On a recent evening on my way home from work, the radio program that I was listening to gave an update on the two teenage girls who, while on vacation in Florida, got into a really bad parasailing accident. News accounts report that, while in the air, heavy winds caused them to become unchained to the boat, sending them into buildings, electricity lines, and a car on their way down. I felt a sense of relief to find out that they were improving, but was also saddened knowing that their head and spine injuries would put them on a long road to recovery. The story ended. A few minutes passed. Then, it hit me. A wave of nervousness came over me as my closeness to their reality sunk in:
That could’ve easily been me.
Parasailing has never been on my list of things to try. Actually, my list of things to try is very short. Not because I lack adventure, rather it’s the opposite. I like to keep myself open to new and different “opportunities to try.” So, in addition to the already filled in spaces on my list, there are a number of spaces waiting to be filled by “in the moment” experiences. My only rule: I will not do anything that I could possibly die from or get severely hurt by. (Relevant side note: I must try blowfish, although its poison could kill me in minutes if the fish is prepared incorrectly.) So, in those moments while driving, I could picture myself off in some new land wanting to fly across the foreign landscape…no matter the weather. Now, I don’t know the whole story. I don’t know if the teens were warned against taking the leap pending the incoming storm that carried the high winds. But I can be pretty sure that I would brush past the warning, excited to tell the story of how I flew through the sky in country X while a storm made its way through. Before my feet would have even left the ground, I would’ve already imagined the 100s of “likes” my photo would receive of me flying through the dark sky.
This made me extremely nervous.
As I moved through my thoughts, I remembered that not long ago, I was about to put myself in that reality… experiencing something that could easily place me in danger.
While making the final plans for our upcoming trip to Italy and Austria, my Dad thought that it would be a good idea to take a journey to Germany during our stay in Austria. I was super excited to add another country to our European travel adventure. I quickly started thinking of tours we could take during our stay. Something interesting. Something that was a once in a lifetime experience. Something that would just totally blow my mind.
Visit the site of a concentration camp. There it was! The experience to top all experiences.
I was so excited at the prospect of visiting this place very few people had the chance to visit and live to tell about it. I had to go. I shared this information with my mother. She wasn’t as nearly excited as I was and protested against going. My dad was unusually hesitant about the idea. Fine. I had made up my mind that I would do it alone. The excitement stayed with me for a few days. I imagined the “likes” and the comments I would receive when I posted my experience on Facebook. I was ready. Until one day, I wasn’t.
While cooking dinner one Sunday, still with this tour on my mind, I had a thought: some things aren’t meant to be experienced. Whoa! I thought about it for a while, and did something that I don’t think I had done this whole time: I remembered the pain and sadness that lived in those concentration camps. Did I really need to add that to my list of experiences? Was it that important to me? The answer was no. Outside of just wanting to have the experience, I had no justifying reason to put myself through such a sad moment in time. Soon after, I called my parents and shared with them my change of heart. This would be an experience that wouldn’t make it in my book.
In that moment, I learned something that I would take with me throughout the rest of my life as I live out my passion for experience. Everything is not meant to be experienced, because each and everything we experience leaves an imprint on us that never goes away. It becomes part of who we are. We are the sum of our experiences, right? We can’t choose everything we experience, but when we can, we should choose wisely what we allow to color our lives.
Have you willfully experienced something on your travels that if given a second chance you would choose not to have that experience? How did it change you? Or did it?