Travel moves you. Sure, it’s a stupid cliche but something in me changed over the last 5 months. Before I left I felt hopeless, a failure. I sat around wondering if I jumped the gun on finishing college to early, if I made the right decision on my degree, if I would in fact be the successful person I envisioned. It was hard being stuck in a place and in a mindset with only inhibitions filling your days. Yes, what I accomplished on paper certainly looked good but how far does a bachelors in Political Science really go when you can’t even get a job waiting tables or an internship where you work for free.
In early September of 2016 I was fed up. I was waiting on a security clearance from the government for a job I was accepted to months before without resolve. I couldn’t work long term in Albuquerque with the thought of a better gig awaiting me in a distant land. I certainly could have put my head down, shied away from my dreams and worked for the months I spent abroad, but that just isn’t me; and I’m glad it isn’t.
On September 20th 2016 I booked a ticket to Paris, hopped on a plane and never looked back. As my plane soared across the Atlantic I could only be optimistic as to what my future held. I still had so many questions to answer, from the most basic to the long term life changing choices that shape who we are as people.
The first night in Paris I climbed up to the Sacre-Couer from my hostel and envisioned my future as the sun set over one of my favorite cities in the world. I was comfortable, a world away from all the doubt, yet I still hadn’t shook it. I had to have a plan. A long term goal that would help me push through the fog of uncertainty that clouded my days.
What I can say is that travel is the thing that bolstered my confidence not only in my future plans but also in my personality. Being abroad, being in a foreign places simply has a long lasting effect on you. I always say that traveling returns you to your childhood. Not in a literal sense, but it awakens the curiosity that dies as we get older. There’s nothing more refreshing than being simply out of sorts.
Being in a situation that just makes you laugh because you have no experience to make a proper judgement or to evaluate it just as you do normal things in life. You get confronted with things abroad that have no specialized reaction and it reopens this part of your personality and mentality that lays dormant for years. How do I order food when I can’t read the menu? How do I find my hotel when there is no internet and nobody speaks English? How do I communicate?
As a jumped from place to place and was exposed to new cultures, to new people, mentalities and ways of life, something changed within me. I became a believer in social connections, in the importance of relationships, in understanding that we as humans are not as different as we say we are. I understood fully the power of a smile, the reaffirming hold of a hand, the connection that eye contact creates. You have to embrace the unknown, the uncomfortable, the confusing, weird and odd. And by embrace i mean not only accept but become a part of.
I spent time in Europe, time in Asia, time in the developed, developing and impoverished worlds. I met people who had been every place imaginable and people who have never left their country, town, village. As I try to reconcile my experience and draw meaning from it, it is truly hard to put into words, hard to sum up the encounters, the trials and tribulations that you experience on the vast lonely road to nowhere.
You end up meeting the most lost people you’ll ever meet along with people that know exactly where they are headed, one foot in front of the other. You become lenient, tolerant and flexible, a mindset that can only be explained as malleable. Not everything is as complex as it seems, yet even a small interaction you may never understand. Living for so long with such blaring contrasts and different complexities is vexing in a sense. The outward influences the inward self, in an ever-moving reciprocal motion.
You come out a different person than you started, yet you were that person all along. The road shows you that.
Many people come to Asia especially to get lost, but at times, it was in the most social situations that i had the least amount of answers, the most doubt and confusion. The fact is, and it took me awhile to realize this, is that there is no “lost”, there is only discomfort and dissatisfaction.
No matter how far you end up away from home, if you remain willing to embrace that unknown, you are always just where you think you are, ready to combat the next issue, ready to make a move in the right direction. The fact is that often times I feel more lost at home than I do abroad, more complacent, less inspired. What I realized, and it took me a long time to do so, is that to avoid complacency one needs to break the comfort zone. Become a lover of learning, of trying new things and of being better than you were the day before. Avoid the excuses of time, of situation, of monetary standing. Get out an do, or stay in, whatever you prefer.
My time abroad has inspired me to become a Vitruvian man, a person that becomes better, more well rounded everyday. I’m excited to start writing again, or playing music, learning a language or fostering a new relationship.
It took me awhile to figure this out and its no simple task. Take a few days, take a year, but realize that circumstances are meant to be overcome, whatever that means to you. Regardless of what happens in the future, my time abroad simply changed me. For better, for worse, the change was needed and I can have solace that I went. The short term struggles that were overcome daily helped to foster my long term confidence in myself. I got into the school of my dreams, I realized my path, I became better than I was. This is not the end but merely the beginning.