There was no going back. As I sat poolside with my husband at our hotel that first night in a Athens - jet lagged and never more aware that I certainly wasn’t in Kansas anymore - I stared at the whole fish from the Mediterranean Sea set in front of me for dinner. Just across the street, providing ambiance, the flashing lights of the sex shops provided a touch of romance (or maybe that’s something different). Considering my complete complacency in my ordinary and safe world, surprise, surprise, Jane is also not a very adventurous eater. However, given I’d already crossed into this unknown world and there was no ability to refuse this call, I gave myself the internal pep-talk. You can do this. You got this!
My husband, so different about many things - namely food - will eat anything; growing up poor provides a clearer perspective about necessities. He’d already dug into his plate of fish, scales and all, and was making moaning noises that indicated that he’d never tasted anything better. This buoyed me to dig in. The first bite wasn’t what I’d expected (and I needed a healthy dose of my husband’s perspective for sure). On my palate I felt like I’d taken a giant swig of ocean water. A few bites in and I knew that I’d hit the wall on that adventure. I handed over the fish to my husband who was excited about it (nothing ever goes to waste in our household; we are a match made in heaven). I stuck to the vegetables, the bread and most importantly, the wine and was completely content.
Let’s set aside the embarrassing facts that I tend toward pickiness (and shouldn’t) and entitlement (and shouldn’t). This Jane had never been out of her safe and ordinary world. Her ordinary world certainly didn’t push her boundaries or force her to confront things like pickiness or entitlement. Having crossed the threshold into the unknown, I was now faced with what Joseph Campbell calls The Road of Trials, one of the 17 stages of his “monomyth.” In storytelling, this is the series of events that test the hero and draw her further away from how she was at the beginning of the story toward a new and changed perspective. Ultimately, these tests make the hero a better and stronger person (hopefully).
A 24-hour trip halfway around the world;
Visiting an economically struggling Greece who’s hospitality was beautiful;
Boarding a ship to sea (never been at sea);
Churches that insisted women cover knees and shoulders (oh, my feminist sensibilities);
Dealing with rough seas and sea sickness (maybe slightly metaphobic);
Santori and the donkeys (um, get those poor animals water!);
Mt. Vesuvius (which our tour guide insisted was ready to blow at any minute);
Riding in a taxi up the road from Capri to Anacapri (terrifying).
Each of these experiences proved to be things that tested my perspective and my mettle. In one way or another I had to face myself and my preconceived notion, a belief, or a fear I held. Then I had to determine whether I would step up to climb over it in order to understand myself better or slide back toward my comfort zone. While I may or may not have passed these test (btw - my competitive nature says I did with flying colors), I learned about myself. I discovered that I can do more than I thought. I realized that I can overcome fears and try new things, becoming stronger and more well-rounded because of it.
So, the next time I have the opportunity to travel to a hotel that may or may not be across from sex shops and enjoy a dinner that may or may not have scales - I can do it. I can do it and be grateful for it.