I thought I’d share a story with you about an experience I had in Chiang Rai, Thailand that almost had me paralyzed by fear and indecision. I imagine like many people out there trying to start and grow a business, life can be extremely overwhelming at times. You don’t know what you don’t know, and that reoccurring fear of the unknown started to settle in on my last day in Chiang Rai.
So,I want to walk you through how my anxious thoughts get stirred up in my head so you understand what the onset of an anxiety attack may look like. This all may seem like irrational thinking to you, but that’s what anxiety attacks look like for me…they start off as genuine dilemmas that spiral into catastrophes if I am not mindful of my thoughts.
The focus of this near meltdown revolves around how I was going to get around Chiang Rai for the three days I was there. When I’m traveling, I generally choose cities that have quality metro transit so that I can easily navigate my way around town, but Thailand’s city transit is somewhere between scarce and non-existent.
Up to that point, I’d been using Grab (Thai Uber). It’s extremely cheap by American standards, but if you use it every day, it starts to add up.
On my first day in Chiang Rai, I walked to Wat Rong Suea Ten, also known as the Blue Temple, which was only about three kilometers from my hotel. The walk took me over a bridge that spanned the Kok River just as the sun was making its way behind the northern Thailand mountain range and led me through some local neighborhoods before I finally reached my destination.
Wat Rong Suea Ten is often overshadowed by its more popular cousin, Wat Rong Khun (aka the White Temple), but at night, the Blue Temple is extravagant, and I felt extremely lucky to have picked the perfect time to capture some majestic images. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, search for mindful_midlife_crisis and check out some of my travel pics. You’ll especially want to see what the Blue Temple looks like in the evening because it’s beautiful at night!
So anyway, I didn’t want to walk back to my hotel because I was exhausted from traveling that day, so I ordered a Grab. Now in Thailand, you can either get a Grab Car or you can save a few bucks and get a Grab Bike, but since I am absolutely terrified of motorcycles and I saw how people insanely zipped around on their scooters in Bangkok, I went with the safer car option.
Now here’s the thing, I grew up on a farm with three-wheelers and four-wheelers and I used to zip around the gravel roads around our farmland back in the day, but there’s just something about riding a motorcycle that has always made me nervous.
And of course, since I’m 45 years old and have never done that before, I’ve had plenty of time to build up that fear in my head…
So I went with what I knew, got in the Grab Car, and enjoyed my safe car ride back to the hotel.
Now, in Thailand, you gotta understand motorcycle and scooter culture. It’s one of the primary means of getting around, but watching them weave in and out of traffic in Bangkok and now in Chiang Rai wasn’t doing my anxiety any favors.
And let’s not forget they drive on the opposite side of the road as Americans and most of the world do, and I’m not trying to die on this world tour I’m on, so yeah, getting on a motorcycle or a scooter is going to be a big no for me!
But on my way back to the hotel, the driver gave me a bit of advice. He said, “If you want to go to the Kuhn Korn Waterfall, (which I did), you’re going to have to rent a scooter because you won’t be able to call a Grab there without WiFi.”
So then I had to ask myself, “Well…how badly do I need to see this waterfall?”
Anyway, the next day I wanted to visit the White Temple as well as Thailand’s largest Buddha statue at Wat Thep Nimit which was on the complete opposite side of town from the White Temple. It’s actually near the Blue Temple, so I had actually planned better, I could’ve hit those two places in the same day. Yet another reason I’m not a fan of “go with the flow” which is a topic I’ll cover another day.
Anyway, before I left for the White Temple, the hotel clerk tried to talk me into renting a scooter for the day because that would mean I could go wherever I wanted and spend as much time as I wanted there, but I told her, “I’ve never driven a scooter before,” and oh yeah, there’s that whole I’m terrified of them thing as well, which I didn’t tell her.
So I once again played it safe. I called for a Grab Car to take me to the White Temple, and the driver was like, “Do you want to go see the Big Buddha, too?”
And I was like, “Yeah!”
And he said, “Okay, I’ll be your driver today.” And then he handed me a list of hourly rates. Even though it was affordable, it was more than I wanted to spend, but at that point, I had no choice if I ever wanted to see the Big Buddha and eventually get back to my hotel because I was traveling without a SIM card and relying on WiFi to get me places.
Now you might be thinking…why wouldn’t you get a SIM card? Well, because I don’t know how that works and I was too afraid to ask for help. Alright? So once again, just another way fear has held me back. Luckily, I learned about Airalo, which is an app where you can buy an eSim card that you can use all over the world. And guess who has a promo code for $3 off for all you travelers out there! Yep, it’s me. Nope, this isn’t a sponsorship or an ad for Airalo. This is just a free travel hack for those of you out there who don’t want to wait in line to buy a SIM Card when you’re traveling. Just download the Airalo app and use the promo code in the show notes the next time you’re traveling and need a SIM card. It’s so easy, even I figured it out.
Anyway, I didn’t want to have to spend a bunch of money to have some dude drive me around all day on my last day in Chiang Rai, but I did want to visit the Khun Korn Waterfalls, but I sure as hell didn’t want to rent a scooter.
And that’s when my anxiety really started to creep in.
For me, that equation looks like this:
Fear + Indecision = Panic
I had a fear of getting hurt, but I also had a fear of making the wrong decision by not going to the waterfalls, and that would have led to regret.
Now, I’ve long said regret gets a bad reputation. Personally, I have no issue with people feeling regret. Regret is a natural human emotion, and if we use it right, just like any human emotion, we can channel it into action. If you haven’t had a chance yet, I strongly encourage you to read Daniel Pink’s The Power of Regret to learn more about how looking back on past regrets can actually move us forward in life.
And when it came down to it, I did not want to regret my last day in Chiang Mai.
So you know what? I channeled all of that fear and anxiety into action. I went downstairs, told the hotel clerk I wanted to rent a scooter, and then I just let that wave of adrenaline simmer until I got on that 150cc (wherever the hell that means) two-wheeler and CAREFULLY maneuvered my way onto the main road out to Khun Korn Forest Park Waterfall.
Now, doing that required me to do three things that I had never done before. I had to:
- Drive a scooter.
- Drive in a foreign country.
- Drive on the opposite of the road.
Was I still terrified?
Damn right, I was! Especially as big cars and big trucks passed me as I hugged the left shoulder of the road like a friend I hadn’t seen in ages.
I kept my eye out for cars and motorbikes pulling out in front of me ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD because people drive more aggressively in Thailand and weave in and out and in between each other like slithering snakes.
I did not drive like that because 55, stay alive (km/ph).
But then there was that moment when I had to pass someone who was also driving on a scooter.
I had two options here…I could tailgate her slow ass the rest of the way or I could kick it down and pass her.
And you know what?
I gave ‘er a little more gas, passed her on the right-hand side without getting clipped by anyone, and I didn’t die! Neither did she! It was a scooter success!
Now, when I turned onto the road that carved through the local villages up to the forest entry, I was seemingly the only person on the road that morning, so I decided to open it up a little bit and allowed myself to finally relax that white-knuckle death grip and hunched shoulders I had the first part of the journey.
When I finally got to the forest park and turned off the scooter and flipped down the kickstand, a great sense of pride and accomplishment washed over me, and I simply could not stop smiling from the exhilarating experience that ride was.
From there, I was once again rewarded with a beautiful jungle hike and a stunning waterfall, and then later I made my way to take in some scenic views at Singha Park, which again, I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not rented the scooter because I wouldn’t have had WiFi to call a Grab and it simply would’ve been way too expensive to pay a driver to be my personal chauffeur all day long again. Plus, I would’ve felt rushed while the driver waited for me.
Had I given in to all that fear yet again, I would’ve never had that experience, and that’s something I definitely would’ve regretted.
Instead, I have this beautiful memory of my last day in Chiang Rai that I get to share with you.
So what’s my takeaway from all this?
As I mentioned, I used regret as a motivator. I did not want to waste an opportunity like getting out into the Thai wilderness getaway from me, so I mustered up the courage, took immediate action, and rode the wave of adrenaline all the way to the waterfall.
In doing so, I also reminded myself what it feels like to be ALIVE! I’m all for comfort and stability. I think those alongside regret also get a bad rap. But when comfort and stability feel like complacency, that’s when it’s time to take action and do something that makes you nervous or downright terrifies you to remind you that you’re alive. Forget these people who tell you to do something that terrifies you every day. Life is hard enough without constantly seeking out ways to stress your nervous system.
But when you start to feel lethargic or paralyzed by indecision, take inspired and intentional action towards something that is normally at the edge of your comfort zone. If it’s outside of your comfort zone, ask yourself, “Is this a rational fear or an irrational fear? Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?”
Through mindfulness, intentional action, and embracing discomfort, we can approach life’s uncertainties with a sense of curiosity, empathy, and purpose.
And sometimes the most rewarding moments arise when we face our fears head-on, opening doors to personal transformation and lasting memories. Remember, wisdom knows no age, and a purpose-filled life is within your reach.