Stepping up to the tee, I was mighty nervous. I was shaking, I couldn’t think straight at all.
It was the first time that the coach of my high school golf team put me in the starting lineup. I was finally playing in a tournament between our school and the high school team of a neighboring town. No longer was I just a member of the worthless practice squad.
I positioned my feet and held the golf club firmly, but not too tight. I stared out at the stretch of green in front of me and took a few deep breaths. I bent my knees and then I looked down at the ball. It was my time to shine.
Well, I swung that club, I most certainly did.
And then I had to duck quickly, along with everyone else in the area. The ball had bounced right off a nearby tree and came flying straight back at us. It zoomed just over our heads and eventually landed about 40 feet behind me.
Terrible, terrible, terrible shot. Most likely the worst golf shot that anyone watching had ever seen.
With nerves rattling even more, and trying to brush off the embarrassment, I quickly settled in for my second shot. But, despite my powerful swing, I only hit the ball ever so slightly and all it did was plop two feet off to the right as a result.
My third shot actually went into the air, but it went right into the branches of another tree and dropped straight down.
I didn’t even finish 9 holes of golf that day. While the best golfers on our team finished 18 holes, I got through 8 before it was too dark to continue and I had to call it quits.
Disappointed was an understatement. During our practices each week, I usually hit the ball well. Nice and straight. I’d been practicing for two years.
But the one time I had a chance to shine, I blew it, in the worst of ways.
How it Relates to Travel
I tried too hard that day on the golf course.
And when it comes to setting off into the world for some travel, we often try too hard as well, with similar results.
We try too hard to plan everything. We try too hard to know every crime statistic, weather pattern, transportation option, hostel dorm room price, street food location, activity entrance fee, potential travel partner, toiletry that we might not be able to find overseas and we try to think about every possible situation that might arise and what kind of gear we might need for those situations…and much, much more.
We want to ‘get it right’.
And that’s perfectly understandable.
But sometimes, getting it right actually involves letting go. It involves stepping back from the thoughts that can actually hold us hostage at times. The thoughts that can put so much pressure on us, that turn our brains into such a mess, leaving us unable to concentrate on just doing what we stepped up to the tee to do.
I can’t tell you what was in my head when I made the world’s worst golf shot. The reason is that there were hundreds of thoughts flooding through my head at the time.
Do this, don’t do this, don’t forget about bending your knees, look straight down, move your right foot back, don’t hold the club too tight, don’t whack the ball, just swing evenly, nobody’s watching, a lot of people are watching, what if I hit the tree…
In the end, I didn’t swing that club. All of those thoughts jumping around my head tried to take control of my swing and, amid their battle, they forced the club down towards the ball. The result was terrible of course.
It’s the same with travel. All of those thoughts that we think are helping us will actually hurt us if we try to pay attention to them all. We can’t figure out everything there is to figure out about travel, we can’t plan everything (nor do we want to plan everything), we can’t remember every statistic, we can’t prepare for every situation. And you know what, they do sell Old Spice deodorant and Colgate whitening toothpaste in Thailand!
We just need to relax and swing. We just need to get on a plane or a bus or a train. That’s all we need to focus on…the main task at hand.
The rest will happen naturally. Your body and your mind will remember what it needs to remember. It will do what it needs to do. It might not be perfect from the start, but it won’t be a disaster.
Thinking too much is what can make it a disaster. It can drive a person crazy, to the point where the fun of travel is gone, where the doubts have crept in so much that we no longer think we can get out there and see the world. We just don’t think we have a good enough grasp on EVERYTHING that we need to know before we get started.
If we don’t relax and let our minds be free, we’ll often hit a tree, then we’ll barely hit anything, then we’ll fall out of a tree and then we won’t even finish our travels because our coach will tell us it’s time to go home.
And then our coach will never let us travel again. He might even kick us off the traveling team.
Anyway, stop thinking too much and just go travel.
Is over-thinking preventing you from traveling? Did you ever overcome this and finally get out there into the world?