A few months ago, my best friend’s dad referred to me as an “intrepid traveller.” I was flattered but also embarrassed. I have spent my entire life trying to cultivate the personality of an intrepid traveller, and I always come up short.

As a kid, I read endless books about brave young women who left home, explored the world and conquered their fears. From Nancy Drew to Brett Ashley, I filled my imagination with examples of women who shrugged off societal expectations, threw caution to the wind and had unforgettable experiences. And though I lacked the constitution, I desperately wanted to be like them. I practiced the “fake it til you make it” model and committed myself to travel, convincing myself that I was brave and adventurous. If you were to look at my passports, you too might think me an intrepid traveller.

My first passport is full of stamps from Europe. I first travelled there in high school, and when I was 20, I took a year off from CU to work in London and travel throughout the continent. Every page of my first passport is covered in stamps from Portugal to Poland and everything in between. Since then, it’s been important to me to diversify my portfolio.

My new passport reflects travels to the Caribbean, Central America, South America and, most recently, Africa.

But the true story that can’t be told from looking at a passport is that I actually approach travel with a great deal of trepidation. I am not brave. I am not particularly adventurous. I generally think I’m going to die before I leave for any trip. And as I get older, it becomes harder to fake it. I have the excuse of my job, graduate school and bills to pay. It’s easier to say no to adventures because, as an adult, no is the sensible answer.

I tried to talk myself out of going to Senegal 100 different ways. I told myself that the cost was irresponsible, it was a bad time at work and I would struggle to keep up with my classes. Now, on the other side of one of the most fabulous trips of my life, I feel sick to think how close I came to not going.

The idea of Africa was so unattainable to me; it seemed so foreign, vast, difficult. I couldn’t picture what it would feel like to be on the continent. I didn’t know how to prepare or what to expect. Uncertainty of any kind is the deepest root of my anxiety.

Fortunately, I made a wine-fueled decision to buy a nonrefundable plane ticket. And of course, I had the adventure of a lifetime, one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

It’s something I need to write down now, to remember. Because I’m not brave, but I can fake it. Because life is short, and the world is big. And because I still have five blank pages left in my passport. I wonder what will fill them.

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