As my summer of travels comes to a close, I have a lot to reflect on. I have been reminded of the power of serious perseverance (thank you visa disaster), the instant love and support of family and friends doled out during times of need (thanks to all who have let me sleep on their air mattresses, pull out sofas, couches, or simply shared their bed with me), and that when it comes down to it, most people (even strangers) are more than willing to help if you ask.
There’s something about getting lost in multiple countries, communicating in various languages, navigating new airports, adapting to new cultures, starting a new job, and being exposed to a countless amount of new people – all over the course of just three months – that changes you. In order to survive the constant tug and pull of a nomadic life, you all of a sudden have to abandon your innate desire to plan everything all the time (well, I do anyways). I am a list person, so much so that my mom thinks a very practical present for any occasion is a long skinny notepad ideal for jotting down my never ending to-do list. This began when I was maybe 10 years old and hasn’t yet to come to an end, probably because I actually use all of them! (Thanks Mom!)
I’m not going to try and say that I am no longer a Type A personality because that would be a lie, but one of the most amazing things about travel is that it really brings to the surface all of your personal characteristics – the good, the bad, and the ugly, and forces you to change for the better. Or at least turn on and off certain skills so they work for you instead of against you. Being a planner and semi-professional list maker is great for getting good grades at school and coordinating what some would consider to be way too many extracurricular activities, but adds unnecessary stress when the reality of planning an entire summer of travels proves to be impossible. And being a neat freak is awesome when you are home and often have company show up unannounced, but not ideal when you are sharing a room at a hostel with 11 other (mostly dirty) people.
Over the past two years which have consisted of studying abroad, traveling through Europe, flying back and forth to Madrid, visiting family all over the country, and now working in London for the summer, I have had the opportunity to do some serious self-work. No one is perfect, and being able to let go of the desire to plan everything all the time has been such a gift. Now I LOVE agreeing to last minute trips, figuring things out as I go, and walking out the door in a place I have never been, actually HOPING to get lost! Other people’s messes don’t bother me quite as much these days. I’ve also noticed that my patience has increased and I’m more open-minded. My tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt, which was already present, has gotten even stronger (maybe that slow driver is a tourist – I’ve been there!). Oh, and I’m WAY less dependent on technology. Unplugging during a meeting here and there is one thing, but I’ve discovered that I absolutely LOVE not having a phone with a data plan and being able to actually disconnect whenever I’m away from Wi-Fi!
But through all of this openness and willingness to change, it’s crucial to dig deep and find out who you are as a person so that the tug and pull of a life spent traveling doesn’t eliminate your sense of self. Taking the time to journal, blog, sit in a park alone and reflect (or while on a long flight)… all of those things are extremely important so that as I bend and flow with the world around me, I never lose hold of my core values of positivity, optimism, honesty, and desire to never stop learning.
I could go on forever about all the ways travel has made me a better person, a better daughter, a better sister, and a better friend… but most importantly, it has helped mold me into someone who I look at in the mirror each day and am really happy with. Travel connects you with the present and with yourself in a way unlike anything else, making it the ultimate form of therapy.
Now it’s time to catch my flight home. San Diego, I’ll see you later today!