“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Winston Churchill
By the time the doctor in a small town in northern Thailand diagnosed my 11-year-old daughter with typhoid, we had been on the road for 234 days, fallen asleep in 92 different beds, learned to say cheers in 24 different languages, and dealt with one other major illness.
Learning came fast and furious that year and we knew that strangers can become dear friends, relics can make even the most boring church interesting, and with the right attitude you can deal with most anything.
Even so, a typhoid diagnosis from a doctor whose English I barely understood definitely stretched my attitude boundary.
As this new information sunk in, the thought of packing up and heading someplace familiar crossed my and my husband’s mind – more than once. This seed of doubt tested our decision to continue on our quest, as did the comments that appeared on our blog from friends and loved ones who mentioned that they would throw in the towel and return to the safety and security of home.
Yet we had decided long before this diagnosis that we were going to spend the year traveling around the world as a family, and this commitment to our goal helped us deal with the current situation and figure out a solution so we could move on.
This simple decision, to choose our commitment to our goal over the fear we faced, helped us overcome what came to be referred to as the “Typhoid Molly Scare” along with innumerable other obstacles we faced along the way.
When we allow doubt to sneak in, we invariably let fear take the drivers seat. This fear can sound like “what if” and “if only” and “we should have.” It also shows up in other forms including FOMO (fear of missing out), FOF (fear of failure), FOBJ (fear of being judged), FOSO (fear of standing out), and FOMU (fear of messing up), to name but a few.
When fear is in the drivers seat, there are no good solutions.
I experienced this the moment the doctor said Typhoid. Fear took over and my mind started spinning stories of mass destruction, my children being ripped from my arms due to neglect, a world without chocolate and other grave consequences. Yet, when I reconnected to our decision to travel the world, even in the face of a typhoid diagnosis, I was able to kick fear out of the drivers seat and with that, other options began to appear.
We could reverse course for a while and head back to the city of Chiang Mai. We could seek out a better-equipped and more competent doctor. We could find a place to rest and rejuvenate while Molly recuperated. And most importantly, we could find peace in the process, rather than fear.
With this attitude, roadblocks became puzzles to solve rather than reasons to quit.
Deciding on a specific course of action first limits and then opens possibilities and we can get stuck at both of these junctures.
When we initially committed to traveling around the world for a year we had to give up other possibilities. It’s the same with every choice that we commit to.
Once we say yes to this and no to that, we forego some of our options.
This is a sticking place for many of us and can lead to the murky path of indecision, which is caused by one thing and one thing only – fear.
When we do choose, if we’re not careful, we can let “the grass is always greener” thinking ruin our ability to make our decision work.
A wise friend once said, “Instead of worrying about whether or not you made the right choice, make whatever choice you make the right one.”
When Typhoid stood in the middle of our road, we asked ourselves if this was a trip-ender. The answer that came back was a firm no. The thought of ending our trip felt like giving in to fear and made us feel lethargic and sad. On the other hand, dealing with the typhoid diagnosis together as a family and making sure we were all healthy and ready for the next leg of the trip left us feeling strong, connected and hopeful. So we made staying the course the right decision and started solving our current problem.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait for a Typhoid diagnosis to try this in your own life.
Whenever you are facing a decision or a roadblock, you can ask yourself a couple of simple questions:
- Does this choice leave me feeling drained or energetic?
- How will I feel about this choice in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years?
- Does this decision support my goal(s)?
- What can I do to make this choice the right one?
As we traveled along, we picked up many other things in addition to a virus that mimicked typhoid but wasn’t. (Please see above reference to “better-equipped and more competent doctor.”)
We found a love for meeting and befriending new people, an interest in all things local, an appreciation for different ways of doing things, a realization that no matter the differences we are very much alike, a weird obsession with the body parts of people long dead (otherwise known as relics!) and an appreciation for each other, travel, and home.
But perhaps most importantly we acquired an understanding that your attitude can make or break you.
When our family of four had decided to travel the world we had, perhaps naively, committed to something much bigger than ourselves…and much bigger than our day-to-day successes and failures. We had unknowingly committed to a yearlong study of the importance of attitude.
Our conclusion? Our ability to choose our attitude is truly one of our greatest gifts and most profound freedoms.