Our Global Community :: It's not as dangerous as you think.

“Whoa.  You’d better be careful traveling through there.  It’s dangerous.”

These are sentiments we often hear from people we meet, just after we tell them what we’re doing and where we’re headed.  Their fear is palpable.  We smile, then begin with the usual response, “Well, actually, you might be surprised to learn….”.

We run off a list of examples, those we’ve heard about from other cyclists and travelers, and those we’ve experienced ourselves, that counter the fear that our society so easily slips around our shoulders, like a heavy, burdensome cloak.  We have grown afraid of each other, and so we don’t answer our doors if we’re not expecting anyone, and we don’t make eye contact with our neighbors as we walk down the streets, and when someone is kind or conversational we are suspicious instead of responsive, and we most certainly don’t believe an obviously delusional couple who have quit their jobs to bicycle around the world when they tell us our fears may be unfounded.

The truth is, Kai & I are looking forward to overcoming our own fears and false assumptions over the coming years.  In our culture, it’s easy to fall into a space of isolation, of separateness, labeling it as “safe”.  It’s time for us to put ourselves out there, openly accepting our vulnerability, and, in turn, recognizing the vulnerability of those around us.  Perhaps it’s the act of publicly acknowledging our fragility and dependence upon others that spurs the many, many acts of kindness and generosity.  When we see it in others, don’t we also feel a natural urge to extend our arms and draw them in, to create a safe space, to express our empathy…..to say, “Yes.  Yes.  I understand because I am human too.”?

How to Build A Global Community

I love this poster created by the Syracuse Cultural Workers!  “How to Build Global Community” offers a great template for morphing fear into understanding.

What’s Your Story of Kindness?

Are you a traveler?  Do you have a story or example of a stranger’s act of kindness or generosity?  If so, please share in the comments section of this post.  We’d love to add it to our bank of “goodness” stories to tell people we meet along the way.

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13 comments to Our Global Community :: It’s not as dangerous as you think.

  • You’ve probably already seen it Sheila but if your readers are interested in exploring this idea further there is a wonderful TED talk by Dr. Brene Brown on “The power of vulnerability”. In the talk Dr. Brown shares her unexpected findings that the most common characteristic of happy and satisfied people is greater-vulnerability. People who embraced being vulnerable, cast off control issues and opened up to new people and experiences were far more likely to have a satisfied life and an optimistic outlook. You’d think that being vulnerable would mean that you would get hurt more but evidence from Dr. Brown counters that hypothesis. Fascinating! :)

    • Logan, I have seen her talk and it’s a great one! So true, it is a fascinating. I’m a control freak (and Kai is a little too) so these first few months of travel have been harder than I thought. I’ve been trying to find a healthy balance between my feeling in control/safe and being open an vulnerable. I think this new lifestyle is going to help me tremendously with this life work.

      Thanks for sharing this info – I hope other readers take a look at Dr. Brown’s talk! (and thanks for commenting, it is wonderful to find them in our inbox when we’ve finished a day of biking and have an internet connection)

      • One thing Tammy and I have been trying to practice lately is taking responsibility for our actions but letting go of the outcomes. All we can control is our influence on the world and nothing else. We can be so invested in potential outcomes sometimes that we feel we can control them. When the outcome results in an unexpected turn we blame ourselves, even though the outcome is almost completely out of our control. It seems best to learn from experiences, try not to ruminate, and then move on the the next task/journey. :)

        • Great approach Logan. I’ve been working under the same “there is only so much I can control/influence” philosophy for over a decade and it’s helped me move away from unhealthy situations and toward a healthier/happier lifestyle. Thanks for the reminder about feeling in control of outcomes…….I often get stuck there. ~Sheila

  • You’re spot on. We were always looked after on our trip, especially when we were in a sticky situation and feeling a bit vulnerable, such as not having a place to stay in a village in Iran on dusk and promptly being invited to spend the night with a family. Or being stuck in India as the road was washed away, and being rowed across by a fisherman. Of course you have to be sensible and trust your instincts, but there really isn’t much to fear.

    • Hi Freddie & Guy – thanks for giving us yet more examples and for letting us know it’s true! And with 15 months on bicycles (Amazing!! Congratulations. And Happy Return Home.) you would have plenty of examples. Hopefully we’ll meet you when we’re passing through your way. :-)

  • Thinking a lot about this lately… thanks for posting.

  • Twice in recent years I´ve been save at the side of the road by my Nemesis )People in cars). In the United States and South Africa you´re general told not to hitch hike. But in 2009 I got picked up by a big car when my bike let me down, the very nice hillbillies in Ohio not only brought me to town but also put me up for the night and brought me to the bike shop the next day.

    And last week in my darkest hour, someone picked me and all my gear up and took me 60km towards town then took a 15km detour to drop me off at me accommodation.

    99% of people are nice, its just sad that we give the 1% all the attention. People are nice!!

  • Wonderful post, thanks for sharing the poster! Vulnerability is one of the words that best expressed why I’ve loved bicycle touring. We rely on the the goodness of strangers for water, advice, and safe places to camp. Just the other day we were exhausted in a narrow river canyon in Guatemala and stopped at a little house on the side of the highway. Half a dozen kids were playing outside. I asked the mother if she could sell us tortillas.

    The father grabbed stools and invited us to sit down, telling us it would be a few minutes. As he questioned us about our trip, I peeked inside the house and caught a glimpse of her hand-grinding the corn. Minutes later I heard the familiar clapping and she patted each ball into a disc.

    A five year-old girl went inside and came out with a shawl to tie her crying little brother to her back. She grabbed a big-wheel and started riding him around until laughter replaced tears. Soon mom came out and handed me a stack of piping hot tortillas. I asked her how much. “Nothing,” she replied. Nothing?

    Here we were, two Americans traveling for pleasure in the former land of United Fruit, the land of a U.S. funded campaign of genocide against indigenous Guatemalans. This was a rural family of campesinos, with little in terms of material wealth.

    I looked at the kids and handed her a few Quetzales. “Please, take it. Thank you so much.”

    • Scott,

      What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

      I really love following your travels and what you and Emily choose to get involved in and learn about along the way. I hope we run in to each other down the road.

      Sheila

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