When Traveling Starts To Lose Its Purpose, Just Run.
I didn’t know it was possible to be imprisoned by a t-shirt, but here I sit, sweating profusely and slowly suffocating… and it’s not just because of the 35 degree weather. The t-shirt was clearly made too small (it’s an Asian small of course). Yet the t-shirt fit last week, and it fit this morning, so something tells me that the spontaneous shrinking, suffocating and sweating has more to do with my inner turmoil and less to do with the sunny Taiwanese summer.
Fear Will Follow You Across The World
I dig a little deeper, practicing some form of yogic breath I’ve learned for anxiety filled moments like these, and the familiarity of this feeling strikes me. Yes, this vomit-inducing feeling has happened before, usually when I’m unrestrained at very high heights. Good old fear. It’s nice to know it happens on solid ground too.
Today my fear is rooted in something entirely different. I’ve made a commitment to put pen to paper and share my thoughts. On what exactly, I’m not sure. My default topic of travel is feeling a little worn out. I’m out of fresh, mountaintop perspectives at the moment.
My Marco Polo attitude is feeling particularly deflated at this moment, while I listen to a pack of Taiwanese summer campers scream around me. I left my job, my home, my family for this? Ha. I’m missing that sense of purpose that usually comes with travel and adventure and I wonder why I’m here at all. What I do know is that I won’t find the answer decked out in this stifling, horrid t-shirt.
Running Is A Universal Travel Medicine
I change gears. I need fresh air and Taichung evenings are the best time of day for exercise. Lacing up my running shoes is another familiar feeling, but this one brings back happy memories, times of triumph when I discovered that yes, I could do it.
Running is my method of building a routine in a new home. I try out new routes, slowly gaining confidence to go further and further, as new parts of new cities unfold. Establishing a running path reminds me that community can be built wherever I go.
I pass the lady walking her dog in the usual park and see the other runners circling the same route as me. I am out of shape and it’s harder than it should be, but I have to start somewhere. The only way to get better is to keep doing it, forget that I can’t go as far as I used to or as fast as I would like. I’m starting again, at the beginning.
Every Run Begins With One Step
I started running out of curiosity. Maybe I wasn’t exactly afraid of the sport itself, but I was certainly afraid of looking like an idiot while doing it. I had told myself for essentially my entire life that I was not an athlete, not a runner, not a person who scores points or baskets or whatever. I was a nerd. Not necessarily an unpopular nerd, but the kind of nerd who prefers reading to panting exhaustively. I wanted to see if my self-perception had possibly been a bit skewed. Maybe I was capable of being someone different.
When I first began running, I sought out the most isolating and forest-covered trail in my neighbourhood and crossed my fingers I wouldn’t encounter anyone I knew. I dared not lock gazes with any passerby, lest they call my bluff and tell me I was doing it all wrong. Geez, I was self-conscious! I am now fairly certain nobody cared about my slow pace or incorrect gear.
As I became more committed to the sport, my performance improved and with it my attitude. I learned that every single person is running their own race, and doing it their way. There’s nothing wrong with my way. Of course I look more exhausted than someone who has just started their run. Of course I look greener than the seasoned runner training for an ultra-marathon. Every day is different, and if any one of the variables changes, the run could horrible or it could be great. Wherever I am at in my run, I am in exactly the place I need to be. It might be kilometer 2 or kilometer 20, they all matter and I’m getting through it.
I also learned that the hardest part about running is the beginning. Choosing to go outside. Choosing action over inaction. Warming up your muscles and remembering to get past the initial hurdle. The first 20 minutes are the hardest, then comes muscle memory,
Obliterating Fear, One Step at a Time
Tonight, I remember I am not limited to the stories I tell myself. I am not limited to remaining a non-athlete for the rest of my days on earth. I am not limited to being a person terrified of heights (and depths, it turns out). And I am not limited to keeping my thoughts inside my head until someone tells me they are valid.
Tonight I laced up and I ran my first 20 minutes. I knew those 20 minutes were the hardest part, and I got it out of the way. The rest is gravy, baby.