Traveling is an experience that should be open to everyone, but often women are told that it is “too dangerous” for us to go into the world alone. (Which is ironic, because walking the streets in our own cities is also dangerous when it comes to sexual harassment and assault, as is literally staying inside our homes.) And that's not even taking into account the additional obstacles women of color and minorities can face while traveling. Despite this, women are increasingly embarking on their own adventures.
Blogger and author Torre DeRoche’s latest book,The Worrier’s Guide To The End Of The World, traces her experiences walking the last leg of the Via Francigena pilgrimage in Italy, and then following the route of Ghandi’s Salt March in India. While this might sound like the work of a fearless adventurer, Torre admits that she has always been a very fearful person, and that travel is, in part, an attempt to conquer her anxiety. She writes about her compulsive fear of danger to herself or her family, the difficulty of building relationships while living a transient lifestyle, and her fear of missing out on important milestones at home while she is out seeing the world. This memoir is driven by her friendship with another female traveler, Masha, and the lessons they learn on the road.
Here are a couple of the most important lessons:
1.) “You’ll work it out.”
Solo traveling teaches resilience and self dependence, because there is no one else there to solve your problems except you (and there will definitely be problems!). Torre is initially hesitant to begin the pilgrimage with Masha, worrying about whether she has the right gear and about the weather. But she has confidence in herself and her ability to be able to handle it one step at a time, and ends up having one of the most amazing experiences of her life.
2.) “Trust brings back trust, which can only mean that fear yields fear.”
While Torre is constantly preparing for the end of the world, Masha has a completely different traveling style. She believes in the good in people, practices positive visualization and trusts that the universe will provide. Torre eventually manages to let go of her fear, and this is validated by the generous people they encounter along their way.
3.) “There is nothing in this world that exists outside you, the you don’t already have within you.”
This is the advice Torre’s grandmother passed on to her when she was growing up, and it can be applied to basically any situation, on the road or and at home. Whether you’re dealing with romantic relationships, mansplainers, FOMO or low self-esteem, it is important to remember that we are all in control of our own actions, and no-one knows better than us what is right.
4.) “Surrender to the magic of a single moment.”
Studies have shown that three-second patterns are found everywhere, from poetry to the habits of wild animals. By breaking down complicated situations into three second sections, they can become simpler and more manageable. When you’re truly being present in what Torre calls “the feeling of nowness," you can get through just about anything.
5.) “Life is beautiful and then you die.”
Torre’s parents always had a fridge magnet that said "life’s a bitch, and then you die," and she almost believed it. In India, she gained a new perspective, realizing that the futility of existence and the joy of existence are not mutually exclusive. Traveling is a way to see the world and appreciate the beauty in everything, even in the presence of suffering. Life is a contradiction, and we just have to live with that.
The Worrier’s Guide To The End Of The World is full of relatable, funny and moving advice for anyone who has longed to see the world but felt that niggling feeling that wants to hold them back. Best of all, it demonstrates that the best way to confront fear is to meet it head on, and to laugh at it along the journey.
Header image via Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. Images via the author and Amazon.
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Molly McLaughlin is a travel and culture writer currently based in Mexico City. Her work has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet, Refinery29 and Ms. Magazine. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @mollysgmcl.