To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.– Elizabeth Gilbert
Five years ago, I took one of the boldest actions of my life. I traveled halfway across the world to Ubud, Indonesia alone. In June 2008, I was 27 years old and had never left United States soil despite a constant longing to. A combination of fear and comfort held me hostage in familiarity—until, however, I finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling novel, Eat. Pray. Love. It chronicled the author’s adventures through Italy, India and Indonesia as she sought to “find herself” after a divorce.
The book’s vivid descriptions of Indonesia’s rich culture and lush countryside converged with my imagination of ornate wood-carvings, colorful temples and sprawling rice paddies. It was this convergence that left no question about where my first trip abroad would be to once I mustered up enough courage to go. And whenever I decided to go, I wanted go alone—just like Elizabeth Gilbert.
I let the thought of traveling by myself to an unknown distant land linger in my mind for a few weeks to see if my inner voice would talk me out of the adventure I considered taking. And to be completely honest, part of me hoped it would. More work would go into facing my fears than succumbing to them. Did I really want to work? It wasn’t long after asking myself this question that my inner voice answered, “yes.”
Facing fear and buying a ticket to Indonesia
So, three weeks after finishing the book, I took a leap and purchased a plane ticket to Ubud, Indonesia without anyone’s consultation but my own. The decision makes my top 10 list of most unsettling things I’ve done. But, as soon as the purchase was complete, the knots in my stomach settled and the fearful thoughts faded. Interestingly, buying the ticket alleviated my anxiety and doubt because it eradicated the option to back out. So, with a $1,500 ticket in tow, I was all in.
I performed several Internet searches to find a trusted guesthouse to stay in, and I purchased a travel guide to plan other aspects of my trip. I got a few vaccinations, purchased a fake wedding ring to repel uninvited friendliness, and learned a few Indonesian words. Selamat pagi. Good morning.
The trip of my life
Then, September came, and I boarded a plane to begin one of the most amazing voyages of my life.
After arriving and getting over the initial shock of being thousands of miles away from home or from anyone who knew me, I was fine. I had to be. So, I spent the next ten days observing Indonesian culture, biking through its landscape, visiting shops, eating unprocessed food, reading “Love in the Time of Cholera” and telling people that, yes, I was black and, no, I wasn’t related to Barack Obama or Michael Jordan.
I wasn’t mugged. I was never threatened. I was never harmed, and I wasn’t taken advantage of. None of the fears I had before my trip materialized. So, if I had acted on those fears, I would have missed out on one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
It was this trip that showed me what I was made out of—southern sass and boldness. And since returning from the trip, “Be bold,” has become my mantra. Subsequently, I consistently embark upon adventures that allow me to experience myself and be heard. I’ve swallowed my doubt several times and emailed the Chief Marketing Officer of my company when I’ve had insight and opinions that I though were valuable to share. I tried out for a professional NFL dance team without any formal dance experience and made it to the final round. I’ve quite jobs without having another lined up, and it’s always worked out. I’ve moved to new places with out knowing a soul.
What ‘Be Bold’ means
Bold, in the sense of the word that I use it, is not to be confused with dangerous or grandiose. A person doesn’t need to risk injury or death to be bold. Nor does the person need to travel across the world to be considered bold. Rather, “bold” translates to “uncomfortable.” So, what “be bold” really means is “embrace discomfort.” It is discomfort that produces awareness and growth—not comfort.
So, here are a few lessons my trip taught me about getting uncomfortable, or being bold.
Comfort is overrated
Sure, comfort feels good. It wraps you up in easiness and coddles you. It’s safe and represents the road most travelled.
Comfort, however, seduces you into inaction. It likes to keep you where you are. It convinces you not to push beyond your self-imposed limitations to take a trip abroad. Comfort persuades you to stay in relationships, careers, and cities you’ve outgrown. It is one of the most powerful forces behind dreams deferred, risks not taken and life unexplored.
You cannot be both bold and comfortable. Boldness requires you to step outside of your comfort zone.
If you want to integrate more bold activity into your day, ask yourself a simple question before completing a task or making a decision. What is the easiest, most comfortable action I can take? Then, eliminate that option and go with one that causes you a little more apprehension.
Commitment is underrated
It’s funny how commitment has the ability to minimize fear. Once I bought the plane ticket to Indonesia, fear took a back seat to planning the trip. The tricky part is that you may be too fearful to make a commitment. So, here’s what you need to know about commitment. You likely will not die from it, and not making and keeping one often leads to regret. Fear or regret. Which would you rather feel?
The more you commit to yourself and follow through on your commitment, the more you will learn to trust yourself, and the more you trust yourself, the more confident you will become. The more confident you become, the less you will allow fear to stand between you and the thing you want to do. The less you allow fear to stand between you and the thing you want to do, the bolder you will be.
So, how do you cultivate a habit of keeping commitments to yourself? Start small and commit often. Promise to call up a friend you haven’t spoken to recently, take a walk, speak up in class, or offer a suggestion in a meeting. Commitments that cause you a bit of uneasiness are the best ones to make and keep because the more you embrace discomfort and conquer it, the more you will welcome it.
Soon enough, you will get to the point where not doing something you said you would do is more fearful than doing the thing you said you were going to do.
Fear only exists if you make it real
My trip to Indonesia proved that fear itself casts a bigger shadow than the thing I feared. Nothing that I feared happened! So, it dawned on me that I was responsible for breathing life into fear, and if I hadn’t given it life, it wouldn’t have existed.
We are all human and all likely to experience fear. So, we may not be able to prevent its existence, but we can give it a premature life using the points stated above.
You prolong fear’s existence when you allow comfort to decide your plight. You extend its life when you break commitments to yourself.
Fear produces a fork in the road. There are only two options to address it: retreat or embrace. Comfort or boldness.
Pick the narrower road less traveled. Embrace fear and the discomfort it causes. Give it a hug, and squeeze it to death. Once you decide to embrace it, keep your commitments to yourself. And no matter what happens in an hour or a day or how scared you get, always do what you tell yourself you will do.
Have you had an experience that has led you to lead a bolder life? Leave your comments below.
Photo by creative1the
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40 thoughts on “How a Trip to Indonesia Taught Me to be Bold”
Great post, one of the best I’ve read here! Your thoughts on comfort, commitment, and fear include deep understandings of ways we can live more freely. It’s amazing what travel and experience can do for us. Writing can also play a large role in developing these understandings. Keep it up!
Thanks so much for reading, Dan. You’re completely right about the writing part. So many buried lessons have surfaced for me just by writing. I can’t tell you how many ah ha! moments I’ve had when I put pen to paper.
Embracing discomfort is a concept which I learned of this year, it’s what allowed me to get over my bout with anxiety after my dog passed away.
Fear only begins to subside when you start to embrace it, rather than run from it. Running from fear only serves to intensify it, giving even more power to it. This creates a loop in which you constantly reinforce the strength of your fear, making it even harder to escape in the future.
This article really clicks with me at the moment as I feel we learned the same exact lessons only under different circumstances.
Thanks, Ericson, for reading. You’re absolutely right when you say “fear only begins to subside when you start to embrace it.” It’s a hard yet powerful lesson.
Great post, thanks :) Well, I think I’ve just done something “bold”: left a job that I stopped enjoy doing, but did not have anything lined up, yet I believed I’d be fine. And I am! I restarted my teaching career few weeks ago and enjoy it immensely :) But I still feel that there’s more ‘boldness’ left in me and it has been brewing for a good while now- one day I’d be ready to leap and go travelling. I believe it will happen :)Thank you for inspiration :)
Karina, that’s bold! No doubt about it. Being bold is really about embracing discomfort, and leaving a job (where you’re making money to support yourself) without another one lined up sounds a bit uncomfortable (and freeing). Everything works out in the end, as you’ve seen. Congrats to you. Keep being bold!
Hi, I’m very happy that you visited my country!! I’ve been following your blog for several months and very surprised reading this article. Hope you had a great time in Ubud!
I love your country! I’m looking forward to going back soon. Thank you for following my blog. What part of Indonesia are you from?
Travel does broaden your perspective especially when travelling in Asian countries. I know that many of my best experiences have come when I faced my fear (got bold) and visited different areas around the world. While I have never been to Indonesia, I have travelled alone in India and Malaysia and Sri Lanka. It does keep one on purpose and focused on what is important. I will admit though that I did nothing stupid in the process but I did interact with wonderful people
Roberta, what parts of India have you traveled to? I would love to visit in the next few years. Thank you for reading.
Very interesting post. Fear is what keeps us from accomplishing things that we can and drag us down from what we can do if we try and work on it. l really liked reading your post.
Thank you Hamid. Fear can keep us from accomplishing things or it can help us. It matters most how we respond to the fear.
A lovely post. A great story and nice to know there are fellow travelers who muster courage in the face of our fears and apprehension. Thanks and well done.
Thanks for reading Erik!
Beautifully written post Candace. I nurtured fear all of my life, it is what I learned to do as a child because of circumstances in my family.
I embraced fear because it felt comfortable, it was what I had grown up with and even though it felt unpleasant, it was familiar.
Now I have brought this thinking pattern into my awareness I no longer seek fearful situations or worse still create them so that I can feel fear.
Enlightening and life changing once you realize that this is one emotion that you do not need in your toolbox!
Thanks, Joan. I agree with you. Fear is not something that we should let linger. We have to do something with it. What I’ve found is that when I embrace it, it disappears.
Fear of the unknown is inbuilt since childhood. Parents often create fear in child’s mind, of course, for her safety. Unfortunately fear stays even when one grows up. The suggestion given in the post can help alleviate it i.e. to embrace it and the discomfort it causes. Fear is body’s defense mechanism , pumps adrenalin in the system when faced with fearful situation like addressing a large gathering, appearing for an interview on which my career depends or , like in this case, going to an unknown country. Battle is won when mind’s resolve refuses to be cowed down by body’s reaction. An adventurer, an entrepreneur, an explorer is born.
I love your reply. Especially, the last part. “Battle is won when mind’s resolve refuses to be cowed down by body’s reaction. An adventurer, an entrepreneur, an explorer is born.”
Because fear may be a part of our biology, as you mention, our focus should be on responding to it and not avoiding it.
You are so inspiring. I have to read eat pray love. I saw the movie but I am sure the book is richer. This story truly hit home because I want to travel to Belize for a month. And, I have all the fears you had but I keep telling myself this is the time to do it. I have no husbands and no babies yet. Thanks so much for writing this! I look forward to reading more of your work. Oh, and I Love you blog!!! 365Bold is a go-to for me! XO!
Wonderful post Candace. I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat bold but you’ve inspired me to push it further. Continue your wonderful journey. You will never look back and regret it.
This post speaks a lot to me. I always have this dream to travel and yet never get the guts to do so. My fear always defeats me. It is either I am not brave enough excuse or the financial problem excuse. What you did is indeed very bold and I really wish I were that brave to overcome my fear.
If you don’t mind telling me, how do you overcome your fear, your doubt before you decided to travel, how did you talk and convince yourself to do so?
Thank you, Candace for your sharing. It is really inspiring. Greeting from Indonesia.
Greetings Iena! I’m so thrilled my story inspired you. I had the exact same fear when traveling to your lovely country, but you can do it!
The thought I had before I actually booked the ticket was “It’s now or never.” Another thought I had was “would you rather feel fear or regret?” To me, regret is so deeply disappointing because it results when I could have done something that I didn’t do.
Another thing that helped me tremendously was just buying the ticket. I didn’t have anything figured out before buying the ticket. But buying the ticket propelled me into action. Sometime, we don’t need to think about the whole thing and focus rather on the first step. You can do it!
You are right Candace. What’s important is taking the first step, once I have done it there will be no turning back.
Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement.
You are right ,Candace. What’s important is taking the first step, once I have done it there will be no turning back.
Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement.
Good for you for taking the chance at failure, and pushing yourself out of the comfort zone we all love to smother ourselves in. Whats the next stop on the journey?
Thank you for reading! I am actually planning a trip to Singapore next year with my parents. How about you?
Thank you for sharing your experience of a lifetime. Your honest journey of becoming bold is an inspiring story on how change in life occurs when at least expected. Through your boldness you embraced the feeling and emotion of discomfort. This is a beautiful way of approaching struggle and switching it into something positive.
In my therapy practice, I use stories such as your journey to inspire others to see that adventures can lead to satisfying goals to change. Our dreams, hopes, and aspirations are essential in your life and can you lead us on a journey to a positive and life changing experience that enhances our quality of life.
Elisa Leeder, MS
Absolutely. I love this line you wrote, “Through your boldness you embraced the feeling and emotion of discomfort. This is a beautiful way of approaching struggle and switching it into something positive.” To me, every experience, every emotion can be turned into something positive.
thank you for reading.
Thank you for your responds Candace. In my blog, highwaynotmyway.com, I write about ideas, which can help people to overcome their struggles in life and find the solutions within themselves and in their life. The blog can help you utilize your resources and embrace positive change in life.
This was awesome! Thank you!!
You’re very welcome. Thank you for reading.
this was superb at time you need to conquer your fear by taken action must be taken .thanks for sharing your experience.
Thank you for your kind remarks. Yes, action helps you conquer fear!
I couldn’t agree more. I lived my life this way for most of my adult life. Then, I had kids and I have found, much to my disappointment in myself, I am no longer as bold as I used to be. Fundamentally I am — if I was on my own I would be exactly the same way and not in the least afraid of discomfort or willing to face fear (in fact, I used to not even be afraid … when it was just me. I just find it so hard to face fear of what might happen to someone else, i.e., my kids. I wish more posts would talk about how to take the plunge when you have kids. I’m really struggling with this these days.
My husband and I recently inquired about moving to Bali and putting our kids in the Green School there. We spoke with a man, a father of a young girl, who has lived in Bali for over 20 years with his wife. He is totally about living the life that makes you happy — he lives an entrepreneurial life style. He asked me 3 questions: the first two were easy — he asked if we could handle the culture and climate, etc., then he asked if the school was right for us — we answered yes to both. Then he asked how much money we have and he said (which isn’t a lot but we thought was alright) and he said, “That could be tough.” And he said this because of how much it would cost to live this life with a family of four.
On the outside, it seems like kids do limit your dreams, but internally I just know that must be wrong. That said, I’ve not cracked the code of how to make our dream lifestyle happen with kids.
Kim! Thank you for your comment. I don’t yet have kids, but I’ve often been told to live my life before I have kids because, though they are gifts, they are also inhibitors. That’s what I’ve been told.
The only advice I have (as a person without kids) is to not think your move abroad has to be permanent. Your family might not be like the guy who has lived in Bali for 20 years. You guys may only be there for two. While I was there, I met an American who was an accountant in the US. He got really burned out in job, so he packed his bags and all of his savings and moved to Ubud. He had been over there for 10 years at the time I met him and spoke highly about his quality of life.
I would say, keep saving money. Sacrifices the things you can live without in order to save more money. Then pick a date and do it. Children are very adaptable, and I bet your kids would adjust before you and your husband. Have an exit strategy, so you know what your move back to the US would look like if it had to happen.
I would love to know where you guys decide to do. Please comment back on this thread, if you wouldn’t mind, when you’ve made a decision. I admire you guys!
Very inspiring! I am totally agreed with this sentence: ‘Fear only exists if you make it real’. Thanks for visiting my country and safe travel always.
Thank you! Your country is beautiful.
Nice post and nice lesson, anyway it’s really intriguing to know there are people afraid to go to Indonesia, I’m living in there. And hey, you’re always welcome to come back again ; )
I think the fear was less about the country itself and more about visiting a new place on the other side of the world by yourself. I loved it!
Firs of all, thank you for sharing your experience. I am thinking to travel to Indonesia soon.
I had a bold experience this year. I’m the only daughter, no brothers or sisters, of my family, so they have always been extra over-protective with me. When I decided to leave the protective shell and move from my country Spain to London on my own for first time in my life… well… at the moment I thought it was bold but… that wasn’t nothing. Life is not as dangerous as they paint it at home :)
But this year, being only a 25 years old girl, I decided to buy a ticket to Japan. It had been my dream since I was a kid so yes, I was anxious about going on my own but, if I hadn’t done i this year I would never have done it.
I know is one of the safest places in the world, but the fact that without speaking their language, I could move from one place to another, even to remote places many hours far from cities, and meet interesting people, find cool places and eat amazing food, well, that made me feel one of the boldests girls in the world :) So, since then, no matter how far, I will never be fearful again in matters of travelling far from home.