The Love of Being Scared: Navigating Life’s Tricky Paths

The Love of Being Scared: Navigating Life’s Tricky Paths

I know I’m going back to South America, so I can’t really explain what’s going through my head as I sit here on my

The impressive volcanoes to the east at sunset

computer at the airport waiting for my flight back to Canada. Part of me is excited.  I’ll kiss the soil as soon as I set foot on the silky smooth soil of my home and native land. But at the same time part of me is sad. I’m ending an era of my life, the one which I spent my days exploring ancient ruins and vibrant plazas.  A life in which I spent my nights sipping exotic drinks, nibbling on strange foods, and diving head first into the local night life. All at the same time I feel scared. But unlike most people this is the part I love. I love being scared, because travel has taught when you’re scared you’re probably about to embark on something incredible.

The more and more I travel or, to be honest, just live, the more I relish the idea of being scared. By being scared I don’t mean doing things that are stupid and purposefully scare you (although most that know me are probably disapointed that what is about to come is a life story and not a crazy story about how I stole a taxi in Panama). In this regard I mean taking on life challenges that seem difficult. In our lives we have many decisions to make. The majority of people chose the path that seems the easiest, disguising that thought as the “right” thing to do.

I’m not a believer in fate by any stretch of the imagination. But I do believe that gives us choices. Sometimes the decisions to these questions aren’t drastic, “I’m going to eat at McDonald’s instead of Subway,” and impact your life only the slightest. However sometimes you run into decisions that are bigger “I’m going to study English instead of Engineering,” and these options impact your life more significantly. Looking back at my life, and the way I’ve made my particular decisions has brought me to the point I am right now, sitting at the airport in Lima. But things could have turned out the same. I challenge you to think of these big decisions the way that I am about to roll out and think about your life, without regrets.

I was 18 years old, a basketball player without an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I went to university to play

Jumping into Lake Titicaca

basketball and study kinesiology. My second year of school I had the choice to go out west and continue playing basketball or stay near my hometown and continue not knowing what to do. I stayed close to home, because it was the easiest decision (same part of the world, same girlfriend, same friends). At University I met a professor who had a love for geography, politics, and travel, because of him I decided I wanted to travel. I had the choice later of staying with a girlfriend, or traveling. I chose to travel. I had the choice to travel to anywhere. I chose Central America because for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I could get their for cheap and I wanted to learn how to surf. I ended up falling in love with the culture, language, and the history. I returned home with a purpose, to learn why Latin America is the way it is. After University ended I sat with the options of Law schools, grad schools, and jobs. I decided to throw it all away for a low paying job where I got to explore South America in depth. And today I am heading home again with my life full of options, something that kind of scares me. I’m pretty sure I’ve made my decision, more on that later.

If I was to go back and change any of the decisions that I made in life, my life direction would have pointed me to a completely different place than I am right now. And to be quite honest looking back I made some seriously wrong choices. I probably should have headed west to play basketball, and I probably should have done a couple other unlisted items differently. But the truth is that because of those silly mistakes I made, I am here where I am now, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. The experiences that I’ve had along the my life’s path so far have reassured me that no matter how terrifying a decision may be it can always take me to an amazing place. From my life experiences, I’ve learned that taking the road that scares usually takes you to a rewarding place as long as you survive the journey, and even if you fail, you’ll probably have a great story to tell.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. A few weeks ago I made a last minute decision to visit two schools in a remote part of Nepal, with two people who I’d never met. The schools had been built by a small non-profit and I was going there to see what they were doing and decide if I wanted to help support them through my blog. I was facing a lot of personal fear and stepping way outside my comfort zone, but I felt something pulling me there.

    I ended up giving my first public speech to a crowd of almost 100 school children after having climbed up above the clouds into the Himalayan mountains.

    The decision to take that three day trip ended up being the highlight of my entire six month journey and I’m incredibly happy that I just “went with it”.

    We rarely see the long-term impact of our decisions, but even “wrong” decisions end up leading us somewhere. We might have been able to do things differently, but we wouldn’t be where we are today if we had.

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    • Raam, spot on my friend… Sounds like you had an amazing experience there in Nepal!

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  2. What a gorgeous post, gave me goosebumps! Best wishes on the new chapter in your life. It’s just another grand adventure!!! I agree 100% that the things that scare you are the things most worth doing.

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  3. Hola Brendan,
    As usual I am blown away when you put words on your computer…You have such wisdom and insight for such a young lad…I love reading all of your posts…I am taken away vicariously to the various parts of the world that you explore…
    Thanks for the backseat ride….
    Patti thecrazychef somewhere in Mexico

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  4. Great post Brendan….i guess, keep us all posted….hahaha

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  5. Amazing photos as always!

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  6. I was scared of travelling alone around China and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Pushing myself to the unknown and being able to take decisions on the last minute was part of my days there.

    Nice post! Really inspiring!

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  7. I think you hit one of my favorite things about travel- how it teaches you to swallow your fear and in doing so transfer fear’s power back to yourself. I think another incredibly empowering point you made here, is to just trust in where life takes you, as it will always take you to the most perfect place you were meant to arrive at. That is why I like to just sit in the boat, let the river take me, and enjoy the beautiful ride.
    Brilliant post once again Brendan. I can’t help but feel delighted every time I come here and see how well you are doing. It is so deserved.

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  8. Great post. I used to have a postcard taped up with a quote from Helen Keller saying “Live is a daring adventure or nothing.” It was always a reminder to do things in life that scared me. Like you, I’ve found that when I/we take the leap into the unknown or scary, we are rewarded with even richer experiences than we had first imagined. And, when we have fallen, it hasn’t really been that hard of a fall. Keep enjoying being scared and pushing the limits of what scares you!

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  9. Wonderful post Brendan.

    I’ve always believed that if we can constantly remind ourselves of the need to take risks and be bold in life, our decisions will bring us to places that we simply cannot conceive of until we arrive there. And as you mentioned, usually those places are quite amazing in the end, and far more rewarding than the familiar results we receive from making safer decisions.

    The quote that Audrey mentioned is one that I have written everywhere myself – in journals, on a post-it note on the desktop of my laptop and on a piece of paper in my backpack. Repeating it several times a day seems to help me choose the scary path as often as possible as well…

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  10. I try not to think of decisions as right or wrong as they just lead you down different paths. I think you’re on a good one so maybe they were the right choices after all…

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  11. i just stumbled upon your blog on a random google search (“navigating love”).

    This post was just the reassurance I need at the moment. Thanks for doing what you’re doing.

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