Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Caution Keeps You Aware. Fear Keeps You . . .

"I am going to be raped."

Monday morning's radio, KUOW-FM Weekday with Steve Scher and his guest Willie Weir. Weir is an "adventure traveler," predominantly by bicycle. He has a tale about a "fork in the road," an event that could be life-changing. Could have been life-changing, and not in a positive way. This happened about 20 years ago, alone in a foreign land by the sea.

Weir was looking for a place to pitch his tent. He accepted an offer to be led to a secluded site by a local man. The site was perfect, in a grove of trees just away from a hotel. The threat of sexual assault had never been part of his world. Until then.

Denial, fear, acceptance, and then clarity. The local man was bigger and stronger (not to mention he had a machete). Weir realized that he needed to get closer to the nearby hotel, so he feigned compliance to lull the man into letting his guard down. He began drawing the man closer to the open area near the hotel, breaking the isolation of this perfect camping site. He saw an open door at the hotel, and people just within, so Weir used his voice to attract attention. And the man ran. Weir was now alone.

You can hear Weir's telling at http://www.kuow.org/podcast/WeekdayA/WeekdayA20120206.mp3 (note: this is the whole show, Weir's tale begins at about the 31 minute mark).

"This trip was over." He considered going home right then. He sat on the beach all night, and by morning he had changed his mind and resolved to keep on going.

"Caution keeps you aware. Fear keeps you away."

Weir felt that if he gave up on his trip and went home, he may never have traveled again. This was about who he wanted to be, and he knew he did not want to live in fear.

After three decades now of bicycle travel, Weir has the experience to exercise caution while still enjoying travels off the beaten path. He understands the risks and the rewards. And the beauty, people, laughs, and adventure outweigh the risks over 100-fold.

I've taught self-defense skills to women who travel, with others or often solo. They all have said they learn from their experiences, and wouldn't give it up for anything. And, as a result, they feel safer, more confident, and more alive.

Aware or away -- where would you rather be?

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