It was while staring at a pile of fried cockroaches that I realized something important: I don't need to Taste All The Foods in order to live a fulfilled life.
I was twenty years old, spending my second prolonged period of time in another country. After hearing a lot of advice like, "Try anything once!", "You'll regret the things you didn't do!", and "Do it all while you're young!", I had started to feel like I needed to Accept All The Invitations, Go All The Places, and, of course, Taste All The Foods.
Does This Sing to Me?
I was building my adventure profile, and I didn't want to be one of those people who said no to anything and then had to sit back and watch my life fall apart because of it. (Spoiler alert: that doesn't tend to happen.)
But these were cockroaches, their little legs all curled and crispy, and even though my new friends were popping them into their mouths like jelly beans, I reached for one — and then pulled back.
I thought to myself, does this sing to me? Do I need this experience to really have a solid adventure? Can't I tell the story about that time I didn't eat the cockroaches?
Yes, I can.
Find Your Line
In the twelve years since then, I've traveled to an additional twenty-nine countries. I've laughed and loved and climbed mountains. I celebrated a new year on top of a building in Vienna, surrounded by so many fireworks I couldn't stop spinning in circles, trying to see them all. I tasted grilled pig cheek. And I spit it out.
But I didn't swim in the Ganges. I didn't take surfing lessons. I haven't learned to scuba dive. (Theme: I am not a water person. And I'm not going to make myself be one.) I have no plans to hold a tarantula or drink a cocktail with a grasshopper in it. (Theme #2: Crawly things.)
There's something to be said for jumping in and doing something that scares you. Traveling alone for the first time, singing at an audition, and starting a business are wonderfully terrifying and will help mold you into the person you want to become. But it's okay to find that line between what will make you grow and what is just about keeping score.
Do the things that mean something to you, even if that means leaving the cockroaches on the plate.