As a young girl, I marveled at Baskin Robbins and its 31 flavors, a vast universe compared to the standard chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, or, if we were being fancy, pistachio. At one point bubble gum was my favorite, although I couldn’t figure out how to keep from swallowing the gum along with the ice cream. Frequently, the sticky pink squares went down my gullet, too, creating discomfort until they passed through my system.
As I prepare to leave for the Camino, I am astounded at the dozens of fearful messages my brain has served up since I decided to do this long walk. My brain, realizing that warning me about the plane crashing would be like handing me vanilla ice cream, has invented more exotic flavors. Since I’ll be spending hours and hours each day outdoors, walking across diverse terrain, it wants to spook me about bad weather, trekking in a downpour ad nauseum, an eruption of blisters on my feet, being chased by stray dogs, sleeping in bedbug infested hostel and, most recently, being mistaken for an animal and shot by hunters. While all of these misfortunes could happen, some are more likely than others. And all have, if not remedies, means of minimizing or managing the risk.
So, I’m bringing enough rain gear to keep me dry in a monsoon, sprayed my sleeping bag and pack with insecticide, and bought an orange bandana so I’ll be more visible to anyone with a rifle. I have a first aid kit focused on foot care. I have a whistle and trekking poles to fend off feisty canines, plus other things for other potentialities. I purchased travel insurance. My brain generates resistance and makes me doubt myself by serving up this smorgasbord of disaster; if I fall for it and partake, I want to permanently crawl under the covers. In the past, I’ve swallowed similar stories, believing them to be true. But those little lumps of fear, if allowed to accumulate, can clog up my life.
Today, while picking up some last minute items at Eastern Mountain Sports in a Boston suburb, where I’m staying with family before I depart, I turned around and spotted a Facebook friend I hadn’t seen in more than four years. He had suffered a serious cycling accident a few months back. Aside from a slight limp, he looked fantastic; I knew from his updates that he had started riding again after an arduous recovery. Not everyone would make such a choice. That we met now, I couldn’t simply chalk up to chance. It’s as if he appeared to remind me that the next time my brain tries to feed me nuggets of fear, mixed into what might otherwise be sound advice, I need to refuse. And just keep moving.