It’s a glamorous word. Exploring new places, seeing the world, meeting new people and learning about their cultures, discovering yourself in the process. In my frequent daydreams I always see myself as an adventurer, a hero, someone who fearlessly crosses whole continents and surmounts every obstacle that may come in the way. I see myself delving into new cultures, being instantly loved by all the people I meet. Eventually I come back home, where I am received by friends and family, who look at me with a new kind of respect as they realise how much I have grown through my experiences.
Nice image, isn’t it? But it doesn’t take long until the doubts creep in if the travel reality can really look like this.
Doesn’t that all seem a bit far-fetched? Travelling the world without encountering any drawbacks? Without meeting problems that are too big to overcome? Without sometimes feeling out-of-place, or lonely?
After all, I’m not really an adventurer. Or a hero. I quite normal, really. Not more courageous than the next person. Moreover, I’m an introvert. It means I can be very shy, quiet and awkward. It’s hard for me to approach people, and any kind of social situation can be a challenge. Could I really get along in a strange country all on my own, without someone to fall back on when things get tough?
Travel expectations and travel reality
The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. I have been travelling other countries all by myself plenty of times now and had ample opportunity to find out what that travel reality is really like.
Australia played a big part in turning me into the confident traveller I am today.
The first time I went there I was 17 years old. I stayed half a year with my aunt and uncle who live in the little town of Gatton, Queensland. Although I was still among family when I lived with them, it was the first time I left home for such a long period of time.
In 2011 I returned to Australia for a six months working holiday. Although I visited my aunt and uncle in between, I mostly travelled around by myself. It was the first time in my life I truly lived on my own. It was scary.
There were times before I left for Australia when I was so nervous that I almost wished I could cancel it all and just stay safely home. But I didn’t. Because deep down, I knew I would always regret not taking this chance.
I was realist enough to know not everything would work out as planned. No matter how great it was, there would still be days when things went wrong. Problems I couldn’t possibly anticipate beforehand. And I would have to deal with them when the time came, without having anyone there to help me. There would be days when I felt homesick and lonely. No matter how many new friends I made, I would still miss those I left at home.
On the road, the good outweighs the bad
I reminded myself that all these experiences were normal, a part of the adventure. After all, how boring would it be if everything went according to plan? It is the unexpected things that provide you with the best stories to tell, that let you grow through the experience.
When I finally arrived in Australia, not everything went smooth. But nothing that happened diminished the joy of the journey. For example, I found a job when I had almost given up hope of ever being able to earn some money.
I traveled solo a lot, but I learned to appreciate the freedom it gives you when you don’t have consider someone else’s needs. Sometimes I met other travellers who joined me for some time. I loved being with these people, but I learned that I can also get along on my own.
There were some things I did not get to do, some chances that I didn’t take. But I made new friends, visited new places, and boosted my self-confidence and independence. Most importantly, it taught me that when the time comes I will find the skills and the courage to overcome the obstacles, no matter how nervous I was beforehand. I realised you don’t need to be an extrovert to be able to do this.
Becoming a confident traveller
When I went to Australia again in 2013 to study abroad in Sydney for several months, I was once more growing nervous as the day for departure came closer. But this time, I was equipped with the knowledge that whatever happened, I could deal with it. By accepting fear as natural part of the adventure, it stopped making me nervous. Instead it make me look forward to all the experiences I would make that I didn’t yet know anything about.
Travelling isn’t about making the perfect trip and then showing off to your friends. It is about letting things happen and enjoying the moment. It is about the happy anticipation beforehand, and the exultation when you return home with a store of memories. You have made your travel dream a travel reality, and now it is high time to begin the next one.
And this time, I will be on this blog to tell you all about it.
How did you start your life as a traveller? Or are you still in the process of taking that step? Please tell me about it in the comments, so we can cheer each other on while we pursue our travel dreams and turn them into our travel reality!