“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one's self.... And to venture in the highest sense is precisely to be conscious of one's self.”
Soren Kierkegaard liked to view anxiety as an adventure. (Clearly he never experienced the Sunday night blues.) In fairness, he was talking about existential anxiety. The kind when you panic about who you are, what you want in life or what on earth you’re doing - you know, the usual Wednesday night stuff.
Have you ever noticed that these thoughts happen when you’re alone or don’t have any distractions around you? Well SK believed the reason for this was because we tend to hide ourselves behind the external things we put around us. Our jobs for instance, or our relationships or material objects. We pin our identities to these things. How many of us are defined by our careers or our social status? Without these things, Kierkegaard argued that we don’t really know who we are - hence why we get existential anxiety when we’re alone.
The upside of his argument though (before I cause existential anxiety for the both of us), is that we need to experience this anxiety in order to discover who we are. We need to venture out by ourselves and away from the external influences in order to fully understand ourselves. The reason I found this so relevant to Reset, is because what allows us to do this in the way that travel does? When you travel solo, you remove many of factors that influence you and are forced to do things by yourself. Our first fear that we might express at the thought of travelling solo is safety, however the more I think about it, the more I think that’s a disguise for our fear of being removed from the things that tie us to who we think we are.
Yes to venture alone will cause anxiety, but the reward of going will be greater than the risk of never finding out who you are, or who you could be.
Tips for venturing out alone:
Don’t take your phone with you or limit the amount you use it. You can go to a country on the other side of the planet, but if you’re still checking your social media daily and know everything that’s going on at home, then what’s the point? Mentally, you’re still at home and won’t be fully immersed in where you are. In the past I left my iPhone at home and took an extremely old phone that I could only use to send the occasional text back home.
2. Can’t afford to travel or not quite ready to travel alone? You can still venture out at home. Start doing things by yourself. Go and read in a coffee shop or take yourself out to lunch or to the cinema. Follow your interests and get to know who you are and what you like. If you’re not sure where to start, a good idea is to remember what you enjoyed doing as a child.
3. If you do find yourself alone, in a foreign country and having an existential crisis, remember that it’s normal and it’s to be expected. Kierkegaard called it the ‘dizziness of freedom.’ It’s you realising your capabilities and power when you’re fully free to make your own choices and decisions.Acknowledge it and try to understand it. Write down what’s worrying you and try to figure out why. But if the anxiety gets too much, go and spend some time with other solo travellers. You can’t go wrong with good food and good conversation.
Suggested reading: Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl’s story is the ultimate venturing out alone book. she completely removes herself from everything around her as she treks over 1000 miles of the coast of america and recalls the memories of her mothers death, her divorce and her ‘failings’ so far in her life. it’s a great read for this as you get to hear her anxieties and troubles at the start of the book, and witness her personal growth throughout the journey.