The Inner Turmoil of Adventure

The view outside of the plane window on our way to Valencia was quite gorgeous. In just a few hours, we would officially land in Europe. (Photo by Denny Cristales)

We soared through the sky. Thousands of miles in the air, caught between an endless body of water and the heavens, my companions and I were making our way to Spain; the Atlantic Ocean serving as a bridge to a destination filled with unknown wonders. As my friends slept inside the plane, I thought of my brother, who made the same journey 14 years prior.

Miguel’s circumstance was ten-fold, however. He would be gone for a year of study in Spain. Upon his return to the states, he had recounted so many of his wondrous experiences in Europe — the things he had seen; the beauty of the continent’s rich architectural history and kind people, and the perilous circumstances he found himself in when he wound up alone in the first few days in the country.

His enthusiasm and sense of adventure still captured my interest to this day, but it also humbled me. Will my innate apprehension cause me to refuse the call-to-adventure? I have always leaned a bit toward the timid side.

Inner thoughts now turned into inner turmoil. Appropriately, the plane was hitting some turbulence.

I would be staying in Spain for a month, presumably living up to Miguel’s 365-day experience in the span of 30 days. The thought of what I would experience fascinated me, especially in light of my brother’s passion for the country’s food, atmosphere and liveliness. Small details, such as the country’s dialect (the way some people drag out their vowel sounds in Barcelona), are elements of his experience that stay with me even now.

But then I remembered something — my brother, too, had been scared. As alluded to, he had been lost before. Literally just a day into his trip, Miguel had separated himself from his school group and wandered off to see some of Spain’s sights on his own. He lost his sense of direction. He was stranded with no phone and no way of contacting his friends. It was by pure chance that he reunited with them again when he found them at the train station they were all supposed to convene at the following day.

Months into his trip, he had a tenant in Madrid who would literally throw glass cups at his door because she was so infatuated with him, and he denied her advances.

These things all seemed so exaggerated, yet they were truths. They existed. My brother was no invulnerable entity that cozied into the culture, much like a Tetris piece would fit into a precise spot. He was the foreigner in a foreigner’s land, and he had to keep up.

And it struck me: the cure for my hesitation could be found exactly where it came from — myself. Somehow, my brother, 15 years my senior, gave me the answers to my problem. Miguel did not come back from Spain and detail these vast number of illustrious anecdotes about his undertakings by letting the anxiety of these negative situations impact his psyche.

He found a way to seize the energy — good or bad — and exert it into something positive. In my journalism experience, I had learned to get out of the shell that has figuratively surrounded my frame and symbolized my shyness for nearly 23 years.

The shell sometimes still gets a hold of me — the same way it was trying to get me on that plane. It reminds me of the time that I was too scared to speak in public and would jitter around awkwardly in my K-12 years. All the embarrassing social interactions I had. The girl I was too shy to talk to. The chances I was too incompetent to take.

This time, it was a reminder of my family back home, the place I was turning away from, that generated the strength inside of me to push the shell back. Miguel had reminded me of the importance of confidence, even if he didn’t know it.

It might have been only a couple of minutes of self-reflection, but the anxiety had now turned to thrill. There was comfort in the idea that the power to dictate my response to adventure was in my hands. In Europe, I could be whoever I wanted. There would always be a chance to start anew. I was the adventure.