Travel makes you brave

Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

We are all members of the Church of Uncertain.

Sure, there are people who are dead-set-certain about some things, and hooray for them, but the rest of us are out there just trying to make our way the best we can, hoping we’re doing it right.

When I saw this sign for a church in the town of Uncertain, Texas, during a quick stop in nearby Caddo Lake State Park, I slammed on the brakes and yanked the car over to the side of the road. I knew I had to capture that image.

It came in handy last month when I spoke on the topic of bravery at Creative Mornings Austin; my talk was a little bit about inspirational heroics that inspire us, but mostly it was a discussion of everyday bravery and how the audience could bulk up their own bravery reserves.

For me, travel has been key to learning to be brave and confident.

Over and over again, I’ve been in unfamiliar, uncomfortable situations thanks to travel, but all of them have turned out fine and each one has helped build mental armor for me.

**  Hopelessly lost in the kanji-signed tangle of Tokyo subway stations, or that time I went the wrong way because I couldn’t read the Finnish train signs near Helsinki.

**  Suspended far above the ground, carefully picking my way around the Sky Trail on the river in Oklahoma City on a freezing, windy day, thinking that this frightened me more than jumping out of airplanes in Airborne training.

**  Saying, “Sure, I’ll try it” to all kinds of food (even the kind that looks back at you.)

**  Roaring down a mountain at night on a sled in Norway, not quite sure how to steer it but not doing too badly till I plowed into that mailbox at the bottom of the road.

**  Trying to make myself understood arranging for a few day’s stay in some stranger’s apartment in Shanghai, wondering why I didn’t make it easier on myself by simply forking over more money to stay in a predictable hotel.

All of it, built up over the years, means that I am not afraid to be lost, uncomfortable, confused and uncertain. Mind you, I don’t particularly like to feel that way, but I’m not afraid of it.

The more you put yourself in situations that require you to overcome fear and uncertainty – even a little bit, like trying a restaurant in your town with cuisine you don’t know anything about – the more you will flex and build that bravery muscle in your head.

We may be members of the Church of Uncertain, but there’s no reason we can’t be brave members.

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