The Unexpected Traveler

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By Kate

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.

 

Want to know more about Kate? Follow her on Instagram @wayward.wander or on her blog www.waywardwander.com