“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Four men from the back of the bus stood up and pulled out big knives. One gentleman tried to protest, urging the other passengers to fight back, but everyone remained cowed in their seats. The robbers stabbed him.

It was a summer evening in 1999, and I was eleven years old.

After we were rescued, I couldn't stop my teeth chattering. I shook all over and my body felt numb, despite the tropical heat. For years, I was afraid to get on a bus.

When I think back to that night, I am filled with shame that only one of us had the courage to stand up to the robbers, as the 30+ passengers could have easily overpowered them in the absence of guns. And I am reminded that we are so much weaker collectively when we allow our individual fears to guide us.

It took me nine years to face my fear. Standing in a dusty bus station in remote South Sulawesi, I found myself torn between the opportunity for a unique adventure and the overnight bus that was the only way to get to it. My curiosity finally won.

In my life, I will not let fear guide my choices. I will explore new paths with curiosity and hold the courage to stand with others in the face of adversity. I will always get back on the bus.

— Fida Tashfia