Karen Dougherty is a TV researcher, writer, singer, songwriter,
voracious reader and world-traveller. This is the article that proved
to us, without a doubt that Karen is a true and fabulous Journeywoman.
arrived in Bangkok weighted down with good luck charms--my dad's
Blarney Stone, my mother's rosary, a Nordic rune, a blessed Hindu
scroll, a St. Christopher's medal. I'd covered all bets. So why
was I so scared?
the travel bug had been eating me alive. I was afraid to disturb
my universe, but I'd finally become more afraid not to. Of all my
fears, I realized, my biggest was regret. At 30, I was growing a
little long in the tooth for the backpacking circuit, but if I didn't
do it "now," I knew I never would. So I left my very good job, gave
up my very nice apartment, sold all my stuff, and bought a one-way
ticket to the other side of the world.
the night people...
was 2 a.m. when I landed. What had I done? The crazy, steaming
city swirled and blared around me, the strange language honked
and gabbled. I didn't understand the currency. It took two
and a half hours to find my hotel, through dark streets strewn
with stray dogs and slinking night people. But a kind man
I met on the plane came with me, argued good-naturedly with
the cabdriver in passable Thai, and saw me off with a smile
and a wave. His unsolicited goodwill made me think I just
might muddle through.
crisscrossed Thailand using every form of transportation known
to woman save camel, Concorde, and dog sled. I travelled Vietnam,
with its jarring, half-formed roads, aggressive driving, and
incomprehensible cultural subtleties. I got scared. I got
involved. I got physical.
lot of Band-aids...
used more Band-aids in those three months than
in my entire adult life, a whole box, every size, a literal
illustration of the difference between life at home
and life "out there." My body was dotted purple, blue, and
yellow from various stages of bruising. My wrists, knees,
and elbows barely healed before the tender new skin
was scraped off again, joining the old in the oblivion of
jungle floor, dirt road, rocky beach.
And although I was losing a lifetime's accumulation
of fears every day, some, tested, stuck around. I like to
think of these fears as not just healthy, but positively Darwinian
in their atavistic logic. It's good to be afraid of hand-sized
cave spiders. They bite. They're bad. It's good to be afraid
of the ocean. The ocean thinks of me as a piece of dust or
a bit of food. I respect that. I wade. I dip. I paddle. I
amassed some new fears. It had never occurred to me to be
afraid of jellyfish. There are no jellyfish at Wasaga Beach
at home. But they are plentiful and painful in the clear,
blue, Indian Ocean, and I don't want to be around them, nor
the two-headed, very poisonous snake I saw while snorkeling
for the first, and possibly last, time.
night, I thought the bomb went off when a coconut fell on
my bungalow. Over 70 people die every year in Thailand from
falling coconuts. I learned to take care while wandering the
beautiful groves. And monkeys. Monkeys are unpredictable and
aggressive. They are neither approachable nor huggable. Although
I wore my monkey-bruise with pride, I began to learn the difference
between taking risks and pushing my luck.