This is the mantra that I’ve been using to convince myself that my trip to Ethiopia will be a cakewalk. I repeated this in my head as I stumbled through tourist visa applications. I repeated this in my head as I struggled through seven vaccinations over the course of two days. I repeated this in my head as the doctor told me about 26 different cautions that never would have crossed my mind. I repeated this in my head as I realized I was going to spend 16 hours on planes and many more in airports before even setting foot on African soil.
Oh yes–my mantra and I have become good friends. The hard part was winning the challenge, right? I figured now I’d just get to sit back and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience that just dropped into my lap. Oh wait. What’s that you say? Why yes–I AM delusional because if you look at that mantra, here’s how it actually breaks down:
“I’ve traveled all over the world by myself…” …if all over the place actually means Ireland and major urban centres across Canada and the United States.
“I’ve survived road trips across Europe…” …when I was 12 and my parents planned everything and my biggest stress was having enough batteries to listen to MmmBop nonstop for three straight weeks.
“I’m perfectly comfortable being by myself…” …for up to three days at a time, then I start getting a little cray-cray.
“or out of my comfort zone…” …meaning places that aren’t Halifax but are pretty much like Halifax – places with lattés, iTunes, directions that I understand, streets that are safe to walk around on at night, languages that I speak, and food that I can eat.
So here I am embracing the fact that I don’t have a sweet clue what to expect, that none of my past experiences have really prepared me for anything like this, and that it’s scarier now that there’s nothing to win anymore. I don’t have to be the best writer, or get the most votes, or record the best video. There’s no right way, no essays, videos, photo galleries, or final grades. Now it’s just all about whatever happens–those raw experiences that can’t be anticipated, planned for, or perfected.
Today I accept that there are no accomplishments left in this process for me. In fact, this really isn’t about me at all anymore which is admittedly hard for me to grasp sometimes. With only a few days left to go, all I can do is show up, watch, listen, learn, keep my shit together, and hope for the best.