Scared of Ants.
IN THE UNITED STATES, WE ARE SO SHELTERED.
For those of you living in the United States, who are scared of ants, you don’t know how good you have it.
I say scared of ants, but don’t mean myrmecophobia (a specific fear of ants in general). I also don’t mean red ants that can hurt you. I mean the tiniest little black ant you have ever seen. Imagine a dinosaur but bigger. That is us. To an ant. Now, imagine you are walking down the sidewalk in your neighborhood one day. As you look up, you see a ferocious dinosaur approaching. Your mouth drops open and you cover your head in fear. When the dinosaur gets closer, it looks down, sees you, and runs away screaming. A few minutes later, it returns with its dad, points at you (hand shaking in fear), and screams, “It’s over there, dad! Kill it! I am scared!” That is us, when we see an ant. And most other insects.
I know not EVERYONE in the States is scared of bugs. But we all know at least a handful of people who are. We are either the one that is scared of the bug, or the one that kills the bug. And whichever one you are, you have still experienced that moment when you open the shower curtain, only to reveal a spider, causing you to jump back, put all of your clothes back on, and yell for someone to help you. (Or if you are brave, you go bak in and take care of it yourself.)
Americans who have never travelled outside of the country. I have news for you. The insects in the United States don’t prepare you for what is out there in the real world. Our insects make you weak. If you start traveling, you are immediately put at a disadvantage as you only have bugs in the States for your reference. But it’s not your fault, it’s all you know. You just need some perspective, and over time, you will be okay.
UMMM...EXCUSE ME. THERE IS A LIZARD IN MY ROOM.
Growing up in Missouri, or even when living in California, I never ever saw a lizard inside of someone’s house. (Unless it was a pet.) I didn’t even know that was a thing.
So I get to Thailand as an adult. While changing in my room, I have a feeling I am being watched. Out of the corner of my eye, I see movement. I look up. Oh my gosh. There is a lizard in my room. Okay, okay, remain calm. Slowly walk to the door and shut it as fast as you can. Whoo that was close! I walk to the front desk. Ummm excuse me. There is a small lizard in my room. A gecko? Yes, I suppose. The front desk guy just staring at me silent, unsure of what to say. Okay.
I go back in my room. Sit on the corner of my bed. Stare at it for the rest of the night. Watching in case it decides it is hungry and comes after me. I get no sleep that night.
The next day, I am sitting by the pool thinking. How can I live like this? What should I do? Should I book a plane ticket back home? A little girl next to me sees a gecko on the wall of the clubhouse next to the pool. She runs over and points to it smiling. She is nuts.
Oh, hey little guy. how are you?
I quickly learn that geckos are everywhere in tropical climates. Okay, it doesn’t make me used to them. But then after traveling for a few years, my roommate gives me some new perspective. She tells me that geckos are actually so scared of you that they will risk their life and fall backwards off a wall in an effort to get away from you. Aww poor little gecko. Don’t do that. From then on, I notice this whenever I see one. The moment I step into a room, they are watching my every move. Just like I was watching them on my bed that one night. No wonder he was staring right back at me the entire night. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. Perspective. Ahh, such an amazing thing.
Over time, I have become completely comfortable around geckos and other lizards, and even am comforted having them around. I even talk to them in the shower or when I am about to go to sleep. I am at the point where I welcome them, because this means I am somewhere tropical (the best).
lizards are one thing.
Fast forward to life on a farm in Cambodia. My brother, Sam, and I are spending a few days with the locals and living in a bamboo hut on their property. We each have our own twin bed, along with a mosquito net. The first night, I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I step down and look at the ground. AHHHHHH! WHAT IS THAT. Sam get the fuck up RIGHT NOW. Look at that. On the ground is an 8-10 inch long centipede (or millipede, I refuse to Google it because I do not want to see a photo of one), black, and about 2 inches thick. It might as well be a snake with legs. Sam. Get that thing out of here right now.
He takes a shoe and gently pushes it out of the front door. It curls into a ball as he pushes it, like a roly-poly. Sick. I make him stand guard by the bathroom door and after I get back into bed, I make him tuck my mosquito net in under my mattress, all the way around my bed, without even a crack exposed. I do not want any chance of one of those things getting in my bed when I am sleeping. During our stay, we end up seeing a few more of them in our room, but we survive to tell the story. Terrifying.
STILL SCARED. BUT NOT AS MUCH.
While traveling, I can honestly say I have seen more of those centipedes and it is one thing I am still scared of to this day. When I was in Malaysia, a guy at my hostel said he was sleeping and woke up with one on his neck. Twice in the same night. (There are some stories you wish you were never told. I am forever traumatized.)
But I can say that these experiences have really put things in perspective. After Sam and I’s centipede incident in Cambodia, I get back to the United States. I am in my bedroom and see a silverfish on the wall. (Previously, silverfish were my biggest enemy.) I look up at it. Awww, how cute and small! I snap a photo and send it to my brother. Laugh out loud. Look who is sleeping in my room tonight. Me to the silverfish. I will let you live little cutie!
Traveling has made me stronger. Coming into contact with all types of insects and animals that I have not previously known anything about. (I often even have monkeys in my room at night!) Paired with all of the other new experiences and cultures I am being exposed to throughout the world. I have come to learn, we are all just trying to survive. I have a new appreciation for all animals, insects, reptiles, and humans. (Except the centipede – still working on that one.)
Although this story may scare you if you are one of those people who are scared of ants, this is also a story of hope. I too, was once scared of ants. The truth is, outside of the United States, lies a world full of the same bugs we have, just super-sized. It is like every other country puts their bugs on steroids. Or maybe the US government gives ur bugs chemicals to keep them small so that we can control them. (Sound familiar? Jk Jk Jk) Regardless. When I started traveling, I quickly learned that there are big creatures out there. But I didn’t let this keep me from traveling, If I had, I would still be living my life, scared of ants. Instead, I followed the fear and kept going.
Perspective. Such a wonderful thing.
After writing this, I realized that this entire story is actually, a metaphor for what traveling (or filling your life with more unique experiences) does for your life in general. It gives you perspective. You see that there is more out there. There are bigger things in the world and experiencing them expands your mind. You are no longer scared of a jumping spider, because It is now your roommate and the only thing you have to talk to during your 10 day silent meditation course (blog post coming soon). Instead of feeling fear, you have a new friend.
Travel will change you. You will come back with a completely different mindset. Things that used to stress you out will no longer matter. You see the bigger picture and realize what is really important in life. When you return back home, you will continue to do the same things you did before. Such as sleep. But now, when you see a spider on the wall next to you in bed. Instead of ending your day with an act of murder, you are able to close your eyes and smile, comforted that you are not alone.