Rebecca Holman’s holiday diaries – or why I faced the fear and did it anyway…

…with mixed success

Aug 23, 2012 at 4:21pm | Leave a comment

I’m back! Did you miss me? I missed you, but also made a definite decision to pretend the rest of the world didn’t exist for two weeks.

I accidentally put CNN on in a hotel last week and was amazed to discover the Olympic closing ceremony was about to kick off. I’d genuinely forgotten the Olympics were taking place.

Anyway, given that Phoebe is far more efficient and in possession of something closer to a work ethic than I am, I knew you’d be in very capable hands.

I also realised that the best way to put your troubles behind you and chill out isn’t to lie on a beach for 14 days solid. It’s to do something that takes you so far out of your comfort zone that the sheer terror knocks everything else that’s been worrying you clean our of your head.

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Being-brave related injury. I had a few of these by the end of the trip... 

I need to preface this by pointing out that I’m a massive scaredy cat, so to leave my comfort zone, I don’t generally need to travel further afield that Chelmsford.

Some of the things I’m scared of:

 - Swans

 - Cycling in busy traffic (or anywhere where more than three cars are going to overtake me in a 15 minute period). Also: cycling on sand.

 - Rats. This is a completely irrational fear that mainly stems from the fact that I don’t like their terrifyingly long tails. Or their teeth.

 - Being kidnapped and never seen again by a band of corrupt officials and erm bandits.

 - Slipping on marble stairs and splicing my spine on the sharp bit of the steps.

 - Urban foxes

 - Wolves

 - Waltzers at the fun fair

 - Ice skating in case I fall over and lose a finger when someone accidentally skates over it.

 - Driving (I only discovered this after I passed my test and realised that I’m incapable of driving a car without hyperventilating unless someone else is making judicious use of the dual controls).

 - Fainting in public places, especially on the escalators on the tube

This isn’t an exhaustive list of everything that terrifies me, but new things keep popping into my head, so lets stop there or we’ll be here all night.

Anyway, the point is, I’ve managed to tick several of the things off my fear shit list in the past fortnight, and although I wasn’t very stoic about being a brave little soldier, I’m pretty sure I’m a better person for it.

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Look - I'm on a bike and I'm smiling! What? 

First off: cycling. I haven’t owned a bike since I was a teenager, and refuse to use Boris Bikes in London, mainly because I don’t trust myself not to inexplicably swerve into the path of a passing car or bus at a busy junction. I’m also prone to panic and and am terrible at making split-second decisions.

But, we were staying at a guesthouse that was 5km from the beach. There was a shuttle bus from the town available, but it was sporadic. Cycling to the beach every day was a much more practical, and enjoyable option than walking in the heat, or getting the shuttle bus.

So, despite the fact that drivers, moped drivers and fellow cyclists seem to only pay cursory attention to traffic lights, a fixed direction of traffic and other people I hopped on my three-gear, rented bike (sans working breaks) and did the do.

I didn’t cry, I only nearly fell off once, and my friends only had to escort me in the style of a cavalcade for part of the journey.

I can’t say that I instantly loved it and was transformed into a sunburnt Bradley Wiggins in a wig, but once I’d done a couple more journeys, the abject-terror-to-enjoyment ratio started to shift slightly. I’m even considering buying a cheapo fold up bike on eBay so I can start cycling round my local park.

Fear: 0 Rebecca: 1

Terror number two: rats. There are no swans in Vietnam THAT I KNOW OF, but there are plenty of rats. The rats are everywhere; they’ve got their own little nightclubs and itty-bitty little rat brothels.

They’ve got little mini rat stalls at the night market, and have rat hotels, to put up travelling rats, visiting from nearby Thailand.

This is a big problem for me. If I see a rat, or a family of rats, of a teeny brothel of swarthy, horny male rats, I tend to FREAK out and run in the opposite direction. But given that I spent three nights in one beachside town that can only be described as The Rodent Promised Land, I had no choice but to totally suck it up.

The alternative was to spend my evenings holed up in a guesthouse room while my friends were having fun. Given that my fear of missing out on the fun everyone else is having is marginally greater than my fear of rats, that wasn’t an option.

So I sat outside in a bar while tens of rats ran whizzed past my feet. At one point a whole family came out of the darkness at once to fling themselves on a pile of rubbish. My response? I jumped and then fell off my chair.

However, I did it. I had to drink a helluva lot of Vietnamese beer to get through it, but I did it none-the-less. I’d even stopped falling off furniture every time a shitty little furry bastard came running towards me by about midnight.

Fear: 1 Rebecca: 2

So it looked like I was winning in the fear-facing stakes right? Erm, no. Unfortunately my date with the rats took place on the same day as I decided to tackle death-defying cycling, and clearly all of this adversity was too much for my tiny little brain.

It asked my body to provide a get-out-of-jail clause that would remove me from the situation at the earliest possible opportunity. And so I was violently sick, and kept being sick until my friends realised I’d had too much for one day and needed to be taken home on the back of a scooter (which, incidentally, would have terrified me earlier that day, but I couldn’t care less at this point).

Fear: 98 Rebecca: 4

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...what I forgot to mention was that after I was really sick, my friend kindly offered to give me backy to the beach the next day. Because girls are lovely. 

I think we’ve established from this that although I will, when pushed, do things I’m scared of, my brain has a very low fear threshold.

I did some other things I’m quite proud of in the last fortnight – I haggled in the market, which I hate doing. I sat down in a street food restaurant and ate exactly what was in front of me even though I didn’t know what it was (admittedly with mixed results), and I said yes to lots of things that I’d normally instinctively say no to.

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When street food goes good (I've omitted the picture where it went bad)

I wasn’t always necessarily stoic about it, and sometimes, I came off on the wrong side of my new-found bravery, but I’ve definitely had some much better stories and experiences off the back of it.

And I was so busy concentrating on how not to die/get eaten by a fanged Vietnamese swan/kidnapped by fictional bandits, that I was surprised and thrilled to get back to Heathrow yesterday and discover that the real world still existed.

And isn’t that the point of a holiday?

Also, what scares the bejesus out of you?