Ever since I was little, I've been afraid of being alone in the dark.

May 8th, 2014, 11am

It was 20°C with few clouds. There was moderate breeze.

When my parents went out at night, I would lie tense as a frightened animal, listening to every creak the house made, and eventually sneak into my little sister’s room to sleep in her bed. Later, when I had a key, I would lock the door to my own room to be spared whatever terrible things were happening out there for just a little longer.

It got better as I grew up, until my final year at university, when two burglars who broke into my ground-floor London flat while I was inside caused a bit of a relapse. For over a year, as I lived on a fifth floor in Barcelona, I would hide my few valuables every time I left the house. And nearly ten years later, I still refuse to live alone.

So what I did two days ago is pretty much as far out of my comfort zone as I could go, short of having myself buried alive. I travelled to Mount Hattoji, near Okayama in Japan, to spend a night in an old farmhouse in a tiny hamlet that was built hundreds of years ago as a Buddhist centre. I hadn’t planned to be there on my own; I assumed I’d be sharing the place with other travellers. Only that there weren’t any, only an ancient housekeeper who lived a house about 100 metres away. She sold me a box of charcoal and left me to my own devices.

There was no internet and no mobile phone reception. None of the many doors on all four sides of the building could be locked. The wood creaked under the falling cold, the glass rattled in the wind. I took a long bath, made a fire, grilled some meat, read a book. I considered sleeping with the lights on but decided against it.

And it was fine. I didn’t sleep well, of course. I didn’t overcome my fears in some great cathartic experience. But I did it in spite of them, in spite of myself. Nudged myself out of my comfort zone. And it was fine.

Tomomi, Lloyd, Luis, Christine and 12 others said thanks.

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Kati Krause

Magazine maker, adventure seeker.

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