How to Turn Loose: Step One
Don't Let Fear Hold You Back
As I sat atop the rock and scanned out over the rolling landscape, speckled with cactus and lit up by the bright light of the full moon, I imagined it must be midnight or 1am. The desert was alive that night, and the sounds of the animals and the light bouncing off the rocks was beautiful. I thought back to that moment, when I saw the full moon rising and considered taking a hike away from camp. I had been a bit scared because it was a desert I did not know, and it was dark before moon rise, and because night in the wild can be just plain scary sometimes. But I thanked the stars I had gotten over my fear and ventured out, because this was an experience I would not have wanted to miss.
Welcome to our new monthly series “How to Turn Loose,” advice on getting out there and living the life you really want (with monthly challenges for some fun motivation for us to share with each other).
The journey of Turn Loose started with the goal of INSPIRING people to get outside their comfort zones, blaze their own paths and craft full and adventurous lives. Sounds good, right? We don’t have to follow the path society has laid out for us, and if we work together, share ideas and inspirations, we can write a new story about what is possible. This series is meant to give people a practical roadmap of how they might be able to get after it themselves. I want it to be honest, open, and a community atmosphere where we can build each other up and help each other out- making the world a more adventurous place. Participate, ask questions, and submit stories of your own! (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When I started Turn Loose, I was in the midst of a huge life shift- leaving my comfortable stable life behind, hitting the road and moving into my van full-time. As a professional mountain biker for the past decade, I'd already set off down an unpredictable road of my own, and I've never regretted it. I want to share my experience as well as the experience of others who are following their own path. There is no one right way to do any of this. No one has the ‘answers.’ We can just share our journeys and insights and hopefully inspire others to go out and have experiences of their own.
Let’s start this thing off with the most basic thing I’ve learned in my year on the road, the most foundational step that made this whole adventure possible-
DON’T LET FEAR STOP YOU!
Many people have one major roadblock when it comes to starting an adventure of their own- fear. It comes in many forms, big and small- women who are worried about traveling alone, men worried about asking for a week off work, people with big fears about safety, or little fears about weather, schedule, etc. They worry that the timing is never just right. Sound familiar, anyone?
Don’t feel bad if fear is your first response. It’s natural- we’re all wired this way. Early in our history as humans, vigilance and worry could mean the difference between getting killed and surviving. The media constantly plays to our love of fear, and we naturally ruminate on the things we are afraid of. I can’t tell you how many people I meet, when they hear about my lifestyle, the first question they ask is “aren’t you scared out there alone?” Our animal brains want to worry to keep us alive. Now, we have to rewire them. It’s not about NOT being afraid. It’s about teaching yourself to overcome that fear and do the damn thing anyway.
Here’s how to deal.
Big (Real) Fears
So I’m not saying to have no fear, or to be naive and believe that nothing bad can ever happen to you. This is the real world, and real concerns definitely exist. Address these concerns by thinking about them and mitigating the risk as best you can in a reasonable way. Don’t go crazy, there is no way to plan for every risk of course, but don’t be naive either. I’ve had to make some decisions based on the fact that I am a female on the road alone- I usually never sleep in the same place twice. If someone spots where I’m camping, I typically move to a new spot. I’m not doing these things out of fear, I’m doing them to be smart and cautious. Moving? Reasonable. Not sleeping outside because I’m scared of being alone? Well, that would mean missing the entire experience and that’s not going to work for me. I’ve mitigated risks along the way, and I can happily report that in over a year of living alone on the road, I have not gotten into any really frightening or bad situations.
Small (Silly!) Fears
Showers? What if it’s really cold? What if my boss says NO when I ask him for Friday off?...
Toss ‘em. Look at the present moment. Do you have anything to worry about? You’re alive, you’re not hungry, you’re presumably in good enough health and in a safe enough place that you’re even considering chasing a passion. Forget about the future scenarios in your head- what will it feel like if I don’t shower for a week? What if it rains and all my gear gets wet? What if I can’t serve that dude in the dance-off? Forget about it and focus on the now. When that stuff DOES come up (and it will!), just remember to be in the moment. Sure, all your stuff is wet now. Well, now you get to use that big brain of yours to solve the problem at hand (make a fire! Find a dry place! Stay wet and laugh it out!) and, if you stay really present in the moment, you’ll realize that even if you’re inconvenienced or a little uncomfortable, not showering was totally worth the experience you’re having. There was no reason to worry about it in the first place.
Stay in the moment.
Once you’ve decided to get out on this adventure, try to stay in the moment. This was one of the hardest things for me- I always want to be thinking about the future and be two steps ahead. However, when we really appreciate the moment we are in, and we really realize how beautiful, crazy, and awesome the experience is, we forget all about the fears. If we aren’t thinking about the future, about “Where am I going to find a shower? What if it’s cold tonight?” we can enjoy the present moment and the full experience instead of always worrying about the next step. That makes these new experiences and adventures way less stressful and much more beautiful.
This Month’s Homework
DO ONE THING THAT SCARES YOU!
Use this as an excuse to try that new class, to sleep outside for the first time, to talk to the cute girl in the hallway, to do ANYTHING that scares you!
Write about it, snap a photo, film a blurb about it, tag #TurnLooseChallenge, and/or email it to email@example.com.
Throughout the month we want to share people's experiences to help motivate and inspire the rest of the community.