I love books. Even though I no longer work at the library, nor is my collection of books as large as it once was, I still love books for the knowledge and information I gain from them. I love them for the journeys and adventures they have taken me on. As a young child I would read the encyclopedia while the other kids would be outside playing. My mother would say to me, “The world can not all be found in books or maps. Go outside and see it. Don’t just read about it.” Of course I knew she was wrong. My encyclopedia set covered everything from A to Z. If I wanted to know about Greece, I looked it up. Everything I needed to know was right there: maps, history, culture. It was all right there. I did not have to go to Greece to find this information. However, in the end, I was wrong and mom was correct, as she was most of the time.
I set out to see the world, but unlike the early explorers, I had the experiences of those who had gone before me. I had some idea of what to expect but I had no idea of how to prepare for the unexpected. When I started wilderness backpacking, I always carried a snake bit kit. “You’ll never need that,” my hiking companion would say, until on one trip a six foot rattle snake sat coiled between us and our campsite. It eventually slithered away and no harm was done, but I still carry a snake bite kit with me whenever I go backpacking. I learned to be prepared for that possibility.
When you go out into the unknown world, no matter how prepared you are, you cannot prepare for the unexpected. It is precisely during this exploration of the unknown where the unexpected is most likely to occur. You must face it each moment. It is similar to landing in a foreign country. No one is there at the airport to meet or guide you through your journey. You don’t know anyone, no one knows you. There is uncertainty even about the things most common to your own culture. Do they apply here? Whom do you trust? You studied the language before your departure, but you still cannot understand anything anyone says.
At this point all we can do is rely upon our commonness, our shared humanity. Your instincts become your guide. Your smile, your humbleness, your core strengths, the person you are, and your beliefs are all that you own at this point and you rely upon them to get you through to the next phase of your adventure. If I trust these characteristics in myself, it becomes easier to find and trust them in others.
I utilize all of my senses. I scan alleys and streets. I listen to the tone and intent of conversations. I try to make myself known, become familiar, and eventually reduce the size of the arena for the unexpected. The unexpected can alway occur but you can take some of the sting out of its bite by being prepared for the possibility of its occurrence. Like life itself, the world is here for our discovery. Go out there and experience it.
Thanks again Mom.