When you think of traveling, what do you think of?
Do you think of wandering local restaurants and avoiding tourist attractions like the plague so you can really immerse yourself in your experience?
Do you fantasize about falling in love with a local like the protagonists did in those cheesy 90’s movies?
Are you the kind of person who has to plan every hour of every day of your trip? Or are you someone who just likes to let things unfold?
I was the planner. But now I’m not so sure; I might be inching toward the latter.
And it took the me going to the land down under to start the inching.
You could say I came away from Australia with an appreciation for nature, TimTams, and some local lingo. And in some sense, that’s true. But I will always be grateful to the land of the Aussies for teaching me these things (and taking me out of my comfort zone again)
Expect The Unexpected
I had been dreaming of spending 4 months in London, interning abroad, using the internship as a way for me to start building a base for an international career.
Well my dreams of walking along the Thames and taking the Tube to a fantastic internship were dashed with a single e-mail.
I have no shame in admitting that I was crushed. I was burned out from exams, and the earthquake and tsunami had just hit Japan. The thought of the possibility of going to London for 4 months was the only thing that kept me going. I held onto the idea with an iron fist; I knew it was mine. It had to be.
And then it didn’t happen.
But after I had somewhat recovered, I realized that I had two choices:
a) Don’t go abroad (and regret it for the rest of my life and wonder “what if”)
b) Go abroad (and experience new things and be open to new possibilities.)
You know which option I went with.
Taking chances is always scary. There’s no way around it. But sometimes the things that seem to be the worst things on the planet turn out to be the best things ever. I didn’t expect to fall in love with TimTams (I can never eat Thin Mints again), try kangaroo meat or Vegemite, interact with aboriginal Australian people, or feel like the little mermaid as I swam in the Great Barrier Reef for class credit.
Regardless of your situation, there are always twists and turns in life; as the quote goes, a smooth sea doesn’t make for a skilled sailor. Planning can be good; but it can also prevent you from experiencing the things that might turn out to be the best memories of your travel experience.
You Never Know Unless You Try
One of the things that made me balk at the idea of going to the land down under was the idea of outdoor activities. I’m the kind of girl who likes a cup of tea and a good book. Hiking and camping just didn’t appeal to me.
But then I tried it.
And even after hiking part of the border of New South Wales and Queensland (which was pretty amazing, might I add), I know for sure that I am not an outdoors-y kind of girl.
The best thing is that I can say that I tried it. Yes, my legs were burning even though I was slogging along at the very end of the line, but I still did it.
Trying things gives you an idea of what you want, but it also gives you an idea of what you don’t want. We’ve all had that moment where we claim to hate something, try it a second time, and end up loving it.
Or you might end up realizing that your first impression was indeed correct; that you really don’t like whatever it is you tried.
And that’s still okay.
The Scary Things Might Not Be That Scary When You Actually Do Them
We’ve all had those things. Those seemingly insignificant things that we’re terrified of.
In my case, mine was traveling alone. I mean really alone. No family I knew, no hotel reservations, no guidebook, no itinerary.
Enter Melbourne, Australia, which became one of my favorite cities.
There was something liberating about winging it. After years of always being a planner, having structure, I realized how good the opposite can be. This is not to say that I kicked the habit of being a planner to the curb, but I learned that having an open mind can make life so much easier.
Don’t let anyone tell you that your fears are stupid; there’s a reason for them, and they vary from person to person. It’s just that once you bite the bullet, you may find that the things you feared are actually things you like to do.
What are YOUR favorite foreign cities that you’ve traveled to? What have you learned from conquering your fears abroad?