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Walking The Less Travelled Road

Updated: May 21, 2020

How fear stops us from walking the true path we want to walk.

a barely visible path cuts through a forest besides a fallen tree

I was walking the dog in the woods this morning, although in truth the dog was actually walking me. She doesn’t follow roads or pathways, she goes where she wants to go. She sees everywhere as the path.

The dog jumps over fallen trees and dashes effortlessly through shrubs and bushes. She trusts she will find a way through, and more often than not she finds her way back. I say more often than not, because I’m still somewhat traumatised by her disappearance on a recent walk, where she discovered a disused nappy behind the park’s toilets and I couldn’t find her for almost half an hour. When she did eventually emerge, she was wearing the contents of the nappy all over her beard and face, and for a whole week afterwards her breath smelt like baby poo).

But she’s a dog after all, and dog’s clearly don’t have rules, except for those forced on them by their owners. So when we are out walking she literally follows her nose and sees where it leads. Sometimes, as I described, there is even a prize at the end.

I see it differently to her though. I see danger, and wasted time and energy exploring new territory, especially when there is a perfectly well-worn path to follow.

You see in life it’s often just a lot easier to choose the route where others have gone before. We’re often busy enough as it is without having to consider breaking new ground.

So, even in the relative safety of the knee length grass of the meadows on the outskirts of the park, I will naturally tend towards any area of grass that appears to have been trodden beforehand, even if it’s just been slightly flattened underfoot. It might have been that just one or two people had walked that path before, but it signals to me a way ahead, a path that leads to somewhere, and is safer and easier somehow than me forging a brand new path all of my own.

I see myself making this choice over and over again as we walk. I look for a place that’s been even slightly flattened beforehand and I tend to follow that.

But, deep down inside of me I want to be the explorer. I want to venture into unexplored territory. I want to forge a new pathway and walk where others haven’t yet walked.

So what’s stopping me?

The obvious answer would be fear. Fear stops me from doing most things that are new and unknown. In this instance though it’s not just fear, it’s the constraints of certain restrictions that form my decisions. I have an hour to walk the dog so there’s no time to explore like I would like to. I also have responsibilities to my family, and so falling down a ditch and being lost in the woods for days isn’t really a good option for me either.

How often do fear and constraints stop us from doing what we really want to do? The mind will always project worst case scenarios and warn you of every imminent danger. I swear I get murdered and mugged at least four times on every walk in the park I ever do. I’ve accidentally stumbled into several potential gun toting drug deals; which actually turns out to be gangs of harmless, pre-pubescent boys sharing a can of weak beer, and who are more scared of me and my poo-smeared dog.

From now on though I’m going to choose one time each walk to veer from the well-travelled path and forge a route of my own. It might only be a slight diversion to begin with, but who knows what moss and turf I might dislodge inside of my fearful, worried mind in the process.

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