Traveling can be a pretty scary experience – whether it’s your first time abroad or your twentieth, venturing into the unknown always unleashes a myriad of emotions that can sometimes make you want to throw your suitcase back into storage, slip into a onesie and hide deep down under the covers with an endless supply of white chocolate. As tempting as this sounds, a young adventuress knows better. As scary as it may be, we plunge through the vast expanse of thoughts and venture onward and upward to new destinations.
On October 2014, I made the decision to leave home and wander to the East. I packed my bags and within a week, I was gone. I walked out the door, left everything behind and drifted to a new part of the world. Whilst I am still a woman of science, at that time I chose to keep my passion alive in my heart by teaching chemistry to high school learners in a little town south of China. There have been endless conversations about the fears and excitement that accompany a young lady as she wanders alone around the globe and now I have decided to share those thoughts with you. Here are six things a young adventuress thinks about before embarking on her worldly travels. Oh, the mind of a strong woman.
- WILL I SURVIVE?
This is often one of the most difficult thoughts an adventuress has all throughout her preparation days and even in the middle of her journey too, especially if she’s traveling on her own and for an extended period of time. Frankly, I think it’s a thought that will always be at the back of her mind regardless of the time or location.
Three months before: I think I made the right decision. I can do this. So many people are doing this. Yeah. I can do this.
Two weeks before: Will I survive being away from home for such a long time? Maybe I should revise my budget? Dad. Mom. Sister. Look at this plan. Look at it now.
Last night at home: Oh God. What if something dark and monstrous crawls out from under my bed in my new apartment? Where’s the pepper spray. Pack the pepper spray. Pack the chocolate. Oh God. Pack the chocolate.
- What if I don’t succeed?
This is one of those biggies. Traveling abroad all by your lonesome, whether it be for a new job or just to experience the big wide world is very different from planned family vacations. Your parents aren’t there to hold your hand, watch that your passport doesn’t get stolen or help when your luggage gets left behind at your connecting destination. All you have are phone calls, emails and skype. Now (un)fortunately – depending on which way you look at it – you’re on your own, tiger. No matter what happens; you’ve got to stay alive, save money, succeed at your new job, find your way and puzzle through the language.
Conversations with the girls over numerous coffee dates leading up to your departure: I’ve done this before, I mean, I’ve lived in Europe for six months. How hard can this be? I’ve got this. I can do this. Right?
Conversations with your sister: Oh my God. I am going to live in China. What is wrong with me? Why didn’t you stop me? What is wrong with you? Now I have my visa and ticket and there’s no turning back.
Conversations with your parents: Mom. Dad. It’s time I do this. I’m gonna do this.
Simultaneously thinks to self while talking to parents: Oh God. I better be able to do this… and I better be able to do this right.
- FRIENDS AND LOVERS: PAST AND PRESENT
One of the most difficult parts about traveling for extended periods of time is leaving people behind. Time passes and yes, as much as we hate to admit it, life does move on and things will change. It’s inevitable. It’s scary thinking about what you’ll come back home too but I’ll tell you this: if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that people will come and go. Along the way however, you will find those special few that will stick by you through anything, who will always take the time to send an Instant Message or clear out their schedule for a Skype date. Those are the precious few. Treasure them.
There’s also something about leaving for a long haul journey that makes you think about partners and lovers of the past. I don’t know why that is but yes, it happens. After much deliberation and discussion with many fellow adventuresses, I’ve come to realize it’s most likely because you’re about to begin something new which forces you to create some kind of perspective on things in the past. This happens in order to have some kind of holistic picture of your life…. and stuff. In order for new beginnings to happen, you need closure and you need reflection. It shows what you’re leaving behind but it also shows how far you’ve come, how much you’ve grown and how far you can and will go – both, physically and mentally. That certainly can’t be a bad thing.
Random thoughts at 2 am on the night before you leave: I’ve come so far. I never thought I’d get here. Universe, I don’t know what your plan for me is, but I trust you. Everything that has happened, present and past, has culminated to this very moment. Now, I will go find myself.
- DO I HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED?
This is one of those drive-me-crazy ones but honestly, which adventuress doesn’t doubt herself? I guess it’s just something we do. We like to be prepared, we like to be secure and we sure as hell like to be one step ahead of things at all times (even though it doesn’t always happen). List after list after list… about your list… for your list… with your list… by your list… oh just go check your list, will you?
Two weeks before: Do I have all my documentation? check’s list Okay let me just send another email and make another call…. one… last…. time…. makes new list
Two days before: Do I have enough sunblock? Okay I’ll buy another bottle just in case. add sunblock to list
Two hours before: Did I pack my passport? Yes. Ticket? Yes. (Fumbles furiously through her bag, looking for her list. Finds list… and another list… and another list).
One hour before: Did I check my bags directly to my destination? I know I did. I think I did. I think I know I did…… runs through mental check-list
- SAYING GOODBYE
The idea of saying goodbye as opposed to actually saying goodbye can be quite daunting. Picturing yourself, walking through those boarding gates as you wave goodbye, leaving your family on the other side of the glass will bring tears to anyone’s eyes. Yes. It is sad. But, you have to remember that with every ounce of greatness comes great sacrifice. In order to grow, we need to be able to move forward and take the first step. Yes there will be butterflies in our tummies, tears in our mascara-lined eyes and croaking frogs in our throat…. “but being brave enough to actually walk out that door is the first step to greatness…” said every adventuress. Ever.
Morning of your departure as you double and triple check your handbag: I am a free thinking independent woman. I. CAN. DO. THIS.
- I’M SURE I CAN DO THIS… I A GOING TO DO THIS… I CAN DO THIS… I WILL DO THIS!
By the time you’re standing at the airport, waiting to board the plane, you will have gone through a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions and if you’re like me, you would have probably laughed and cried numerous times… sometimes even at the same time. (I do this weird thing where I laugh and cry simultaneously. I don’t know how it works. It just does. Don’t ask).
One hour before: I am a free thinking independent woman. I am a free thinking independent woman. I am a free thinking independent woman.
Two minutes before: God, oh God. Am I doing the right thing? It’s too late to get off the plane. It is too late? Right?
Plane takes off. One hour later: I. AM. DOING. THIS. Snuggle into seat. Attempt to read book. Passes out from mental and physical exhaustion. Snores on the plane…. maybe.
What are some of your thoughts before you leave on your wanderings? I would absolutely love to hear them!