Last week we were to talk about CONFIDENCE; who has it, why we need it, and how we attain this incredibly valuable life skill. We grow as a result of increasing confidence, those who have it, make it. Those who don’t, fail. Everybody wants to get more of it, and nothing builds it like travel.
When I was 14, my first stop on my family travel adventure was the rural villages of China. Never mind the beauty or the history, I saw boiled eggs in plastic sealed packages, fresh duck tongues, and crunchy chicken feet skin, bones and claws; like eating your own finger. I walked around wary of everything, terrified of starving, and entirely out of any recognizable element. I felt weak, helpless and nervously worried about the UNKNOWN. Walking through my first Chinese market, I felt as vulnerable as the slithering reptiles, stacked rodents and birds stuffed in wired cages ready to be sold and tossed in a frying pan.
Each sight tested me, building my confidence piece by piece, like a jigsaw puzzle of a person I hadn’t met yet.
Signage in indecipherable script and language so alien to my own, forced me to resort to charades and Pictionary-type drawings to get my point across. When my family was preparing for the high altitudes of Tibet and our ultimate destination Everest, we couldn’t leave China without first obtaining ginkgo to prevent altitude sickness. It required six steps and took all day; going to an internet cafe, researching the Chinese word for “ginkgo”, attempting to handwrite the word on a piece of paper in hanzi for a Chinese pharmacist, finding a pharmacy and ultimately getting understanding from the pharmacist without a common language and enabling us to walk out with the right pills. The first five steps were easy. The last step, getting an understanding of what we needed, was the challenge. It required drawing a picture of a stick man hiking up a mountain, acting crazy and dizzy near to the top because he didn’t have his ginkgo pills, and then we gesticulated that we were out of breath, woozy and gasping for air! Following that, we had to differentiate between the natural and the chemical pills. We wanted the natural form. Finally, got our product and left the store exhausted. Having such severe barriers to such basic necessities of life that are normally taken for granted, builds a type of personal reliance and confidence that is unparalleled anywhere else in life that I’ve seen.
The odd social mannerisms tested and exposed my lack of confidence. I was misplaced and outnumbered everywhere. As we moved further and further into the interior of China, away from the comfort of the large cities, we spent hundreds of days on the road utilizing, just like the locals, trains and buses to get from point A to point B. One month in I was shocked to find that I was successfully communicating with locals despite zero words in common. Daily I acquired skills, first I learned to use chop sticks. Then I mastered going to the bathroom, squatting just like the Chinese, over two narrow wooden planks which were suspended over live hogs below. My confidence was building by the hour. When we throw ourselves into an unknown and unfamiliar setting, forcing ourselves to perform normal tasks, it becomes a 24/7 test of how capable you are as a being. The foreign lifestyle throws curveballs at you, forcing instant solutions in order to survive. Trust in yourself expands exponentially and you develop a self-awareness that will get you through anything.
All of us, my 17-year-old sister, my 25-year-old brother and my 45-year-old mother went through the same confidence boot camp as we travelled together, adding skill after skill after skill. Each little success built on the previous one. Four years and 80 countries later, our credence in ourselves was unparalleled. We had proved ourselves time and time again. The multitude of tests we faced along the way made us each acutely aware of our own individual strengths, capabilities and ability to find a solution in all of the world’s randomity and noise.
Today I challenge you to take a trip. Step out of your own language, country, and comfort zone and sign up for your personal confidence boot camp. I’m waiting for you.
Give us a shout TODAY on “The Road Less Travelled” Twitter LIVE chat at 1pmNYC/6pmUK while we discuss SMALL TOWNS and how you can get some. Search the hashtag #TRLT to find us and don’t forget to include the hashtag in your tweets to participate with your fellow travellers. You’ll be inspired and you will inspire others. I am here every Tuesday hosting the chat with my friends Shane Dallas (public speaker, visited 100+ countries), Jessica Lipowski (accomplished author and “foodie”) and Anton Magnin (specialist in family travel). See you there.
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Categories: Savannah Grace