It's day 5 of my 18 day stay here in Koh Tao, a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand. I'm sitting in a cafe sipping a fruit smoothie, enjoying the sea breeze, and basking in the afterglow of a wonderful Thai Massage. But I've had a couple of mishaps along the way...
Upon arrival, my host, Alex, took me to the scooter rental place, as that's the best way to get around the island. I was terrified. If you know me at all, you know that I usually dive head first into most things...but this was different. I felt a visceral, deep-rooted fear...more on that later. On the surface, my fear is well-founded...I have zero experience with motorcycles or scooters...so it's natural that I would be afraid. I prefer my bicycle!! I thought, can't I just walk everywhere? that's not a realistic option around here. In this heat, and after seeing the steep hill leading to the hostel where I was staying, walking was not an option.
So, after a short lesson on how to make it stop and go, I hopped on, nervously, and took my scooter out for a spin...I drove it across the road and practiced on a little dirt path.
I tried to ignore my beating heart, and resist the urge to RUN FOR THE HILLS. "STAY FOCUSED", I told myself. Everyone else seems to be having fun. " I CAN DO THIS!! Don't accelerate too fast. Release the throttle to slow down, THEN apply the brake. Don't make sharp turns. Stay away from SAND on the road! The scooter might slip out from under you..."
After awhile, I graduated from the dirt path, and ventured onto the road, which wasn't very crowded, and there was plenty of room for me to stay close to the edge of the road so others could easily pass me. But, my body was on high alert, my hands hurt from tightly grip on the handles, and my nervous system was all hands on deck.
After 3 days, I finally began to feel more comfortable...although I was still careful, and still drove very slowly.
And then, it happened. I approached the gravel driveway that leads up to the hostel where I was staying. As I pulled in, the scooter got away from me and I went into a panic..I yelled out loud: STOP!! (to myself?) but the scooter kept moving!! My hand was not listening to my brain, and was stuck on the throttle "LET GO!" my mind yelled...this time, my body listened. The scooter (and me along with it) began to fall...luckily, once I fell, I was down...but the scooter kept moving forward a few feet from the momentum. (otherwise, it might have fallen on top of me!) The scooter quickly stopped as it landed in a rut.
The scooter and I were both pretty much ok, just a couple of minor scrapes and bruises. But my ego was very bruised. I felt old, lame, and embarrassed. I got up, checked my injuries, wiped the blood off my leg, and gave myself a pat on the back for having the foresight to wear long pants and long sleeves JUST IN CASE something like this happened. I am convinced that my injuries would have been much worse had I been wearing shorts!
I tried to pull the scooter out of the rut, but I was badly shaken and it was just too heavy, so I got some help and then spent the evening cleaning up my wounds, which I knew would heal...but I wasn't so sure about my ego.
The next day, I went into town and booked another room at a hostel located on flat ground. No more steep winding roads and precarious driveways for me.
Deeply Rooted Fear
That happened 2 days ago, so I've had time to reflect. My body is still sore, so I'm taking it easy. Instead of running around scuba diving or doing other typical island activities, I'm writing, reading, and getting thai massages every day!
And, I'm pondering why I have so much fear around driving that scooter...most other people seemed to enjoy the freedom, the wind in their hair...why did it make me such a nervous wreck?
I thought back to my childhood and teen years, and came up with two possible reasons.
1. I'm 5 years old. It's a nice sunny day. I'm riding on the back of my mom's bike, to visit a friend in the neighborhood. I'm so excited! This is fun!! WHEE!!! And then...CRASH! I tumble to the ground...I open my eyes...I begin to cry...my mom scoops me up and carries me to a nearby house, where her friend lives, and who happens to be a nurse. She cleans my scrapes, dries my tears, and gives us a ride home. That was the fist and last time my mom ever took me for a bike ride.
I never wanted to get on a bike again...eventually I did, but I have always been very cautious when going down steep hills! Now I know why.
2. As a teenager, some of my friends had motorcycles. My parents FORBID us to ride on one, they were way too dangerous. One time, my brother hopped on the back of a motorcycle to retrieve his model rocket that landed in a field about 1/2 mile away from the launch site (his hobby at the time) and my parents were furious. He never did it again, and the fear was drummed into both of us. I believe this is the real reason for this deeply rooted fear. My younger self is still inside me yelling: "THIS IS UNSAFE! YOU MIGHT DIE! " It all comes down to fear of death, right?
So, now that I know, maybe I'll be able to stay more calm while I ride around, but I also know that this fear might keep me safe at some level...staying cognizant of the dangers, wearing my helmet and long pants and long sleeve shirt just in case...
At least I don't have to push my limits beyond my comfort zone, by venturing up and down that steep hill anymore, and maybe taking that little spill was just enough to make me realize that even if I do fall, I'll be ok and might even learn a thing or two about courage and pushing through our fears.
What fears do you hope to overcome? What steps are you taking to make that happen? Have you engaged in any acts of courage lately? I'd love to hear from you!