Some say those who journey into dangerous places are ‘stupid’ and I won’t argue with that description. ‘Nuts’ is another popular adjective, and ‘crazy douchebag’ packs a nice punch, don’t you think?

I admit that I’m all of those things.

But I’m also a big coward.

Whenever I hear someone say, “You’re brave!” I look over my shoulder to see who else is in the room. “Wait —  you’re talking to me?” I’m just a normal city girl who loves good design, frothy cappuccinos and boutique shopping.

When challenged beyond my comfort zone, I cry, shake, grow nauseous, and ride the porcelain bus. Even small everyday things scare the hell out of me, like speaking on the phone, or weeding the garden. (Snakes! Spiders! Snails!) Acrophobia, agoraphobia, thalassophobia, ophidiophobia —paste an ‘ophobia’ on the end of any string of letters and I’ve probably got it. I could power a city with my anxious energy.

But still, I embark on big adventures. Here are some reasons I return to dangerous places for repeated doses of terror:

The best destinations are not in brochures.

If I’m willing to go through some sheer terror, then a world of opportunity opens up. No longer am I limited to bus tours, gentrified destinations, Club Med, drunk backpackers, and tourists in thongsI can go anywhere at all. Destinations that require a little hair-raising danger to get to are most often crowd-free, intact, and all mine.

Somewhere far off the coast of Mexico.

Adventure makes everything beautiful.

When I arrive on the other side of pure hell, little things I usually take for granted feel amazing, like breathing, eating and not being dead. A mug of tea is warm liquid bliss. A bed transforms into the fluffy clouds of heaven. A hot meal with a glass of wine is orgasmic. Nothing is ordinary when I’m charged with the static electricity of being alive.

Fascinated by a hermit crab on a remote beach in Apataki atoll.

Safety is not in numbers.

Humans have a tendency to congregate in crowds. Ever notice how, if you walk just five minutes along a busy beach, you’ll have a large expanse of sand all to yourself? I once read about a ship that sank because, after a nonfatal collision, the terrified passengers instinctively huddled together on one side of the ship and their collective weight rolled the ship and sank it, killing many. People often die on Everest, not because of falling, freezing, or lack of air, but because human traffic jams prevent them from moving quickly to safety. Perhaps we share chromosomes with sheep, but flocking is a redundant instinct (except in rare circumstances). It’s when I separate from the pack and brave the elements alone that I find the empty expanses of beach all for myself.

A little slice of perfection in the remote atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago.

The friendships.

Bonds form quickly when danger is involved. People who pursue adventure tend to be stripped back of the usual numbness that swathes our safety-obsessed society. Those who adventure are not always fearless, but they don’t let fears stop them. They’re realistic about their eventual mortality, which makes conversation raw and genuine. This honesty allows deep friendships to form quickly. The usual filters used to find friends —age, job, possessions, wealth — aren’t there, because sharing an adventure is the bonding factor. While sailing the Pacific, my very best friends were in their 60s.

Beers in Fiji with some of my best friends.

I never regret it.

No matter how big the challenge is, no matter how much I suffer through it, I never regret having taken it on. I’m buoyed by a lasting sense of pride from knowing what I’m capable of. If I can do that, I can do anything. Life becomes easier.

Climbing the mast to fix broken equipment.

Being scared isn’t a valid excuse.

I’m lucky that the people in my life don’t let me get away with shying away from challenges because of fear. “I’m terrified,” is most often met with, “Hmm. So when are you leaving?” As much as I try to use fear as an excuse to avoid danger, nobody buys into it. In my household, “I’m scared” holds as much importance as the dog’s farts.

An island to oneself in French Polynesia.

Do you like adventure? Why / why not?


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39 Response Comments

  • journeyingjames  May 19, 2011 at 6:48 am

    hello! love your blog and the way you right.
    definitely agree with “The best destinations are not in brochures.” RTing this 🙂 with your tag.

    more adventures to come!

    • Torre DeRoche  May 19, 2011 at 8:53 am

      Thanks James! Send me your link when you’ve got your blog post up.

  • Beware of Falling Coconuts  May 19, 2011 at 6:56 am

    To have such fears and take the leap anyway means you’re a TRUE adventurer – not afraid to dive in head first. And look at your rewards?

  • Lorna - the roamantics  May 19, 2011 at 7:59 am

    whole-heartedly agree with you here torre! although i’m not frightened by as many things, there is still plenty i do for the love of travel (and feeling ALIVE) that frightens me…and i too am always so glad i did! “being scared isn’t a valid excuse.” such a simple sentence but packs so much punch…YES! 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  May 19, 2011 at 8:56 am

      Coming from a girl who is about to set off on a solo camper van tour of the US / Canada : you’re an inspiration, Lorna.

  • Katja  May 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

    A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.

    I’ve been repeating this as a mantra for years, and always assumed that it came from someone erudite and wise, like Aristotle or Socrates. However, on googling it I found out that actually it was said by Fran in Strictly Ballroom. I’m all about the pop-culture philosophy, me …

    Doesn’t really matter who said it, though; it’s still true. Grab your fear by the throat and use it. When I told my choir last night that I was planning to cycle back to England, the first thing they asked was, “but aren’t you afraid?” Well, yes. I’m flipping terrified. That ain’t gonna stop me doing it, though. Viva fear!

    • Torre DeRoche  May 19, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Fran in Strictly Ballroom! That’s hilarious. I must’ve watched that movie 100 times (studied it for school). I can’t help that I fear things, it just is that way. But I think a life lived stopped by fear is a life half lived.

      I’m so excited about your bike trip. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

  • Toni  May 19, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Torre, I couldn’t haven’t said it better myself. And really, there’s danger from the moment you step out of your door; I mean, possibly getting hit by a bus wearing dodgy pants and unshaven legs? Definitely not something to be taken lightly!

    I have a close friend who’s the same age as me and yet she’s never been outside of Europe. She goes on 4 small holidays a year for long weekends etc and when I told her I was doing 3 months around Asia solo last year and 6.5 weeks through Africa this year she almost had a panic attack! ‘But it’s so scary Toni’. No kidding but you’ve got to take life head on. As I always say – take the leap; landing is always worth it =)

    • Torre DeRoche  May 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Toni.

      Some people are happy without adventure, and that’s okay. In fact, I feel like my wanderlust is a curse. If only I could be the type of person who is happy watching sitcoms and eating meat and veggies for dinner every night, life would be so simple! But unfortunately, I have to venture far beyond the house because of curiosity. Yes, it killed the cat. But I bet that cat died happy!

  • david  May 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one that gets a bit anxious when I have to speak on the phone. What really sends me over the edge though is having someone ring my doorbell. Yikes! I cower in my sun room, peeking through the blinds to see who the he’ll it could be. Unexpected visitors frighten me too. If I don’t know you, forget it, I pretend I’m not home. Manly, eh?

    So if you ever come to Chicago and want to stop by for a visit, call me first, you’ll have a better chance of me buzzing you in.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      HAHAha! I’m giggling here thinking about you cowering in your sunroom. Crack up! Since you’re outing yourself, I’ll admit — I do the same thing.

      • Julia  May 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm

        I do both of those things, and feel a LOT better knowing I am not alone!

  • Pete | Hecktic Travels  May 19, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Great post Torre. I had a little giggle with your comparison of “I’m scared” and dog farts.

    We love to live our lives away from what the guidebooks tell us. Sure we might have some hair raising moments, but at the end of the day we get to enjoy that beach to ourselves.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 20, 2011 at 2:03 am

      The hair-raising moments make the best stories!

  • Emily @ Lo Vivido  May 19, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    This is so well written! I completely relate to overcoming fear while traveling. I was afraid to go base jumping from a bridge in Ecuador…but I did it. I was afraid to rappel down waterfalls in the jungle…but I did it. I’m afraid to chaperon 5 high schoolers in Costa Rica by myself this summer…but I’ll do it.
    What I can’t do is kill the two wasps in my bedroom right now…they are truly terrifying.

    Keep up the good writing!

    • Torre DeRoche  May 20, 2011 at 2:07 am

      Thanks so much.

      You’re seriously adventurous! Base jumping? Waterfall rappelling? Are you a crazy douche bag? 🙂

      Costa Rica is beautiful, just be sure to bring some spare cash to pay the bribes. Oh, and be sure to take your high school kids here:

  • Debbie Beardsley  May 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this post. Of course you are correct when saying we shouldn’t let our fears define us. We need to face them and get out there and explore life whatever that adventure may entail. The point is to define “adventure” for yourself and then go get it making sure to challenge yourself along the way. Thanks for sharing your wonderful writing ability and insights.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 20, 2011 at 2:10 am

      Thanks, Debbie. The best thing about being phobic about so many things is that everything is an exciting adventure! I get a shot of adrenalin just from waking up in the morning.

  • Raymond  May 20, 2011 at 2:16 am

    My new best friend Ray Lamontagne says “It’s not livin’ that you’re doin’ if it feels like dyin’.”

    Great post Torre. You ARE the new Oprah. 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  May 20, 2011 at 2:25 am

      Yikes. Maybe I need to reign in the self-help chatter. Stir things up, get offensive and crass. The world only needs one Oprah.

      • Raymond  May 20, 2011 at 2:41 am

        Oprah is plenty offensive and crass when she wants to be… 🙂

  • Andrea  May 20, 2011 at 4:22 am

    I like adventure but I tend to be a big scaredy cat as well. Just today I was reading about the potential for accidents on this tour you can go on to the mines of Potosi in Bolivia. It totally talked me out of it. I saw the words asbestos and explosion and just closed the book on that. I think fear can limit a person as a traveller, but I don’t think that will change me.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 20, 2011 at 4:37 am

      I guess it’s just a matter of weighing up which fears are valid, and which ones are unreasonable. It doesn’t sound like your fears of the asbestos and mines are unreasonable: that’s just your survival instinct chiming in at an appropriate time.

      If the risk outweighs the personal benefit, it’s not worth it. In my opinion, adventure isn’t about facing every single thing that’s scary. It’s about pushing past fears to do the activities you REALLY don’t want to miss out on. If there’s a chance that you’ll get to your death bed and say, “Damn, I wish I’d [insert adventure]” then you need to push aside your fears and go for it. But I doubt the Bolivian mines will be something that niggles at your elderly future self.

  • Becki453  May 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Love this – i’m exactly the same, terrified of pretty much everything! But once I do something, I never regret it. I’m not very good at tranisitions, but when i’m doing something / at a destination i’m absolutley fine!

    • Torre DeRoche  May 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      The fear itself is always worse than the reality of the fear come true.

  • jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World  May 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Nicely said – there’s a rush about going out and doing things against your own internal fear. Especially if you succeed in the end. It’s quite addictive.

  • Odysseus  May 23, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Good stuff here! I’m glad that someone else is like me — fearful, but still charging ahead. As I’m getting ready for my long-term trip, this is EXACTLY what I needed to read. 🙂 And thank you for admitting you’re afraid!

  • Noreen  May 23, 2011 at 8:25 am

    When I say “I’m scared!” to my best friend (and I don’t admit to being scared to very many people), he compassionately and lovingly tells me to “toughen the fuck up”. And then asks me what I’m going to do. A variation on what your family does – we’re lucky to have people around us who nurture our sense of adventure! Mental note to self:- endeavour to do this with others.

    Thanks for your writing – I’ve been reading for a little while and although I hadn’t commented yet I’ve been enjoying it!

    Love xox

    • Claire  May 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      Totally agree and so glad to have found your blog. I’m about to embark on an adventure and a half and am terrified. But more scared about what would happen to my sanity if I didn’t go!

      • Noreen  May 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

        (Butting in 🙂 )
        Adventure and a half! Blowing stuff up! BRILLIANT. Terrifying of course, but it wouldn’t be the right thing to do if it wasn’t exciting and scary at the same time. Please keep us updated? (Are you on twitter?) x

        • Torre DeRoche  May 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm

          Yes, I want to know more about this scary adventure!

          • Claire  May 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm

            Not on Twitter (I probably won’t have much in the way of internet connection at the best of times!) but I will certainly be updating my blog when I can. Hopefully I’ll soon find out where I’m going (especially as I leave in 2 weeks!!).

            Great to meet fellow adventurers – do stay in touch!

  • Red Nomad OZ  June 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Hey, anyone who survives a childhood in Australia already knows a little bit about fear and phobias! Many of the world’s deadliest snakes, killer spiders, crocs, toxic fish, marine stingers, stinging ants, blue-ringed octopus – not to mention bogans, public servants and fundamentalists …

    Having fears is fine. Not trying to ride them out is the problem!

    Have a great day!!

    • Torre DeRoche  June 9, 2011 at 1:03 am

      You’re not wrong about that. Whenever I’m out of Australia, I delight in being able to run through tall grass without anxiety.

      • Red Nomad OZ  June 11, 2011 at 9:47 am

        Haha! But there IS one place in OZ where the grass holds no nasty surprises … only discovered Lord Howe Island off the NSW coast this year – see my blog for details!!!

  • Davis  September 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    My Dear, you have it just right.

  • Sarah Donnelly  January 7, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I can relate to this as a travel writer who is TERRIFIED of flying! So never mind the destination, the getting there alone is a trauma for me. But I made a decision that fear would not stop me from going places, and whenever I land at my destination I, like you, take great plaeasure in the otherwise botring everyday things. Your fears are slightly more rational than mine though! 🙂

  • Travelling Penster  June 10, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Great article! I especially agree with the ‘adventure makes everything beautiful’ section. Travel makes you appreciate so many things you take for granted – a comfortable bed (like you said), a hot shower, running water, and so much more! And yes, that buzz of really feeling alive when you’re experiencing something truly wonderful 🙂


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