A cracking lady by the name of Lailah Gifty Akita, founder of the Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation in Ghana once very eloquently said; “Do not fear the unknown, dare to be adventurous in life.” I like that quote because it’s simple. It doesn’t sound like it’s trying to confuse or talk down to anybody and it carries a strong message. Approximately 4 months ago I took this philosophy quite literally when (after doing a fair bit of research and quote comparing don’t get me wrong!) I picked up the phone and booked a ticket for a trip to the other side of the planet.
Even at the time one of many things going through my head was a quote of my own that I’ve used several times in the last 7 years; “Anthony what the f*ck are you doing!?”. Alas the ticket has been bought, the travel friendly bank account has been setup, I know some basic Thai phrases, travel insurance is locked in, I’ve done more reading up on travel visas than most government officials, I have a certificate that says I’m a qualified English Language teacher and I’ve been jabbed with so many needles in the last 3 months that Hepatitis is scared to catch me! The excitement and anticipation is intense, even in North Wales’ frigid temperatures I’m breaking out in sweats. The unknown is exciting, its mysterious, its wondrous, its… f*cking terrifying!
I’m sorry if the sheer amount of shameless comma splicing above reads like a rant from the late-great George Carlin but I’m hoping it can give an insight into my mind-set. I have genuinely never felt a more intense combination of excitement and fear at the same time since the night I lost my ‘V’ and I’m a lot more sober right now than I was then. The feeling itself is immense and I’ve genuinely not felt so unmistakably alive probably since the night just mentioned and I haven’t smoked anything in ages.
However I’d be lying if I said my feet weren’t colder than a barefooted eskimo’s right now and I’d like to draw on yet another quote to help illustrate this fear from the equally brilliant H.P. Lovecraft who said; “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” I think he hit the nail on the head right there. I’ve never been to Fiji, I’ve never even met a Fijian I hear there great for the most part but I don’t know for sure.
Fear and anxiety are things that have always fascinated me as I’ve had my share of both and have found over time that a lot of both can be bought on unnecessarily. This is particularly the case for people such as myself that suffer from an overly active imagination. The hamster on the wheel controlling my imagination would lap Usain Bolt so bad that he’d be slapping him on the back on his way back round. Everything from missing flights, getting my ass kicked because I exist all the way to close encounters of the vestite kind have entered this loaf of bread and what’s even stranger is that a lot of the time I know it’s irrational.
Two of my best friends have been on very similar conquests and have both ensured me that such feelings are perfectly natural and that, frankly, they’d be more worried about me if I wasn’t feeling anything. So I guess I should not fear being fearful of fearing the fear that I’m fearing? Try that one after 8 pints.
What I’m trying to do though is separate the fears that are perfectly rational from the ones that just simply aren’t. Things like getting pick-pocketed, getting scammed, getting lost, maybe a touch of Bangkok Tummy, jet-lag, heat stroke, dengue, sea sickness, not finding work, checking into a hostel that looks like something out of, well….Hostel. All of those things seem like rational fears to me and they’ll quite possibly happen at least once but are they really the end of the world if they do? I think not, I’m a grown man and I’m not mentally made of glass. The point is as humans we can and will survive such things and undoubtedly have fun and tell stories about them afterwards.
Then we move onto the irrational fears and by-God I have to warn you writing these things out even makes me feel a little queasy. We’ve got not making any friends (not one!), all the locals wanting to kick my ass, all the travellers wanting to kick my ass, not being able to eat anything, not being able to drink anything, getting turned down for my Visa even though I’ve done everything to the letter, saying the wrong thing, angering the Thai Mafia, angering the Kiwi Mafia, angering the Fijian Mafia and catching one of the diseases that I’ve been protected against by the fore-mentioned needle invasion.
The above felt just as preposterous to write as it likely does to read and really illustrates how an imagination can run away with itself when giving the necessary stimulants. I love foreign food, I’ve done my research, I’m not a trouble maker and the vast majority of people in these countries aren’t either. Yes Thai people can be troublesome, so can Kiwi’s and so can Fijians but not because their Thai, Kiwi or Fijian but because there bloody PEOPLE! Such dangers exist wherever you go; if you dropped a 20-something year old Thai with basic English skills in the middle of London for the first time in his life in the middle of a cold January and told him to find his hostel he’d be s*itting bricks like I am because he’s a human being!…They don’t all know Muay Thai either!
Its okay for me to fear the unknown, it’s scary because it’s unknown. I’ve never felt heat like I’ll feel in Fiji, New Zealand looks like a maze and not a cheap one and I’ll never understand why in Thailand foreigners are expected to pay more for some things than locals (economically the country is actually doing very well). However, I feel like my biggest task is keeping the fear to a healthy and realistic level because despite it I am so damn excited to start this adventure and feel truly privileged to have the means to be able to do so. There’s good and there’s bad everywhere and with a cautious eye, a polite attitude and a smidgen of common sense I can’t wait to get out there and find the good stuff.
I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.