We all have fears. Rational fears. Irrational fears. Life long fears. As travellers we’re told that we’re lucky, living the dream and doing what we love to do. Never mind the hard work, long hours and terrible pay. Or the unspoken fears that we’re never supposed to mention for fear of breaking the instagram dream.
The following is a guest post from the lovely Jennifer from The Rainbow Route
I love the outdoors. Trees are some of my favourite people and waterfalls never get old. I love breathing fresh air and listening to sound of rustling leaves. For someone who loves being in nature, you would think I would be a natural camper. Yet, I was raised a city girl and somewhere along the line developed an irrational and paralysing fear of the dark (nyctophobia, for those who like to expand their vocabulary).
Aware of this fear, in my 20s I had still yet to experience true darkness. With the exception of some drunken teenage nights sleeping in a tent in a friend’s yard (definitely doesn’t count), I had never experienced camping growing up. As an adult, I felt ready to venture out into the woods. As it turned out, I was wrong. I tried to go camping once with a friend in college, but I stayed awake the entire night with my headlamp on convinced the Blair Witch was after us. In my defense, I did find a grave marking not far from our tent in the morning.
Many years later, I decided it was time to face my fears. More than anything, I wanted the experience of falling asleep to the sounds of owls cooing lullabies and waking up to soft sunlight filtered through green leaves of trees. Convinced my love of nature outweighed my terror, and stocked up with some prescription-strength sleeping pills, a friend and I headed out on a camping/climbing outdoor adventure.
We made the long, but scenic, drive from Vancouver to Penticton in the Okanagan of British Columbia. Then we drove a bit further up a forestry service road until we found a nice-looking place to pull over and set up camp.
Clearly, we weren’t the only ones who thought we had stumbled upon a great spot. There was a ready-made fire pit waiting for us, which we took advantage of to cook some dinner and watch the sun go down.
There is something innately fulfilling and relaxing about building a fire and cooking your food on it. I was feeling confident and comfortable as daylight passed into dusk. A few early stars dotted the sky and I felt safe under their twinkling gaze.
But as soon as the sun was gone, all of my fears rose to the surface. As my anxiety increased, my friend had me take a good dose of sleeping pills and put me in the tent. I slept fitfully, waking with fear every time another vehicle pulled over to camp in our spot, but too dosed up to really stay awake.
However, when the sun came up the next morning, I was feeling content again. My friend and I set out for some rock-climbing and had a perfect day. We headed back to camp at the end of the day, tired and happy. I was certain that I had survived the worst of my fears the night before and would be totally fine this evening.
We arrived back at our campsite to find that someone else had been there during our absence. They had left our tent and our personal belongings, but had taken our water and tidied up the site. For some reason, I found this unnerving. Perhaps coming from the city, I was confused as to why this person would steal water, but not valuables (although it is reassuring to know there are people out there who don’t want to take advantage of everyone who crosses their path).
Dark arrived before long and this time, not even benzodiazepines could help me. I cried at every noise and was constantly searching the dark woods for, I don’t know what, monsters, I guess. The terror I felt was so strong that even my friend, who had literally lived in the woods for months as a tree planter, was starting to feel it. When I started hallucinating about non-existent people carrying lamps in the distance, we made the decision to break camp and get out of there.
I have never torn down a tent so fast since. In fact, it has been 6 years and I have yet to attempt another backcountry camping trip. Still, I am determined to overcome this fear. The day will come when I can live out my dreams of hiking for days through the mountains and experience nature in its purest forms.
Lesbian, Gluten Free Budget Travel.
Thanks to Jennifer for guest posting! Have any words of advice? Leave them in the comments below.
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Coffee Lover | Travel Blogger | Horse Rider | Adventure Racer | Donut Dame. Generally nice lady-enjoys wine, indie movies & random dance parties in my tent.
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