Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Self-doubt, no regrets, and living outside the comfort zone.

Self-doubt, no regrets, and living outside the comfort zone.
What might any of this have to do with food and travel you might ask? Well while I was traveling across Iowa on my bicycle I had a great deal of time to consider all of these topics and their commonality with travel.

I have consciously strived to lead a “no-regrets” life since my near death experience seventeen years ago, then shortly after that experience, my father-in-law died and as we were processing our loss with his passing I realized that I had long been living a no-regrets life. I was so thankful that I had been living a no-regrets life because I had some super incredible experiences with both of my husband’s parents and my grief was in what we would miss doing together, not in what I wished we would have done. The weeks after my father-in-laws death was the first time I was able to appreciate and embrace what I now refer to as my conscious decision to live a no-regrets life. Outwardly, that takes the form of traveling to some very unlikely destinations under unusual circumstances – which makes for some really great stories;  like being some of the very few United States citizens in Togo when our country went to war; or, being in the country of Grenada during a coup – but I will tell those stories another time. Outwardly, no-regrets living is easy to spot and often looks effortless; inwardly, is another story.

self-doubt (s lf dout ) n.
A lack of faith or confidence in oneself

 For years to come I will be telling stories about this year’s RAGBRAI ride because I learned so much about myself during the 400 plus miles I spent in near solitude (close to 50 hours). It may seem hard to believe that I could be riding along with 20,000 of my new closest friends and be in solitude, but I always seem to be able to carve out a little bubble of space and just put my head down and think…or not…while I rode. I did talk occasionally with others as they rode by me, and on several of the days I rode with my oldest daughter who said hello to everyone and talked to me and all of the people around us then entire ride…that was fun! But for the most part I was in my head…and at the risk of sounding crazy…sometimes I was listening to things in my mind…not like little voices, more like big voices…and when the going was really really hard, the voices got louder and louder until I had to either pay attention or figure out how to let them go. Now when the voices are saying, “I don’t think you’ve had enough to drink”, or “It is really sunny, when was the last time you applied sunscreen?” I need to listen, but when they are saying “maybe you are not ready for this hill”; or “you are tired, maybe you should give up.” I need to figure out what to do with them, and usually, I can gut through anything and ignore them. This year that was not so easy and on day 5 I succumbed to what I thought of as being self-doubt – the “you are not prepared to be doing this” voice. I was ready, I was more than ready, but after 60 miles on that day I started believing that I was not really ready and I pulled off the course. I felt like I had failed. I got in the support car and went to the end town and waited for the rest of my team to finish. Defeated, I thought I had lost confidence in myself. The next day I got up, got back on my bike and finished the day’s ride feeling very strong as if it were effortless, and the same thing happened on the next and final day of the ride. Those last 2 days were possibly the best 2 days I have had on RAGBRAI.

The inspirational quote “Life is a journey not a destination” has always been true for me when I travel. I love planning to go on a trip, any trip, any distance, any length of time. My entire being loves the thinking, planning, list making, and organization related to travel. Whenever I travel I spend 75% of my energy in the planning process and 25% on the actual adventure. Not only does the planning allow me to vicariously travel ahead of time but for me the preparation builds my confidence and increases my faith that I will be able to make sound decisions once at the destination or event. Planning ensures that I won’t have to waste even a moment living in self-doubt. So why so much trouble with this one simple decision?

I was ready for RAGBRAI this year, more so than previous years, I had faith and confidence in my training and planning – I was ready. So why did I have what felt like self-doubt about my decision to pull off the course on day 5? I have absolutely no regrets about the entire experience and today I realized that perhaps I labeled listening to this voice on the fly as self-doubt, when in reality it was a result of solid planning and training and that my body really did need some rest after riding 60 miles that day…perhaps I needed to look at not riding those remaining 24 miles as an opportunity to enjoy a different part of the ride and just have fun clanging bells and supporting the riders as they finished riding on that grueling day…perhaps I just needed to remind myself that the accomplishment is in the journey…in the no regrets type of journey.

Travel allows us to move outside of our comfort zones, see and experience different cultures, people and customs. Travel widens our horizons, increases our empathy and deepens our understanding of others’ realities. But most of all travel gives us opportunities to walk with humility and be kind and considerate to all, including ourselves. Go ahead give it a try, experience a no regrets life experience…full of confidence and faith…you are ready.

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