Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start focusing on what can go right. – Unknown
Sometimes we just have to say “yes,” even if it scares us. Despite what your mother says, the majority of the decisions you make in life are not going to kill you. Saying yes can be uncomfortable, painful, annoying, and even embarrassing, but quite honestly looking back on all the times I’ve been miserable in my travels — those are some of my most cherished memories. I said “Yes” along the way knowing fear and failure were very real possibilities. What I found on the other side was exhilaration, laughter, contentment, and genuine happiness.
Fear is a powerful influencer and it permeates every inch of our lives. When my wife and I decided to quit our jobs to travel to the forgotten corners of the world and likewise when we chose to live out of a van in the wild in-betweens of America, I had serious trepidation. On our first trip to Asia, I couldn’t eat anything for days and the first few nights I laid in the bed awake scrutinizing every sound and wondering what I had gotten myself into. But every day I got up and made the choice to say “Yes” to new experiences. I said yes to exploring ancient ruins and starting conversations with strangers. I said yes to climbing mountains and eating tarantulas. I said yes to trusting people I had only just met and to changing my plans on the go.
There’s no time to waste when one hundred people are trying to fit on a fifty person bus in the middle of nowhere, miss it and your stranded, take your time getting off and the last room in town is booked. The best way to travel is to team up and double your odds. As we arrived in Nicaragua one night well after dark we scurried off the bus, grabbed our packs and made a quick introduction with two girls from Sweden. Understanding the urgency of the moment we joined forces and booked it down the dimly lit streets bouncing in and out of hostels until we found one. Over the next few days we got to know the girls better and we decided to travel on with them. Before long we found ourselves on the Isla De Ometepe, an island village in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Needing a ride to our ferry the girls suggested hitchhiking, red flags, and sirens were going off in my head. Hitchhiking has gained a notoriously bad reputation in America and here we were contemplating doing it in the developing world. As a truck rounded the corner I had to make a decision, I said “Yes” and just a few short minutes later we were flying down the road in the back of a banana truck with smiles on our faces. Bad things could have happened, but instead the men couldn’t have been nicer and refused to take even a penny from us.
The next day we departed the ferry with our new friends and loaded into boats and headed up the Rio De San Juan. After some time we arrived at the small village of El Castillo. A remote village on the jungle border with Costa Rica, it has no roads, no cars, no ATM and no internet. Showers consisted of an oil drum filled with water and a cup. On a walk through town we encountered some locals who offered to take us out after dark on the river and give us an “authentic” tour. Our guide spoke exactly zero words of English and we soon realized we were the only boat anywhere on the river. Again, bad things could have happened, but instead it was an amazing one of a kind experience. Our guide corralled numerous lizards and cayman with his bare hands and let us hold them as we laughed hysterically at our complete and utter lack of ability to communicate with one another. It was another truly amazing experience, all because I said “Yes.”
I’m not advocating we all become “yes men”, there are plenty of times that require a firm no in life, but too many of us use “no” as a starting point when making decisions. Even if it is small daily decisions, it is our built in response. We avoid failure at all costs and want to shield ourselves from the uncertainty of change and saying no is the only way most of us know how to do this.
It’s hard to say yes because it leads us towards things that are unfamiliar and uncertain and this is scary. But when we look back on our lives the most exciting and growth filled times are also usually the most terrifying.
Take that trip, switch careers, don’t be scared, life is too short to live the same day twice. Have the courage to do the things you’ve always wanted to, start saying yes today.