Backpack Full of SunshineA travel blog of a boy following his dream and embarking on a four year backpacking sabbatical around the world

The Fascination of Fear

Years down the road, from Africa to Europe to Latin America, whether sipping on an espresso, walking a dog, or taking a breather from a tough day hike, folks would reflect to the day they met Ben and drift back to their fond memories of this golden boy, smile, and say, “Damn, I miss that fucking guy!” Weirdly optimistic, genuinely caring, mildly inappropriate, and fiercely daring, some people just have a way of making the world a sunnier place, and Benji brightens the rainiest of those days.

I had the good fortune of encountering Ben toward the end of my time in Europe. It was an overcast day in the winter of 2016. My buddy Vito had just dropped me off in Padua on his way to Lyon, and I stumbled into Ben in a quiet hostel lobby. We smoked the last of my stash from Amsterdam, watched some random Kiwi cartoons about whales and snails, and hit the town. Like many other lasting bonds forged on the road, our time together was filled with cheap wine, cold beers, hearty laughter, and pretty girls. For the next 48 hours, we lived as if we owned the city, and conversed about our past as if we were long lost friends. 

A few days later, as I sat alone in the Venice train station listening to a passerby giving it a go on the public piano, my phone beeped unexpectedly. It was Ben, and this was what he wrote…


To come and go was our meet.

A rare few moments did we fleet.

The world over and book unwritten.

Your story begun when the bug had bitten.


A chapter to finish and tired is he.

Rid of his baggage yet no more cabbage.

His life of some strife, no matter,

For love of adventure reign rife.


A goodbye it seems but stories untold,

As someday, one day, our paths will unfold.”

Ben was so much more than just the life of the party, or some random bloke who happens to hug every single dog we saw. He’s thoughtful, wise beyond his years, and most importantly, full of love. So without further adieu, here is my wonderful friend from South Africa, and his unique take on our world. 

Guest written by Benjamin Davies

I don’t claim to be some know-it-all doodaddy who has opinions on all things worldly but if I have one criticism of our world today it is our fascination with over planning in fear of all things ‘what-if’. I am constantly baffled by the hundreds of tourists out here in South America who seem to act out of the safety of their latest Lonely Planet book or TripAdvisor forum. Itineraries are some of the most destructive acts towards encouraging real experiences with real people on the road. Yes, I am a proponent of the seven P’s, “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance” but when it comes to traveling it is less about performing and more about experiencing and identifying with that place. Who cares if your checklist doesn’t correspond with the time you have left. Too often I have seen great people in beautiful places complaining about some intangible factor in the future instead of just being present in the moment.

Before I let this highly opinionated tangent spin wildly out of control I will try guide you through what I feel our three major realizations about this ‘scary world’ need to be, namely: gender, gutfeel and the multi-billion dollar fear industry.

Gender is always a tough topic to tackle when many of one’s thoughts have been preconditioned largely by where and how they have been brought up, sensationalized media and personal experiences. For instance, as a South African, we are brought up with massive walls that stop the badness from coming in but often at times stop us from wanting to go out, physically or consciously. I absolutely love giving praise and support upon meeting other female travelers. There are some incredible women doing some incredible things out there. To name a few truly inspirational female friends I have right now: Shilpika Gautam who finished Stand Up Paddle boarding down the Ganges River (most of which was alone); Shara Dillon, who drove her Land Rover from the UK to SA (alone), Lizanne van Vuuren who rowed across the entire Pacific ocean with three other females, Teagan Phillips who has cycle toured extensively through Southern Africa and has recently completely the NZ Epic – a solo 2253 km triathlon around New Zealand’s South Island, Marleen Bruwer who has walked the length of the ‘scary’ Israel several times who has recently driven her motorbike through India and then there are all the incredible everyday women who I have met through hitch-hiking and doing solo expeditions up isolated mountains in Patagonia. These are but a few. Generally the rhetoric that follows is “yeah but I could never do that” and no one is asking you to, these are simply examples of how “Yes, it is in fact possible” and “Yes, you can do it”, be the idea big or small. Sadly and yet understandably often the response is then, “but as a male you can defend yourself”. Yes, I am sure my gender, size and strength helps but that doesn’t mean I act in knowledge of it but instead act out of “how do I feel now and what’s the next smart move for me”. That question alone is the subjective approach anyone ought to take regarding any process of decision making, male or female.

Remember, the world over is typically good and if you feel vulnerable or unsure, trust that there are those who will help. I insist, reinstall your faith in the good in people. I recently asked my female friends how they overcame or went beyond the conventional walls. The greatest lesson that arose was if you intend to grow then you cannot remain in the same sheltered place. Growth is change and change is a matter of taking steps out of your comfort zone. My suggestion to those who find this challenging is to reach out to those who do so more easily than you. A harsh reality when seeking advice from family or close friends at looking to venture outwards and engage with a world unknown is that often their first priority is your safety. although based on good intention it can often be destructive in turning dreams into reality and hence I encourage you to also reach outside of your circle. This in itself is a great first step at developing agency in your decision making process. When looking to venture afar you don’t have to be alone like me or those I have mentioned but strive to be with people who encourage change and are willing to morph and grow alongside you. Another great means of manifesting your aspirations is reflection and intention setting. Be it meditation, diarising, painting, music or speaking to others who understand and support. Be critical but honest with yourself. Such is life that we all to often know in our minds what we intend to do but fail to get it done because we have not manifested it into reality through the above mentioned talking, writing, drawing etc. Conversely, we are often aware of what it is we have done but all too often fail to do anything to change it because we lack some form or latter reflection. Lastly, we are not all alike in this world but using gender as a means to shield yourself from the things you intrinsically want in life is not the answer folks.

Gutfeel is like intuition yet, in my understanding, far deeper and you can learn to utilize it like a sixth sense because you can actually identify the sensation in your body. If you are constantly living by the book, maps, checklists, reviews, forums or recommendations then you cessate your inherent ability to act out of gutfeel. People often speak about going with the flow and much like living in the flow your gut can be acted on even when all fingers point in the opposite direction 🏃👉. Remember that choice is one of the worlds greatest contributors to anxiety and lack of productivity hence practice this sixth sense by simplifying your choices and acting out of gutfeel the next time you have a chance. Don’t over analyze, just feel and act. By continuing to do so you can develop this brilliant ability that we as humans all posses but have simply forgotten given our age of continual detachment from physical reality. Much like my brother and mother both say, “they are no wrong decisions, just decisions. It’s whether you choose to learn from them that is right or wrong”. Think of gutfeel being the middleman in the process of setting intention and then reflecting. If combined they will work synergistically in your life and help you continue to pursue living in that state of flow. When you feel you are not in a state of flow then then review your situation (reflect), adjust your goal (intention setting) and see how you feel in the moment (gutfeel). Having mastery over this will give you more agency over your life than ever you imagined.

Now, the multi-billion dollar fear industry. There is a lot of money in keeping us fearful. It keeps us from taking risks, keeps us from change, dampens individual agency, questions intuition and most destroying of all… keeps dreams as dreams all the while profiting from fear. As counter constructive as this industry appears we must not forget that humans are creatures of habit and will often look for the easiest option due to our biological predisposition towards saving energy and survival. How this manifests into an industry of fear followers is that if we remain disengaged from our own calling yet engaged with general convention then we all stay on the same path, projected at a similar future, maintaining existing markets, continuing their growth and ultimately reducing the likelihood of becoming individual catalysts for the much needed change we need in this world. Quite the mouthful but think about the news, although normally true yet often unnecessarily sensationalized, does it make you want to leave the house and tackle your dreams or stay at home and return to work on the Monday? Depends on the work you are doing but certainly is the case for most. I am not saying news is a conspiracy theory but if the good and the bad were accurately depicted then maybe our approach to a worldview would be less critical and more proactive. The result is we live in a world with more bark than ever and far less bite due to our hypersensitivity over every microscopic detail. No matter what it is you do you will face opposition so many are choosing to simply be the opposition without taking their own action on that which they oppose and hence less gets done. If you relate this fear industry to the travel industry then look at your tourist destinations, package deals, trip forums and travel agencies. Naturally they tailor towards a market of people who would rather leave the fate of their journey to the hands of ‘sterile professionals’ and remain bubbled so as to best mitigate any potential risk. Well if you want to see places through rose tinted windows then be my guest but as far as seeking genuine experience and truly identifying with a place you need to see it on your own terms of your own choosing. Remember that most tourist destinations were there before the big corps came in and paid millions to travel agencies, critics, book and magazine publishers and travel shows, they were the same place just more real so why not try search for those places for what they truly are.

At the end of the day we need a few things in our metaphorical pockets to take on new ventures outside of our comfort zone.

  • Courage: believe in yourself and your ideas.
  • Honest Opinion: if those whom you consult have your safety as first priority then choose to consult people who can view your ideas with your best interest as first priority.
  • Intention setting, Gutfeel and Reflection: the pre, during and post processes to manifesting meaningful change and understanding direction in your life.
  • Gender: what is ‘your’ next best move not your genders.
  • Faith: put your trust back into people and the powers that be. This world is good, choose to see it.
  • Fear Industry: if you not aware of it, you are most likely part of it.

I feel so incredibly inspired by peoples adventures and stories of challenges they have overcome that it fuels my fire to do the same for others. I came across two awakening concepts the other day, “what is it that only you have that this world needs… hence, what are you doing about it?” and the other “how far are you through your life expectancy and have you started living yet?”. If you are not doing your best to inspire yourself with the life you live and in turn others whilst failing to be the change you would want to see in the world then now is about bloody time to do so. We have been gifted with this thing called life and to throw it away questions its very conception to begin with so let us go out, utilize and taste it, today!

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