Getting off the ferry at Salt Spring for the first time was like walking into a scene from National Geographic. Tall trees, mountains, ocean vistas, harbour seals, and eagles calling out overhead—it was hard to take it all in at once.
Moving to the island on an extended retreat was a good decision for me—but not the whole story.
Getting here was also terrifying.
Let’s be honest about the road to paradise. It’s an inside job.
Leaving my family and community pushed every fear-button I had. I’d never even considered moving to British Columbia, but suddenly it was happening. How could I leave the warmth of an incredibly supportive community, and venture out into the wild unknown on my own? Would I be okay? Would I fit? Was it safe? In the past, I’d dove in blindly and it hadn’t turned out the way I’d hoped—would that happen again?
People kept saying “you’re so brave,” but I didn’t feel that way inside.
The skeptics didn’t help. They mirrored all my fears back to me, questioning my loyalty to my friends, family, and community. Some warned about the incessant rains, and how horribly wet it was. Others mentioned the high cost of living. Many were excited for me; but some reactions were what I call “fortifiers”—those people or situations that poke at our fears, forcing us to get clearer and more solid in our choices.
If that wasn’t enough, purging my “stuff” brought up a whole other layer of fear I hadn’t even thought about.
Paring down my belongings to fit into a small SUV turned me into a mad woman for a couple of weeks. I thought I was a whiz at space clearing. I was the kind of person who bought a new pair of jeans, and got rid of an old pair. “I’ll breeze through that part,” I thought.
But as my friend gently pointed out, I sailed through the top layer of purging, and freaked out over the second, deeper layer. Letting go was much harder than I thought!
There were boxes of photo albums stored in the back of closets, piles of old memories from past loves, random kitchen utensils just in case I found my inner pastry chef. My saxophone hadn’t been played in 30 years—the poor thing was screaming to make music again!
Looking back, I realize many of those objects pinned me to the past.
I cried and denied, but eventually set my stuff free. I kept a few treasures. With huge help and love from my friends, I faced the fear and got through the dark night of the purge.
Then the rubber hit the road. Running on faith, I trucked two dogs across the US for ten days, and moved to an island I’d never laid eyes on. I was being called there, but I didn’t know why. It was exciting, amazing—and scary.
I felt free, cut loose in the most expansive way. The pups seemed stimulated by the daily hotel and pack-up routine. The weather was pristine. The GPS worked. The people I met were kind and helpful. I wrote posts about how amazing it was.
But there were plenty of un-amazing moments that I kept to myself.
Watching wildfires in the distance in Montana, I just made it through the road barricades to be able to continue on. I could barely breathe to walk the dogs in Hungry Horse, Montana; the air was thick with smoke. Driving through North Dakota, there was no sign of life for hours—and no mobile reception. Trekking in that endless, empty terrain, I’d pass the occasional lone wolf in a field. I prayed I had enough gas, cried a lot, and wondered what I’d done. There were moments when I would have turned back in a heartbeat.
Tons of primitive safety fears rose up, and I wouldn’t have got here without them.
People think being brave is for the fearless, but it doesn’t work that way. The hero’s journey is about looking fear in the eye.
We all have fear—it’s not fussy about whom it visits. I’m convinced the beauty in our lives is a result of owning those fears, instead of pretending we don’t have them. The hero coaxes fear out of hiding—on purpose. She defies it, and stares it down. Then, holding it’s shaking hand, she consoles it with whatever faltering faith she has left. She surrenders herself at its feet. It heals her. It heals all of us.
I made it here, and I love the spirit of this place. I love sharing it with people. But despite how it might look, the paradise I seek is not on this land—it’s hiding under the shadows I have yet to confront.
This month’s Joycast is about fear, and I share stories about how fear has come into my own life. If this is your first Joycast, choose one of these words before you watch—Path, Promise, or Persistence. It just might hold a clue to the next step on your hero’s journey.
With love and courage,