"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure . . . Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." - Helen Keller.
I came across this wonderful quotation today in one of the local papers as I finalised preparations for the last third of my gap year.
The quotation was used in the context of entrepreneurs and their ability to pick up the pieces after failures, but it could equally apply to those of us who leave our 'safe' lives behind in order to travel and see the world for a while.
Many successful business people gave up 'safe' lives in order to take a risk and many of them had to fail before they managed to succeed. But they all had the spirit of adventure to go out and take risks.
I've been rested up in the safest harbour possible over the past two weeks, my parents' house where I haven't lived for 20 years, and it seems so far removed from what I am going to encounter in Central America over the next few months.
As an adult, I've rarely spent so much time with my parents as over the past two weeks, with the added bonus that my 96-year old granny, whose spirit is unbelievable, joined us for the last five days or so.
Part of me is really fearful of what lies ahead, traveling through Central America on my own, and that makes me wonder why so many of us doubt ourselves so much in this life.
My plan for the year was to become a Divemaster, living on a tropical island in Thailand for five months; to improve my Spanish by spending much of the summer in my favourite city in Spain, San Sebastian; and then to do voluntary work, and so far everything has gone to plan.
Yet suddenly I'm in fear. Even though I know I will spend two months working with a voluntary organisation in Nicaragua, where I am bound to hook up with like-minded souls from around the world and make some sort of difference to the lives of people who are less fortunate than us Irish.
And, truth be told, Galway has been a tad depressing over the past two weeks. I've met two people who lost their jobs this year, one or two whose businesses are in trouble, and everyone is talking about the crisis, the corrupt politicians, and the unbelievable bail-out of the fat cat bankers.
But nobody seems to be doing anything about it, apart from moaning.
In Nicaragua, I'm going to see children who don't have food to eat each day, poverty on a scale which will put Ireland's current woes to shame.
Maybe I will learn a thing or two about revolution from the Sandinistas, and bring my lessons home!
Or maybe I will see that Ireland's woes are not really as bad, in the context of poverty and just putting food on the table, as what I will encounter in Central America.
There are a host of scare stories on the internet about how tourists in the region are targets for robbers, and suddenly I'm in fear. And yet this is the guy who backpacked around Cambodia when it was definitely not safe and never experienced problems, even in Phnom Penh at 4 a.m.!
Perhaps I should have more faith in myself and, by extension, in the world as I prepare for the final third of my 2010 adventure.
Apart from a cancelled flight (due to the awful weather in January), a cancelled credit card, and a five week illness, nothing has really gone wrong so far in my travels through Thailand, Malaysia, Swizterland, France, and Spain.
And now I'm in fear . . . It just doesn't make sense!
Life has become an adventure after 18 years in the 'safe' job, a job I can go back to in January. It would have been far worse to take the 'safe' option and continue to sit in Market Street, Galway, for another year only to dream of such adventures and encounters.
I've made wonderful friends in Koh Lanta and San Sebastian, yet I'm haunted by the thoughts of all the criminals who are going to be following me around Costa Rica or Panama next month. It's just negative, pointless, fearful thinking, which we can all be guilty of from time to time, whether it's about our relationships, our jobs, whatever.
As my friend Cian said in Valencia, as we prepared to go out and see The Cult play in a huge park, "how lucky am I?" It was a beautiful summer's evening in a big park in a big Spanish city and I was getting to see one of my favourite bands 25 years after I became a fan.
The 'safe' version of me would have been back home watching some mediocre act going through the motions at the Galway Arts Festival.
It's up to each of us to overcome our fears, whether we are sitting in our home town or negotiating rough streets half-way across the world.
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at Christmas, and I realise that I do have a wonderful family and friends in Galway, but I have a few more adventures to experience in the meantime. Yes, how lucky am I?
Why we left the classrooms: by Pauline
3 weeks ago