I have always loved stories. I remember I would sit and listen to anyone tell a story, where it be romance, scary, self-discovery, etc. There was always something about those stories that always entranced me. These stories could be fiction, or non-fiction, regardless, if someone was telling it, I wanted to hear it.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I have been searching relentlessly for my story. The one that I will tell and it will be renown, life-changing for the world and myself; one that someone else wanted hear. But, I think as I was looking for this story, I found, that I didn’t have one story, rather, I am made up of many stories. Common sense right? Now, some call these “chapters.” But, I would rather shove glue sticks up my nose than talk about chapters of a person’s life. Where I am now is that I have a million stories, some that make me laugh, make me cry, and make me hurt. There are also stories that I have that are turning points. They still make me laugh, cry or hurt, but they have helped me realize something about myself that changed or woke me up. This is one of those turning point stories that makes me laugh, but in the end, woke me up.
They say the beauty of traveling is that you experience the ever true feeling of how small your poor soul is compared to the rest of the world. This feeling is one that you will come to understand as you travel and live in other countries with a different culture than your own. But they always say, in order to truly immerse yourself in the beauty of travel, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Hence, I started to live my life saying “being scared half to death is good!” That sounds odd, but what I what I meant was that while I was abroad some of my richest experiences happened when I was scared half to death. It was great! I learned and I will cherish those moments forever. However, living that way did not always work in my favor. I soon realized that there is a key difference between being scared half to death and being scared to death.
When I was in Spain, I lived in Sevilla. A beautiful city in southern Spain that had an abundance of culture and true Spanish life. During the spring, Sevilla celebrates La Feria in a truly beautiful week long fiesta that attracts all people from the city and surrounding towns. At the festival, you dance and drink until you think you can actually dance Flamenco….(you can’t I promise). Anyway, while I was there I enjoyed the festivities with some friends and a new hot Spaniard I had been talking to. One thing lead to another and my friend, the hot Spaniard, his friend and I were all in his car driving. You know the part in the movies where you scream at the television because the actors are making all the wrong decisions? This was that moment. Before I continue, I have to say, I never did this. I was never the type to ride in a car with a strange man…but remember, the drinks, Flamenco, “being scared half to death is good?” Yeah, well I was all those things. As we drove, I realized we were out of the main city area where we were accustomed to…I am extremely good with directions and I was completely twisted around. My ears started to prickle, but I hadn’t completely realized we were the stupid girls in the horror film. That is until he turned his car down an alleyway between two abandoned buildings. Commence being scared to death.
I began to panic and I looked at my friend in the backseat as the car came to a complete stop. I didn’t know exactly what to do or what we were going to do. It wasn’t until the hot Spaniard turned to us and said “¿nosotros cuatro, juntos?” Now, at the time, my Spanish was good, but it doesn’t even take a fluent Spanish speaker to understand what he wanted. My friend looked at me and politely said that “we need to talk outside.” Once outside in the air my fear had piqued and the alcohol fuzziness had evaporated. I was scared. My friend was equally disturbed. We thought we could try to run to catch a cab except it was an abandoned area and, of course, I left my purse in the car. So we got back in the car. As I opened up the door and grabbed my purse, in jumbled scared Spanish I said “no, gracias” and that we were going to try to find a cab home. A blank, cold stare returned my shaky gaze and then we started driving. My hot Spaniard was literally steaming.
Needless to say, I wouldn’t have said this story was “funny” if it didn’t end well. The truth is, thirty horribly awkward minutes later, we were dropped off near our pisos (apartments) and we were unharmed. I don’t think I had the car door shut before he was driving away. As we walked back to our apartments, we started to laugh. Hysterically. Not because what just happened was funny, but because we were scared to death and somehow we survived.
Now, I am sure the majority of you reading are not going to think this story is particularly funny. And I probably wouldn’t either if I were you. But, in the end, it was a turning point. One last lesson that Sevilla gave me before I left for the states. What I learned was that there is something beautiful about trying to travel without fear…”being scared half to death,” but there is also something beautiful (and safe) about making the right decisions and listening to your gut. Looking back, before we even got into the car, my gut told me it was wrong, but I didn’t want to miss out on something that would have “made” a great story. I was naive and I was lucky.
There are only a small handful of times in my life that I have been scared to death. I still believe being scared half to death is worth the adrenaline, but being scared to death sings a different tune. What my first abroad experience showed me was that in order to truly soak up a culture you have to go to the end of your comfort zone and jump off, don’t worry, the amazing stories will catch you. However, it was experiences like this that taught me that you have to be smart. You have to listen to the little voice and the ear prickle to protect yourself; which is a lesson that applies in every country and in every city you find yourself.
My point is this, as you are trying to find your story or you are trying to write your story, remember that the only way that story can be told from your point of view is if you are alive. So be scared half to death. Not TO death.