On December 20, 2023

The Funologist: Practice Part 3: Adventure is rarely comfortable

 

By Sandra Dee Owens
Visions of wanderings through Oslo’s enigmatic landscape.

 

By Sandra Dee Owens

I was ready to wander solo. On a trip I was afraid to take.

With my (tiny) book “Fear” at the printer, I set out to practice the methodosophy (what I call philosophy plus methods) I had shared in the book. It was anecdotal research for a book I’d just written. 

Sandra Science 

I planned to car camp as no itinerary is needed when carrying your room on your back. It’s a great way for an old lady to wander alone.

The trip’s agenda was to practice not listening to the fear gremlin. Each time this invisible gremlin whispered in my ear that I could or should not do something, I would stop—and do that thing. Every single time. Period. 

And for fun, I set another goal to swim in every loch and sea loch I encountered. Every. Single. One.

I knew from experience that not listening to the fear gremlin takes effort. So, weeks before my trip, I embraced the word “effort” as something to lean into, rather than retreat from. 

I set the voiceover on my iPhone to a British accent, rented a manual car, and saw myself enjoying driving on the left side of the road for the first time. I was “leaning toward” the things with the potential to scare me before encountering them.

When I arrived, I switched to an automatic shift after a harrowing clutch burn-out of my rental car. As I was being shuttled back to the airport, I patted myself on the back for effort. I had driven a manual shift car on the left side of the road. It was a short-lived victory and uncomfortable. But I did it.

Later that day, I approached my first roundabout and instead of allowing the fear gremlin to turn my guts to liquid, I embraced the experience and relaxed my mind, breath, and shoulders. Then slid into the busy labyrinth with ease and a smile. 

Gliding smoothly around the lanes, I listened to my familiar GPS gal and exited the roundabout with more confidence and an even bigger smile. I was practicing not listening to fear. One moment at a time.

Before the trip, I connected with a few women via social media who offered to share their local adventures with me. It was a great way to meet new friends and have a local guide. These adventures included driving on twisty, single-track roads full of blind curves, taken at high speed. I was terrified.

As narrow as a bike path, I questioned the sanity and safety of this well-established, mind-blowing driving behavior. With a giggle, my new friends raced around curves without slowing. “You just have to be ready to ditch your car to the side a bit.” 

The fear gremlin said I couldn’t drive on a single-track road. So I asked my new friend, Holly Spice, to trade seats, and drove her car slowly, honking loudly at every curve. I didn’t drive it like a local—but I drove it. Practice, practice, practice.

I spent a night in a coed hostel in northern Scotland. The shared bunk room was filled with soggy, Highland hikers and their equally soggy gear. The room smelled ghastly. It was uncomfortable to use a bathroom stall with men on either side. But adventure is rarely comfortable. A lovely Scotswoman named Charlotte, who’d been traveling the world solo, told me she was heading to the standing stones on the northern tip of Lewis Isle. “The standing stones are older than Stonehenge,” she said. I was intrigued and headed to the Lewis ferry the next morning.

I stayed in a hostel on Lewis Isle that was not coed. It smelled much better. Sick of driving in my car, I found a bicycle rental shop in the village and told the shop owner I wanted to ride out to the standing stones. He showed me a map with a remote, interior road that cut across the peat bogs. 

As I studied the map, the fear gremlin began in earnest.

“You cannot ride a bicycle across this desolate, boggy landscape, on a narrow path shared with Highland cattle, no homes, fierce wind, and cold, driving rain.”

Then ride back again. 

So I did what the fear gremlin said I could not. And it was uncomfortable at times. But I knew discomfort was just a stone wall I needed to climb over if I wanted to reach the magic on the other side. And I found a lot of magic that day. And every day. In the wind, the rain, the Highland cattle, the otherworldly scent of peat bogs, and the standing stones. In the lochs, sea lochs, white sand beaches and alpine ponds, new friends and shared adventures.  

These magnificent experiences are mine to keep now. If I had listened to the fear gremlin, I would have robbed myself of these treasured experiences.

So every day I continue to practice. I practice not listening to the fear gremlin. 

Because just like a baby learning to walk, you get good at what you practice.

For more information, visit: sandradeeowens.com.

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