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My recent trip to Japan will always hold a very special place in my heart – not only because it was my honeymoon, but because it’s true evidence of how overcoming fear and anxieties is pretty darn awesome.

To me, the most representative part of this trip was our visit to the Fushimi Inari shrine, which was a journey by itself. If you’ve watched Memoirs of a Geisha, you probably remember a really beautifully filmed sequence in which a young girl, Shiyo Sakamoto, is running between a row of red gates (torii) – this was filmed in Fushimi Inari.

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Imagine my surprise when I arrived to that marvellous place and discovered that the scene only shows a very short part of the 4km pathway that sprawls across a mountain. We had to make a decision right there of whether to climb up to the top or leave and try to see one more place in our list – we decided to climb up.

During our hike, I reflected on many things that had led me to that moment, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how symbolic this place was to me, how meaningful it was becoming as I was taking each step. 

I thought of all the things I’d done to get there, all the challenges I’ve overcome, the struggles I’ve faced, the anxieties I’ve left behind, and how wonderful it is that I was able to see that place, to experience it because I’ve done all those things.

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I started feeling immensely grateful, for my family, my friends, my body, running, and of course, for the love of my life, the hand I kept holding while I was experiencing this new place.

This journey was really the affirmation that wonderful things can happen when I let go of control, when I take risks, when I realize that even though I still have anxieties to work on I won’t let them dictate my path, I’ll just acknowledge them and move pass them.

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I write this hoping that you, the person who’s reading this (and the person who’s writing it), will defy your anxieties and won’t let them keep you from the journeys you want to experience and the places you want to go – this world is just too beautiful to be kept away from it.
- Daniela.

I recently returned from a wonderful honeymoon vacation with my wife in Japan. We’re not so much the sit-on-a-beach relaxing type, so we chose to go to a place that would be a bit of a challenge for us. A place that would help us grow and change as individuals and a couple. All while exploring and experiencing new sights, tastes, and sounds of cities and the countryside surrounding them. There were many incredibly interesting things I experienced on our trip, but I wanted to write about one thing for this week. How going to such a foreign place helped me leave my thoughts of anxiety behind, and how it changed a bit of my life since coming back.

I’ve written a bit about how I got into running here on EHAB before. On one of my first posts about it, I wrote about how I used to be afraid of running because of bad memories I had of gym class in grade school - of always being one of the slowest and feeling pressured to do better. Although I didn’t think it would affect me so much, it was just enough to keep me from even thinking of running until a couple years ago. Eventually, my wife helped me get into running. I started going on small routes with her, which helped me establish a routine and get past the fears and anxieties of not being ‘good’ enough at running.

Fast forward to now. Even though I run quite regularly and much farther than I used to, I use music to keep my old feelings of anxiety at bay. I would notice at points in my runs when my music stopped, I would feel a quick rush of anxiety - especially if I ran outside. I started being worried about what people thought of me - like they somehow knew I wasn’t a ‘real’ runner. That I was still that kid that ran slow in grade school. So I’d scramble to turn my music back on, and keep running.

Before Japan, I had never been to a place where I didn’t understand much of the language around me. In that place, I couldn’t read the signs or billboards, and I couldn’t understand what people were saying (most of the time). It was almost a complete cleansing of media and culture for my brain. It gave me space to think - and more importantly - not worry about the things I worry about in my normal environment.

So on one morning before a run in the streets of Tokyo with my wife, I decided to not wear my headphones. This was a new place, no one knew me, and I just felt like I wanted to hear the sounds of the city. After the first few steps, I felt kind of naked without music. It was unsettling, but I kept going. And after a mile or so, I was used to it. I loved hearing the sounds of the city around me - whether it was people walking, cars driving, or trees blowing in the wind. I tried to concentrate on just hearing those, instead of letting my anxieties slip in.

After running a few times like that in Japan, I was happy to know I was finally doing something to leave those anxieties behind. But I knew I had to keep it up, so even after I returned to Vancouver, I kept running outside without music. It’s given me a whole new perspective on the city - just being able to hear it. I feel much more in-tune with my surroundings, and that’s much better than how I felt before.

- Matt

Traveling opens our eyes to possibilities.

Traveling opens our eyes to possibilities.

Sometimes, even a short trip can change your perspective.
Once I took a trip up a mountain just for a couple of hours, and that trip still impacts my perspective on challenges and life.
I was working on a farm on the island of Mallorca and two guys who had grown up on the island invited me to go wild goat catching with them. The plan was to catch a male goat and then put it with the female goats on the farm so that they could do goat things together. 
To catch a wild goat on Mallorca, you need some supplies: you need long sticks with hoops on the end to put over the goat’s head, you need lots of rope, a couple of big, slobbery, super-excited dogs (we had four with us), and you need boots with hard rubber soles. You need the boots because wind and rain erode the rock at the top of the mountains into ridges as sharp as knives. They literally cut right into your sole. So keep that in mind as the story continues: We’re 1000 meters above the valley below, we’re scrambling up cliffs and jumping across chasms, and we’re running on knives. 
So we got out of the truck with the four dogs and started hiking up the mountain as the sun began to set. It was July so the air was really warm, the ancient olive trees on the slopes below us rustled in the breeze blowing off the Mediterranean. And the dogs didn’t pay attention to any of that because they smelled goats and took off barking as they ran. And the two other guys took off after them. Everybody but me looked like they were flying around those cliffs as the goats scattered. 
This was pre-recovery for me, so I was just a bundle of fear and worry carefully moving very slowly up the cliffs towards the peak, trying to do my best to pretend like I was a mountain man, too, trying to ignore my brain telling me that the next step was going to be my last step before I fell and my skull burst like a melon.
Goats are smart. Definitely smarter than many people. But goats don’t know very much about people. Catching a goat is all about using the goat’s intelligence, not yours. It works like this: the dogs smell a goat, and then they chase it. You run frantically after the dogs (over the knives, across the chasms, etc). The goat will find a spot on a cliff that’s too high for the dog to reach. Once it finds that spot, it’ll just hangout there. It doesn’t have to run further because the dog can’t touch it. The goats know all about dogs. But, the goats don’t know that the humans have a long stick with a rope around the end. So once the dogs had cornered a goat, one of the guys was able to reach down from a ledge above the goat, loop its head, and then hoist it up to his ledge. 
Then we stayed at the peak to watch the sunset, and then we went back to the farm. That’s all there is to the story. But it sticks with me. And I think it’s because I remember how much I struggled to keep up with the other two guys and how easy it was for them to jump around those cliffs. What they were doing was possible. There was no difference between us other than they knew how to run around mountains and had practiced doing that, and I had never done it. And I could do it, too, if I also got rid of all the baggage I was carrying around in my head (it makes me top-heavy).
So every now and then, when I hear somebody complaining about all of the reasons they can’t do something, I just think: “You know, there’s a guy chasing goats across a cliff in Spain right now, and he doesn’t care about the excuses you’re crushing yourself with.”
- Mark

Sometimes, even a short trip can change your perspective.

Once I took a trip up a mountain just for a couple of hours, and that trip still impacts my perspective on challenges and life.

I was working on a farm on the island of Mallorca and two guys who had grown up on the island invited me to go wild goat catching with them. The plan was to catch a male goat and then put it with the female goats on the farm so that they could do goat things together. 

To catch a wild goat on Mallorca, you need some supplies: you need long sticks with hoops on the end to put over the goat’s head, you need lots of rope, a couple of big, slobbery, super-excited dogs (we had four with us), and you need boots with hard rubber soles. You need the boots because wind and rain erode the rock at the top of the mountains into ridges as sharp as knives. They literally cut right into your sole. So keep that in mind as the story continues: We’re 1000 meters above the valley below, we’re scrambling up cliffs and jumping across chasms, and we’re running on knives. 

So we got out of the truck with the four dogs and started hiking up the mountain as the sun began to set. It was July so the air was really warm, the ancient olive trees on the slopes below us rustled in the breeze blowing off the Mediterranean. And the dogs didn’t pay attention to any of that because they smelled goats and took off barking as they ran. And the two other guys took off after them. Everybody but me looked like they were flying around those cliffs as the goats scattered. 

This was pre-recovery for me, so I was just a bundle of fear and worry carefully moving very slowly up the cliffs towards the peak, trying to do my best to pretend like I was a mountain man, too, trying to ignore my brain telling me that the next step was going to be my last step before I fell and my skull burst like a melon.

Goats are smart. Definitely smarter than many people. But goats don’t know very much about people. Catching a goat is all about using the goat’s intelligence, not yours. It works like this: the dogs smell a goat, and then they chase it. You run frantically after the dogs (over the knives, across the chasms, etc). The goat will find a spot on a cliff that’s too high for the dog to reach. Once it finds that spot, it’ll just hangout there. It doesn’t have to run further because the dog can’t touch it. The goats know all about dogs. But, the goats don’t know that the humans have a long stick with a rope around the end. So once the dogs had cornered a goat, one of the guys was able to reach down from a ledge above the goat, loop its head, and then hoist it up to his ledge. 

Then we stayed at the peak to watch the sunset, and then we went back to the farm. That’s all there is to the story. But it sticks with me. And I think it’s because I remember how much I struggled to keep up with the other two guys and how easy it was for them to jump around those cliffs. What they were doing was possible. There was no difference between us other than they knew how to run around mountains and had practiced doing that, and I had never done it. And I could do it, too, if I also got rid of all the baggage I was carrying around in my head (it makes me top-heavy).

So every now and then, when I hear somebody complaining about all of the reasons they can’t do something, I just think: “You know, there’s a guy chasing goats across a cliff in Spain right now, and he doesn’t care about the excuses you’re crushing yourself with.”

- Mark