Jamie Bowlby-Whiting caught my eye when he posted a comment on my podcast with Alastair Humphreys. I checked out his website and found that he himself was no stranger to adventure. Last year he spent 6 months hitchhiking through twenty countries in Europe. Earlier this year he rode from Norfolk to Slovakia on a £30 bicycle, then rafted down the Danube on a homemade raft (at least until their voyage was rudely interrupted by some over-zealous police).
Although Jamie modestly wrote, in response to my invitation, that “I’m no record breaker and I am in awe of the people previously on the podcasts”, I felt he’d be a fine fit for our ethos that “adventure is a state of mind”, and I was not disappointed.
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“One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned in life, is not to be fearless, but to manage fear.” (Jamie Bowlby-Whiting)
I’ve been thinking about fear a lot recently, and talked on the subject for an hour on Monday night at Alternatives in London. That talk received such a positive response, the subject really seeming to resonate with the audience, that I am planning a series of blogs on the subject of fear and its counterpart, courage.
The point is not to deny or eradicate fear, but rather to get comfortable with it, to reach a truce that acknowledges the existence of our fears, while not allowing them to hold us back from the most abundant version of our life.
How do we do that? A member of Monday’s audience referred to a theory that once you puncture one fear, your other fears dissolve. I’ve been thinking about this since. While I’m not sure that, say, overcoming your fear of what other people think would dissipate your fear of heights, I’m going to buy into the idea that doing one thing – JUST ONE THING – that deeply scares you, can change your perception from “I am a person who is afraid” to “I am a person who can overcome my fears”. And from there will cascade a series of breakthroughs as you see your other fears for what they are – creations of your own mind.
Focusing on the fear itself will only make it loom larger in your mind, so the trick is to acknowledge the fear, but refuse to let it stand in your way. Say “hello Fear, my old friend, just go and wait over there while I get on with my life” – or if the fear won’t get out of your way, get out of its way by working around it or over it or under it.
Or you can trump it with a bigger fear. When I turned my life around, I was suitably afraid of the dramatic changes I was making. But since I had done the obituary exercise, I was even more afraid of arriving at the end of my life with a whole load of regret for the life not lived. That fear overcame my fear of change.
I invite you to ask yourself what things you would like to do, but fear is holding you back. Then think about how you can manage those fears so that they are not standing in your way.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” (Susan Jeffers)
5:30 Introducing Jamie Bowlby-Whiting
7:15 Jamie’s childhood in a Great Big Scary World
8:20 How Jamie overcame his fears
10:50 Jamie’s advice on keeping the faith that everything will be okay
12:30 Drawing inspiration from Alastair Humphreys, on the art of living life
13:45 The privilege of choice
14:50 Taking selfies to a whole new level
16:00 Life as a homeless, jobless (but very happy) man, and the kindness of strangers
16:50 Getting arrested in Amsterdam and Budapest
19:15 2013’s Big Adventure
25:15 When the extraordinary is perceived as a threat by the ordinary
28:15 “The biggest step is always the first one” – words of advice to novice adventurers
28:50 “So many days that I’ve lived through that I actually remember” – the rewards of the Avant Garde Life
30:30 How to stay in touch with Jamie
A fun video consisting mostly of selfies – some face-painted – as Jamie made his way around Europe
The Avant Garde Life – Jamie’s manifesto