Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it. There’s no time that you must be home, so sleep where your darkness falls.
Dream your dreams but don’t pretend
Be friends with what you are
Give your heart then change your mind – John Mayer
Is there any comparable feeling to knowing your suitcase is packed and you are about to travel 9,000 miles away? Planning out my next adventures (or where I am going to eat) is a natural high for me. I live for the moments when I can say “Yes, I have been there!” or “I am going there soon!”
I was blessed with the awe-inspiring opportunity to travel abroad this past month to the two most alluring countries in the world: Australia and New Zealand.
When I was accepted into the discover abroad program at the University of Georgia (after waiting months for someone to drop out because the program was so popular), the same adrenaline rush that comes from going down the first hill of a roller coaster hit me without warning. The lessons I was about to learn, friends I was going to make, and the mistakes that were bound to happen were dangling in front of me… I just wanted that day to be here already. I wanted so badly to step on the airplane that would make the experience feel real.
Like others, I was not thinking about the potential hardships that would come from traveling abroad. I was not thinking about the fact that my phone and wallet might get stolen or that one of my friend’s passports would fall into a river while bungy jumping. Nevertheless, lessons have to be learned one way or another so why not have them while swimming in one of the most beautiful places in the world such as the Great Barrier Reef?? I would like to share what I learned about myself while studying abroad, for I truly believe the moments I experienced were transformative.
Learning to Get Lost in the Moment:
After my phone was stolen, this lesson hit me in the face like a brick. Not only could I not use my phone to look down at during awkward situations, but I could not take the pictures and videos I wanted to. After anxiety filled days and restless nights, I had to learn to let go. I learned to breath in the fresh air a little deeper and immerse myself in the natural landscape of the land or the beautiful man-made architectures. I was urged to journal more about my experiences, such as star gazing in Canarvon Gorge and swimming with wild Dusky Dolphins in Kaikoura, rather than staring through a camera lens so much. I was able to notice different aspects of people that I never would have noticed if I was looking down at my phone every other minute.
The hardest part about losing my identity (basically) was that my parents were 9,000 miles away. There was limited cell service to sort this out with my parents on the phone. They were not readily available to comfort me or to offer immediate answers on how to fix the situation. After realizing that everything I lost is replaceable and that I was still alive, my perspective changed. I cherished the short Facebook video chats I got with my family or the sweet emails telling me how much they missed me. They were confident that I could overcome this; their energy poured into me. Without the security of a credit card or cell-phone, I had to place my trust in God as my father-figure in a way I had never experienced before. He was not going to let me fall. I was here for a reason. If that’s not a confidence booster, I don’t know what is.
Not Everyone Thinks Like Me…. and That’s a Good Thing.
Fortunately, this program provided one-on-one time with the local people of each area. Hearing how they choose to live their lives was fascinating- it is so different than in the United States. I often got asked the question: “Why didn’t you take a gap year?” (the second most frequent question I got asked was how I felt about Donald Trump…..). This was something that never even crossed my mind…it’s not what’s expected of us. The expectations are different and it makes me question how our own assumptions are shaped. Learning to respect people’s ideas and perspectives by listening and absorbing their words helped me understand why I personally value certain things. Even if I do not agree, I feel like my stance is constantly becoming more and more well-rounded.
Oh boy did I take some chances…..like jumping out of a plane 12,000 feet in the sky??When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is presented to me, I learned to take it (this cures fomo pretty nicely) Do everything you can. Feeling brave and empowered can only help people in the long run. I am not scared to go out of my comfort zone anymore…I already took the first step.The experiences we have while were young help shape who we will become (I don’t know about you, but I wanna be a really freaking awesome person). I want be able to say “Yep! I’ve done that!” to everything….well, almost everything. So, despite what your parents told you, if your friend jumps off a bridge, YOU DO IT TOO (aka bungy jumping).
Without the help of my parents, graduation money, generous donations and prayer, this would not have been possible. My parents have provided me with an amazing life that I never fully appreciated until I went overseas without them. I hope to be able to provide the same experiences for my future family as well. I am so blessed to have people that miss me when I’m away and people I can’t wait to come home to. Travelling makes my time at home or school more fulfilling. I appreciate my friends, memory foam mattress, and good Mexican food a little more.
And Yes, You do Start to go Crazy After 48 Hours Without Sleep. It’s OK, you’ll Eventually Get Used To It.
the nervous feeling before undertaking a journey; the restless race of a traveler’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together.
By the way… watch my short YouTube video that sums up my trip quite nicely. Not pictured is swimming with dolphins in freezing water (and some people witnessing a sperm whale), seeing sharks while scuba diving, 500 cows wandering in the middle of the road, getting kicked out of a restaurant for falling asleep, and a huge New Zealand sheep farm.
I hope whoever reads this is inspired to GO. Become the best storyteller ever.