you’ll do just fine. I’ve only been to London. I can’t wait for you to write about your experience while you are there.

    1. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I love the idea of being able to travel by myself…I just have to get my mind to get with the program. :)) I really look forward to being able to blog about the trip, as writing always helps me to sort things out. ❤️

  2. Thanks so much, Denise, for sharing your fear about the upcoming trip. I completely identify with you because I’ve also had a fear of traveling throughout my lifetime. When I first experienced panic attacks, I was a very young mom. It took many years (and mucho therapy) to overcome this nemesis. I’m now over 70 and the only thing that still makes me fearful is traveling alone. I used to go everywhere and anywhere with my husband or with a family member or co-worker. Now my husband is in hospice care and I now live rather far away from my former travel buddies. More than anything else in the world, I hope to revisit the UK where many of my family members are from. So if I’m to go there again, it will be just me. I thought of taking my dog but I’m afraid that something might happen to her.

    I know full well that the only way to overcome a fear is to do the thing you fear over and over again. I learned this info from my therapist years ago, and it actually works extremely well. Since you will be meeting up with colleagues in Madrid, your initial nervousness will ebb as you become involved with folks who share your interest in music and your excitement in seeing Spain again. You might not think so, but there are probably a goodly number of people attending your same event who also fear to travel by themselves – you may meet some of them on the plane! That actually happened to me years ago when I was so full of panic about everything (with a capital E). I was with my former spouse on a plane to the Caribbean and there I sat in the middle seat, shaking my brains out. Next to me sat a woman roughly my age. As the plane took off, I noticed that she was shaking too. She looked at me as I looked at her and she asked if I was afraid to fly. I said yes and we talked for the entire flight – neither of us felt any fear as we talked on and on. I suddenly realized that I had way more control over my fear than I’d ever realized.

    Please forgive me for yakking on but I identified with your feelings so much and I pray that you will fly ALONE with the utmost aplomb well before you reach my age. If and when you feel fearful, just remember that there is at least one person in the world who has been where you are and knows you’ll soon prevail at traveling solo. Best regards, Kath.

    1. Thank you so much for your message and the encouragement. It really does help to remember that we are not alone in our fears. I truly hope that I can allow myself to focus on all of the wonderful aspects of the trip….and that doing what scares me will help me to conquer the fear once ad for all. I hope that you get to make that trip to the UK and that you enjoy every moment. ❤️

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