"People at home will have questions... They'll want answers... Shit."
Somewhere over West Texas, it hit me that I'd be berated about my upcoming trip. On the tiny metal tray table, I laid out my notebook and a pen.
"Where will you go?" A question that I'd surely be asked. I did my best to construct a decent response. "I'll be at a hostel in Osaka for the first four weeks, and then I'll go to a remote mountain village in a prefecture called Kochi. Afterward, I've got options. Perhaps I'll go to Taiwan, or Vietnam. I'm really not sure." I thought about how the uncertainty would cause doubt. And inevitably lead to "How long will you be gone?" "At least ten weeks." I'd say "But, the truth is, I don't know."
"And how will you afford this?" They'd ask. "I'll volunteer for room and board." More doubt would follow. Then would come the “what ifs”.
"What if you get hurt?" "What if you run out of money?" "What if you get lonely?" "What if you get sick?"
The thought of such questions sent me back to a time when I asked them myself.
That year after university, I hit an all time low. I'd quit my job, moved back home and found total misery. Yet I still couldn't work up the courage to take a leap. For about 18 months, all I managed to do was stare at screens. Telling myself I was doing research, but really just procrastinating. From age 22 to nearly 24, I put off life. Consumed by the "what ifs" and too scared to try.
I moved to Colorado for the ski pass, and I discovered an entire lifestyle of living one season at a time.
Back in my window seat, I remembered how wrong I'd been about every leap I'd taken in the past two years. And how the unexpected moments were by far the most impactful.
Like how I found myself in southern Spain because of a suggestion from a friend I met in France. And how I looked up from my notebook at a cafe and met an amazing Swiss family. How I befriended my driver from Granada to Ronda and how the next day, we reconnected, and spent an afternoon exploring and sharing tapas and drinks.
I viewed WWOOFing as a way to stretch my savings, but it was so much more than that.
How could I have guessed that I'd fall for a French girl on a ski lift in South Korea? Or that I'd be taught how bees make honey from a Vietnamese man in the Pyrenees?
Who would ever guess that nearly going blind in my left eye would turn out to be a positive memory and an authentic example of Spanish kindness and generosity? Not only did the woman leave work to guide me across the city, but because I was a tourist, the doctor charged me half price.
In my daydreaming state, I missed the second half of the flight. Over dinner with the family the next day, the questions came. And I answered confidently "I have no idea, but I'm dying to find out."