In september 2016 ben ik op wandelreis geweest met The Knapsack Collective. Ik heb een achtdaagse hike gemaakt in Portugal en de Fishermans Trail gewandeld. Hierover heb ik twee blogs geschreven in het Engels. Lees hier het eerste blog over de voorbereidingen. In dit tweede blog, vertel ik over mijn ervaringen en inzichten.

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”. A sentence in a book I was reading, on my way to Portugal. It was exactly what I was doing. Traveling alone while feeling scared and courageous at the same time. That sentence became a motto that still resonates and inspires me back home.

In my first blog I talked about the preparations, facing my fears and getting out of my comfort zone. Now I want to share all the cool stuff that happened during the trip. And epiphanies I had along the way.

Taking my fears with me

Did you know that I have a huge fear of flying? I mean HUGE. The idea of surrendering to someone or something scares me. What if something goes wrong and I’m not able to do something? Yes, control-freak alert! So for me flying alone was the biggest fear to overcome during the trip.

But there was more! 8 fears for the price of 1 😉 I was also:

  1. scared of being/traveling alone – Can I find the places where I have to go? Will I get lost?
  2. worried to get panic attacks – What if I get a panic attack and nobody helps me? Or I faint? Or…
  3. worried about travelling light – Do I have everything that I need? I even wanted to take a hair dryer. Euhh, how vain can you be? (but I didn’t!)
  4. worried if I could eat properly along the way – How am I going to handle my milk intolerance?
  5. worried about sleeping everyday in a different place – Can I get the rest that I need?
  6. not sure if I could manage to walk all the days – Am I strong enough mentally and physically?
  7. a little bit afraid of the group – Maybe someone doesn’t like me? Or the other way around.
  8. scared of heights – What if I’m scared to walk and I don’t want to go further?

Nice list right? 😛

Breathe in, breathe out

My fears were coming with me to Portugal. And I was going to take care of them 🙂 So I ‘packed’ them with the rest of my stuff and put it my backpack. And guess what? None of the fears took over me. They were there and I could handle it. Cool huh? Ok, it sounds super easy while reading this. But believe me, I was trembling when I stepped on the airplane. And even more when it took off. But my endless curiosity is bigger than my fear and I did it anyway!

I had an epiphany in the airplane just before taking off. Basically I have two options: I can choose fear or faith. If I choose fear it will be a horrible experience. When I choose faith I guess it will be ok. So I choose faith. And the fear flooded away. As quickly as it came, it disappeared as well. It sounds that easy and it is. We make things difficult by overthinking stuff.

I also had some helpful tools. Like making a crossword puzzle (trust me, it’s the bomb!)- to distract my mind. And I focussed on my breath. It’s always there, and you have to do it anyway. So use that thing! Counting breathing in and counting breathing out. It helped to calm down my monkey-mind.

Solo traveling

In total I spend 4 days on my own and 8 days with the group. I travelled by taxi, bus and train. And by foot. A lot by foot.. I was able to find all the places where I had to stay. Such a liberation to go beyond my fears. The nice thing about traveling alone is that you are more open and aware to your environment. And you can do whatever you want! Yeah, I could be unlimitedly selfish! Loved it!

I had some beautiful encounters. I met a nice Belgium couple with a crying and screaming baby in the airplane. Which turned out to be a sort of angle. By comforting the girl I comforted myself in a way and was more at ease during the flight. And it was also nice that she stopped crying at one point

The first night I met a Canadian guy on my way out of my Airbnb stay. We chatted a little and then spontaneously we decided to have diner together. We ate at a local place and spoke about life, traveling alone, fears and dreams. I was amazed by how fast you can get a real connection with a stranger.

Along the way – traveling to the point where I would meet the group – a German guy started chatting with me at the bus station. He went surfing and traveled alone as well. Such a nice short encounter! Made me smile

Also something went wrong. One night I was eating out alone. I ordered a nice salad and enjoyed it a lot. I wanted to make a picture, so I searched for my phone in my bag. While I was searching for my phone, I didn’t see my wallet. So I started searching for it. And searching. But no wallet! F*ck! I felt the panic rushing in. Oh no! What if I lost my wallet? Noooo!! I have to call the bank… I must check my saldo… lalalala. Ok, stop it! I tried to calm down my mind and called the waitress. I explained the situation and asked if I could check at the hostel if my wallet was there. She was suspicious and said I had to leave something of value. The only valuable thing I had with me was my phone. No way I was going to leave that! I needed my phone to find my way back to the hostel. Eventually I could leave me bag without my phone, so she knew I would come back. I walked as fast as I could to the hostel. I didn’t know the way back so I checked my phone. What do you think? Dead battery! You’ve gotta be freaking kidding me!! Total panic kicked in. I didn’t know the name of the hostel or the address. I had nothing. No phone, no money. OH. MY. GOD!! Somehow I managed myself through the panic (focused on the breathing) and tried to find my way back to the hostel. I recognized some shops and choose faith over fear. I can do this. I will find the hostel. After I took a wrong street and circling around a bit, I found the hostel after 10 minutes of walking. My God I was so relieved!! Even more when I found my wallet on top of my bed! I was so happy and proud of myself! I had to fully trust myself, that was the lesson I had to learn from this. Don’t become dependent on your mobile phone, Google Maps, whatever. Trust what is inside of you. Your memory, your gut feeling. And don’t forget your wallet 😉

Group traveling – walking the Fisherman’s Trail

I walked the Fisherman’s Trail with 5 other people, included Thomas and Roos, the coaches. In total there were 4 girls and 2 guys. Poor fella’s Immediately I felt comfortable and safe in the group. We had a shared goal, to walk the trail and get some insights along the way as well. It’s like you have an instant connection.

In total we walked for 7 days and we walked more than 100 kilometers. I guess about 120. And yes, I walked all of it. With my backpack. Most of it in loose/powdery sand. Fuck loose sand! But yeah, I did it! Without blisters as well! And off course I was sometimes tired and grumpy because my backpack was killing me. But the amazing views and the sound of the sea made everything ok.

I run out of words to describe how amazing it was. Better than I could ever hope for. During the trip I was in a state where I could totally surrender to everything. Something I didn’t experience for a long time. I didn’t check my watch for the time. I didn’t check my phone. I didn’t worry about when and where to eat. It was such a relief! There was so much space to experience, to reflect and to be creative. And I laughed so much, my God! Also about myself, I’m super clumsy. But it’s ok! It’s funny. For instance we were walking through a small forest and I got stuck with my backpack. And later my bamboo stick – which I had found along the way – got stuck in my hair. Don’t ask me how I did it, I don’t know. I have an unconscious talent for this sort of thing

It was the best trip I have made so far in my life! I think everyone should go on a trip like this for at least once in their life. Why? To experience what you’re capable of and get (more) in touch with that power.

Coaching along the way

Thomas and Roos are such nice, talented coaches! They prepared several exercises along the way. For instance, almost all the days we started to walking one hour in silence. Sometimes they gave an assignment where we had to think about during walking. Afterwards we would discuss it. It’s so nice to walk without feeling the need to talk with anyone. I could enjoy everything around me even more. The views, the sound of the sea and birds, the walking.

To get coaching in nature is such a plus! It made me feel free. We would sometimes stop and sit at the beach. Just sit and watch. Or have a lunchbreak and/or do a coaching session, in small groups, one-on-one or with the whole group together. We spoke about why we participated, what we wanted to learn and what we wanted to leave behind. We actually made a droplist of items we wanted to leave behind. This could be physical things, but also a feeling or thought.

Also we did some yoga along the way, in the sand. And we sang in a karaoke bar, loudly and off-key. Loved it!! Everything we did had a huge fun-element in it. Also when we talked about serious stuff, someone (mostly Thomas) was joking and everyone had to laugh.

My insights

Do you remember my epiphany in the airplane: choosing fear or faith? Basically it’s applicable for everything in life. Do you make decisions based on fear or faith (love)? And do you let your behavior get affected by that? The rest of the trip this insight helped me by walking the trail and overcoming limiting thoughts and fears. All of the fears I summed up earlier didn’t happen. Ok, I was still afraid during flying, but I survived! I didn’t get any panic attacks, I had all the things I need (even too much), I slept easily every night at a different place (you’re physically so tired, you don’t care where you sleep ;). I ate food I shouldn’t eat because of my intolerance, but I didn’t have any pain or whatsoever. The group was perfect, everyone was nice and easy-going. All the worries were not true! At one point I was even standing still at a small part of a cliff. “Wait? What? Aren’t you scared of heights?” one of my travel buddies said.

I’m not saying I overcame all of my fears forever, but I found a way to deal with them. Something I can use for the rest of my life.

My appearance was also something I worried about upfront. I don’t see myself as very pretty and focus too much on the things I don’t like. Along the trip I realized that I am actually not so bad as I think. I look fine. Also if I don’t blow-dry my hair. And don’t where makeup. And don’t wear fancy clothes. What was funny, all the girls in the group told me that I have a nice figure and small legs. I always thought my legs were huge and fat and everything. Now I saw girls with bigger legs and I thought they were beautiful! Why was I so hard on myself? Now I like my not-so-fat-as-I-think-legs. And most important: they carried me all the way. They work! I feel grateful.

My plans for the future

For sure I want to travel more. On my own and with friends. This was such an amazing experience! I don’t have any concrete plans yet, but I know I will travel more often in the future. I want to take the time for a next solo-trip. I don’t have to rush things, I know it will come. Life will show me when it’s time.

My plans to maybe start a business on my own is something I’m going to investigate. I know the area’s I like: nature, being outdoors, coaching, writing/blogging/social media. So maybe I can make a combination of this in the future! Would be perfect Or do all the things separate, that’s fine as well. I’m going to talk with people who inspire me. And put actions to words. When I got back home I received a message from someone to work on a concept that I created a couple of years ago. It was something I wrote down during the trip on my list to explore at home. It’s like the universe is answering to my ideas. Awesome!

Most important is that I fill my life with joy and do things I love. I want to be more outdoor and creative. Already I’m brainstorming with friends at home. Making moodboards, drawing, writing, reading. And me and a friend maybe want to give sup lessons next year. We already spoke with someone about the idea and she is enthusiastic! For the rest I will walk down the path of faith and see where it takes me. I’m excited!