I talk in the “Be Happy” chapter of my book about letting go of negative thoughts. When things don’t quite go as you planned, one of the strategies I suggest is to remember that in so many situations the experience becomes a story later (often a funny one). Catching ourselves in that negative thinking allows us to let go of the negative thoughts now.
The following is a guest post by Tracie Rosenbaum Serebrennikov. Until a recent job change, Tracie recruited students as an international admission specialist for a college in Portland, Oregon. In her post, which she excerpted from a post on her blog An Orgeon Tale, Tracie tells of her trip to the far east and the learning she experienced despite initial fears. It’s a great post on many levels, fitting in nicely with my rules “Be Happy” and “Be a Lifelong Learner”. Travel is such a wonderful, enriching experience. It’s a shame to let fears impede on the positive aspects of the experience, and terrific to learn that the reality does not resemble the scary, pre-trip thoughts.
In June of this year, my boss informed me that I would be sent on a two-week recruiting trip to China, Japan, and Hong Kong. As I began to research and plan my trip, I learned that I would be traveling to these countries on my own. Although I would meet up with a group of recruiters (from other colleges) at each college fair, I would be alone to navigate each foreign city and their endless networks of train stations, airports, and languages. For all the world traveling I have done in my life, I had never traveled alone to a country whose language was so foreign to me and the scope of the trip soon became overwhelming. I spent the months leading up to my departure thinking of every possible worst case scenario, clearly losing site of one small detail: I absolutely love to travel and to immerse myself in new cities and cultures.
Fortunately, by the time my trip came around in September, I had come to terms with the fact that I would be traveling solo and had even started looking forward to conquering the challenge on my own. Then, came the part I should have expected – the many incredible cultural experiences I had during my two week stint in Asia. Here’s just one of those stories:
As I strolled along the Bund in Shanghai, three Chinese girls approached me to take their picture. We struck up a conversation in English and soon I was a part of their group, a fourth friend in their tight-knit clan. They loved my curls and could not get over the color of my hair and eyes. The girls, on holiday from a Chinese province near Nepal, were on their way to a traditional tea ceremony and invited me to join. Excited at the prospect of learning more about the Chinese culture, I followed my new friends.
We arrived at an antique shop fifteen minutes away from The Bund and were brought up two flights of stairs to the tearoom. If I had walked past this shop on my own, I would have never thought to enter. As we headed up three flights of stairs and into the traditional tearoom, the Tea Master, dressed in traditional Chinese garb, greeted us with a bow. My new friends translated the entire ceremony, allowing me to learn about Chinese tea culture, customs, and traditions. I learned how to properly hold a teacup and tasted various teas that act as remedies for ailments. As the tea ceremony continued, my conversation with the girls became more intimate and enthusiastic, as if we were old friends reuniting after years spent apart. They wanted to learn about American celebrities (not my area of expertise) and squealed with joy when I told them I had just been married. I loved learning about their lives as young women in China and they had a ball practicing their English. As I boarded my high-speed train to Nanjing the next morning I couldn’t help but feel thankful for my chance encounter with these girls, humbled by their willingness to seek out a stranger, and grateful that I didn’t let my fears of being alone confine me to my hotel room.
Looking back now, the huge amount of time and energy I expended worrying about the trip feels silly, and I’m disappointed at how easily I lost confidence in my abilities to thrive on my own. My biggest fears of an emergency abroad were never realized and I returned to Portland with a rejuvenated sense of self, confidence, and independence. The day after I arrived home, I went for a bike ride and my tire got stuck in the streetcar track. I was propelled from my bike and somersaulted into a parked car. Luckily, only my pride and my bike sustained injuries. The irony of my situation was not lost on me. I had just traveled halfway around the world only to end up sprawled on the ground two blocks from home. I realize this now: the time I spent worrying only served to take away from the totality of the amazing, positive experience I had. I know now that I can control my attitude and I can control my reactions but to try and control the future will only take away from what it has to offer.
What story can you share about reality not matching pre-experience fears and/or wonderful learning and growth that came from putting aside your fears and being open to new things? Join the conversation…