This morning’s challenge seemed fit for a trip mid-point or a zen location, circumstances where I imagine I would have found my sabbatical groove, not for my first 48 hours in India, where every movement and sound make my eyes dart and heart race. Danger already?! The sabbatical gods definitely have an adventure in store over the next 3 months…
So, what is it that makes up a sense of danger? A fear of the unknown? An action without a certain outcome? Loss of control? Brazen irreverence for one’s own limits? Or simply working through discomfort?
We joked about night parasailing or eating something odd on a street corner, and I figured we’d find that “thing” or situation as we ventured around Mumbai. I imagined it would be like any other city I’d been to, but perhaps more vibrant than New York, a bit louder than Beijing, more chaotic than Jakarta, and more hustle-y than an Istanbul bazaar. We’d had some preparation the day before, with a wonderful man in the fashion business who took us to chic corners of Mumbai retail and fashion.
We weren’t prepared for the onslaught that would greet us, as two American girls wandering the city streets. Each step further from the hotel was one further into the unknown, the uncontrollable and unpredictable. Within moments and over just a few minutes, we were followed by women begging for money, implored by barefoot children to buy flowers, hustled by peddlers, side-swiped by honking truck drivers and shouting men wheeling laundry. Everything felt so much closer, louder and more real than I’d imagined possible, and there were no respites, like the European cafe or a cozy corner store to sweep into, to give us momentary shelter.
I imagined success with today’s challenge being victory over a concrete act, and our brief stint on the streets felt like a failure. But if exploring a sense of danger is just working through discomfort, walking through that fear and panic, and searching for the unknown, then I learned something new from something as simple as immersing myself in a city’s streets and markets.
It’s about my attitude toward each new situation, not the situation or act itself. Today, danger was not an achievement, a bragging right, nor the high of conquest. It was being scared and overwhelmed in a new city and not running away to the hotel pool (but also not being an idiot.) It was being willing to step out of what’s comfortable and predictable, being curious enough to explore and learn before I judge, being open to let fate overtake my planning… and always making room for a little respite for a momentary regroup.
Thanks for the great challenge, “Danger” Ebert… And don’t worry (parents especially!), I’ll continue to danger responsibly… And I hope you all will too!