You might be surprised to learn that even after visiting over 35 countries, across the globe, I still get nervous before every one of my trips. “Will there be an atm at the airport? Will it be hard to figure out how the subway works? What does the hotel look like – perhaps I better print out a picture and a map in case my phone doesn’t work? There are just so many uncertainties! I’m always afraid that I’m going to mess up some detail of the logistics and end up sleeping on the street. Which never happens. Well, almost never.

Pretty mundane fears, huh?

But there ARE some real scary places to visit when you’re traveling, and one of them (at least for me) is the Cu Chi Tunnels of Vietnam, 2 hours from Saigon. This place creeped me out. We’re talking about the vast tunnel system that the Viet Cong used as hiding spots during the Vietnam War. We’re talking about underground living quarters, hospitals, weapon caches and command centers.

The living spaces weren’t too spooky. What got me was the tunnels themselves. Hot, narrow, claustrophobic. You start out walking bent over. Then the roof lowers and soon you’re crawling, your knees losing skin as they scrape the hard-rock floor. Then, suddenly, you enter a portion of the tunnels where there’s no light at all. You and a group of 20 other tourists are now crawling through a pitch-black tunnel, dozens of feet below ground, sweating, relying on the people in front and behind you not to freak out and get everyone stuck.

At a certain point, we come to a junction and I yell to our guide, “Which way should I go?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he replies.

“What do you mean, it doesn’t matter? Give me an answer, man. I want to get out of here!”

Eventually, we arrive at a set of narrow steps and climb back to sunlight. Thank god! It seems that today is not the day I’m going to be buried alive in Southern Vietnam.
Travel is about many things, not least of which is bravery…of facing your fears. How would it be if we could bring that quality to our every day life?