I read in a book recently that if you want to be more confident, you need to engage in small, confidence building exercises. The first of these listed required the participant to stare into the eyes of random people they encountered until the other person looked away. I can’t say that this is effective at all, as I have never tried it (except once in a juvenile attempt to flirt with a boy in the sixth grade which yielded unsatisfactory results….) but it got me thinking about how we carry ourselves and the nonverbal messages this language conveys.
Walking through Ho Chi Minh City before planning our northward journey, Mo and I had a long discussion on our travel styles. This type of discussion has become standard practice over the past year, as we try to work towards a better understanding of each other and what it means to be married. It is interesting navigating a relationship in such a mindful way–enlightening and humbling all at once. I think we both have learned that a fuller understanding of anything is a good thing in the end, but not always an easy road, nor decorated with only pretty sights….
Anyways, I found that when I feel more confident in a situation, such as traveling with someone I perceive to be less experienced than myself, I walk in front of them. When I perceive my partner to be more confident than me in a given situation, I walk behind. Even when I am fully competent, I often fail to take the lead unless I know most certainly that it is my area of expertise and then I do so with much enthusiasm.
Needless to say, I generally view Mo as a more “confident” traveler and often physically and metaphorically “walk behind”. This tends to drive Mo nuts and he would much rather I take a more active role in our travel planning and logistics.
I am trying. The Mekong Delta was one trip I advocated for and tried to plan (although Mo was still better at setting up transportation!). I am certainly glad I did. More on the specifics of our time there in the next post, but here are some of the amazing things we saw along this muddy river and in the markets and town of Ben Tre, where we stayed.
One of the first things we noticed when sailing down the river were the large black eyes painted on the front of all of the boats that passed us. When we asked why these were present, we were told that it is to scare away evil spirits and snakes that might be lurking in the river.
Whether it works or not, I don’t know, but I couldn’t help thinking back to that confidence building exercise. These boats engaged in it every day. Staring down dangerous waters, navigating fearlessly through low tides and high tides, unafraid to be the ones pushing through the debris and sailing in front, these boats personified exuded strength and unparalleled travel know-how.
Perhaps, one day I too will find the confidence to sail in front, staring down the travel path, making way for others to follow…….or, for now, maybe I will just try staring at strangers ;)