The Unexpected Traveler
Everyone has pivotal moments in their life. There’s usually something you can point back to and say, “There. Right there. That’s when it all changed.”
For me, it was a study abroad program the summer before my senior year of college.
College was a weird time for me. I transferred from an out-of-state school after my freshmen year because I was unhappy. I went through a nasty break-up, got back into a bad relationship after said break-up, and battled anxiety. I was lost.
Don’t get me wrong — it wasn’t all bad. But it was a tumultuous time, which meant anything that deviated from my set routine was a no-go.
Which is why when I impulsively signed up to study abroad for a month, I thought I was crazy.
I wasn’t particularly adventurous, especially during this time. I got homesick easily, I thrived on routine, and I didn’t have much hutzpah left in me… especially the type you need to go on a trip that covers five countries in three and a half weeks with a group people you’ve never met.
But I remember looking at the flyer and thinking to myself, “If you don’t do this, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
So I went. And I haven’t been the same since.
Over three and a half weeks, our group traveled throughout Italy, France, England, Scotland, and Ireland. And if moving to a different city every 2-3 days doesn’t make you embrace flexibility, I’m not sure what does!
It wasn’t easy at first. After being stuck in my shell for so long, I had a hard time connecting with people I had never met and being okay to just be myself. I didn’t even really know who I was anymore. As someone with anxiety, I overthought so many interactions throughout the trip. Am I making friends? Did people like me? Am I exploring the right way? Is it weird that I don’t like to party?
But there’s something funny about travel. It forces you to just… be.
I realized, while walking the streets of London, or staring down at the Duomo from a Florence garden, that for every second I spent worrying, and doubting, and second-guessing, I was missing something amazing.
So I started to do something I hadn’t done in a really long time. I started to just live.
I wasn’t magically cured of all my insecurities and anxiety. But I started to find my voice and curiosity. I started seeking out new sights and new experiences… and I started forgiving myself when I wasn’t ready to experience everything all at once.
Studying abroad taught me about who I was, who I had been, and who I wanted to be.
It taught me to live each day as fully as I could. It taught me to start saying goodbye to doubt, because those moments in those cities were precious; I would never get them back.
So instead of focusing on the doubts and the fears, I focused on the life travel was bringing back to me. And I haven’t stopped traveling since.