The Path of Meaningful Risks

Ten years ago, I went on my first solo vacation trip to Hong Kong.

From the time I arrived at the airport in Hong Kong, until I met my friend three days later, my heart pounded in my chest and I was fearful almost all the time, because traveling alone was waaaay outside of my comfort zone.

I was worried that something bad might happen to me and I wouldn’t know how to handle it.

Each time I left the guesthouse, I felt naked, vulnerable and out of place, like everyone could tell I didn’t belong there (even though almost everyone around was Asian like me).

And I remember poring over brochures and maps in my tiny room, trying to figure out my itinerary for the day, being uncertain of what I really wanted to do and when to do it. Should I visit the local art museum? Should I go see the Big Buddha? Should I try to make friends with the locals even though I don’t speak Cantonese? Where am I going to have my meals? (Eating alone in public was terrifying for me at the time lol).

When we decide to walk our own path, it’s oftentimes like traveling alone for the first time.

There’s a fear of the unknown, of having to deal with the possible bad stuff that could happen.

There’s a feeling of vulnerability and being out of place, because most people around you aren’t on the road less traveled, and you can’t help doubting that you’ve made the “right” choice.

And when you’ve got no clear itinerary to follow, it’s natural to question what you’re supposed to do, and how to allocate your resources to get the best possible experience you can expect. (Thus it’s always easier to visit the tourist places and join group tours when traveling to a new place lol.)

We accumulate many memories and moments in our lives, and when we reach the end of our journeys and look back, which are the ones that will stand out for you?

Chances are you’ll remember the times you took a meaningful risk and fulfilled something that truly mattered to you, perhaps even something you never thought you could.

It’s not about the perceived size and magnitude of the risk (like skydiving), and it’s not about doing scary things for the sake of doing them.

It’s about how you want to make meaning in your life, and what are the risks you must take in order to fulfill that.

I remember driving nine hours straight in one day in 2011, all by myself, as I moved from Nashville to pursue my dream of living in New York City.

I remember hiking in several U.S. National Parks over two weeks to fulfill my dream of adventure travel, when I was so far from “athletic” at the time (and I was wearing fashion boots lol).

I remember fulfilling my childhood artist dream by organizing my first solo exhibition in two months in 2013, and going to Spain in 2018 for my first artist residency, and painting the second overseas Dream Tree in Latvia last year (which meant that “Project: 100 Dream Trees” was really happening).

What about you? What meaningful risks have you taken in your life that fulfilled something truly important for you?

Share the first one that comes to mind in the comments!

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