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How I Managed to Conquer My Fear

How I Managed to Conquer My Fear

Guest Post by Cath of Red Door Ponderings

Over the last five years, my husband and I have been focused on working hard and travelling a lot.

For some reason, we keep getting drawn back to Southeast Asia, so I'm familiar with the cries of “big clothes for big ladies" and men massaging my feet in the ubiquitous foot massage places. Or being sat at the table with those sturdy wooden chairs. Been there, done that – and honestly, I'll probably do it all again in the future!

Over Christmas, my husband and I returned to Cambodia and Vietnam for one month. This was our second time in Cambodia and fourth in Vietnam, but it was the first time we wouldn't be travelling alone. Instead, we were meeting family for two weeks.

So, we would be seeing familiar places through new eyes and trying new things.

Being with a new group of travel buddies made me realise how many limits I had been putting on myself. Slowly but surely, I have started to conquer my own inner voice about what I should and shouldn’t be doing (or wearing) on vacation. Oh sure, I had conquered the “I can wear a two-piece swimsuit” or “I can wear shorts” demons – but that took a long time and was helped by the fact that I am as blind as a bat without glasses, so I have the if-I-can’t-see-them-they-can’t-see-me mentality. And then I discovered some gorgeous swimsuits and now I am out there in all my glory.

But on this vacation, our travel buddies were keen to try different things. Snorkelling?  As in the jumping-off-a-boat-into-the-sea-and-then-having-to-hoist-myself-back-onto-the-boat snorkelling? Hmmm, no thanks.

Or doing a motorbike tour of Saigon? Not a huge Harley-type motorbike, but a scooter? With a driver? So, there would be two of us on that one little bike? Hmm, no thanks!

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

Even the thought of doing either the snorkelling or motorbike tour freaked me out. And then I realised my travel buddy was also freaking out. She hadn’t done either of these things either. And her 10- and 15-year-olds were going to do the snorkelling. Plus, her mum was going to do both, so being able to talk through the fear was helpful. Being up front and acknowledging I was way out of my comfort zone was also a relief. And, best of all, she went and did the bookings for both, so there was no backing out!

Phu Quoc Snorkelling

Jumping into the abyss. . .

Well, it felt like jumping into the abyss. Snorkelling required being picked up in a small boat off the beach in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, before heading off on a bigger boat to a snorkelling spot.

There is absolutely no dignity in clambering up and down off various sized boats as small Vietnamese men grab you and hoist you up – whether you want or need them to or not.

Oh, and there were at least 50 other people on the boat. And I ended up sitting on that boat in my swimsuit, with snorkel and flippers on, for what felt like a very long time. This is clearly an “after” photo!

But you know what? No one cared! Not one person. Well, not that I noticed anyway. Everyone else was there focusing on their own experience. And I ended up having an amazing experience with my travel buddies that we can now laugh and reminisce about. They even jumped off the top off the boat (I wasn’t quite that adventurous).

Motorbike Tour of Saigon

Even though I have been going to Southeast Asia for years, I had never been on the back of a motorbike. I had convinced myself that it was unsafe and surely our insurance wouldn’t cover it – right?  No need to go there.

And then my travel buddy discovered a motorbike tour of Saigon, all with lady drivers. The idea sounded okay, but I needed to do my research. I wanted to see the size of other people who had been on the back of those bikes and done those tours. YouTube delivered the answer. Okay, if others can do it I can do it. Yep, sign me up!

Nervous before the motorbike tour, Saigon Post Office.

Nervous before the motorbike tour, Saigon Post Office.

I have to admit, I was terrified. Terrified of falling off, or slowing the bike down or making an idiot of myself. But, you know what? I loved it. And I was also annoyed that I had been missing out on doing this for years because I was afraid. And I discovered some new parts of Saigon that I had never been to. A very, very welcome bonus is that it was lovely and breezy on the back of the bike – a nice change from the oppressive Vietnamese heat.

But I did both. I survived. I conquered my fear and did it. I can hardly believe it! And I am glad I did do both.

Mid-tour, on the back of a bike!

Mid-tour, on the back of a bike!

Would I do it again?  Definitely the motorbike! In fact, I am planning to get my license. Snorkelling? Yes, but no to jumping off a boat again. I have also realised that the limitations being placed on me are of my own doing, and that sometimes the hardest thing is having the courage to recognise that – and do it anyway. You never know what activities you might discover you love!

The secret to happiness is freedom. . . And the secret to freedom is courage.
— Thucydides

Catherine is a traveller, blogger, and business owner currently living in Wellington, New Zealand. Cath and more of her travel inspiration, aspiration, and stories, can be found on her blog Red Door Ponderings, or on Instagram & Facebook via @reddoorponderings. She and her husband Andy love to travel and explore new places and are either on holiday or planning their next adventure!

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