“Why did you leave?” or “Why are you traveling?” These were the two most asked questions I was asked when I was traveling abroad. For me to answer, “Why not.” or “Because I can.” just didn’t suffice for an answer for people. But the truth is I am not sure why I left everything to go travel into the unknown. I had a good life, good friends, good family, and an okay job but still I chose to leave. People think in order to go off and live in a new place you must be running away from something, but I wasn’t. I just wanted to go.
I could see my life becoming laid out for me; stay in the same town I grew up in and went to college in, and marry and find a job and begin living “the american dream.” I did want that but I knew there was more to life. Somehow the stars aligned and my lease on my house was up and there was a cheap ticket to New Zealand and I bought it. One way. I can still remember the day and rush I felt when I bought that ticket. So many emotions were coming up. I was excited, scared, worried, happy, sad, EVERYTHING!
The days leading up to my departure felt unreal. When I would tell people what I was doing, they didn’t really understand. “Sooo what exactly are you going to be doing?” “What gave you this idea?” It made me second guess my decision (Which ended up being the greatest decision I have ever made). I don’t understand why people don’t accept traveling as a norm. Traveling has so many benefits, changes people for the better, and should be considered as something people should do. I believe it should be right up there with college, marriage, and having kids.
But still, traveling is questioned by people. Why do people go to college? To learn, have new experiences, and meet new people. Traveling does that. Why do people get married? To have companionship and share experiences. Traveling does that. Why do people have kids? Because it’s cool! Traveling is that! Traveling helps people grow. You don’t have to go to India and do the whole “Eat, Pray, Love” thing. You can do anything. As long as you are surrounded in a new culture with new people, you will experience new things and grow.
I will be the first to admit I was scared out of my mind when I started traveling. I actually had my first little panic attack just as the plane was about to land. I had no idea was I was in for. Luckily I was going to New Zealand and I could speak the language but I still had no idea what to expect. I knew nobody there. The first months were hard. I missed my friends, family, and the comfort of my own home. I almost came home. But I stuck it out and I started making friends, found a cool job, took trips, and even met a man. I was living the dream and I knew it. Not to mention I was in what I believe to be the happiest place on earth, New Zealand. If you haven’t been to New Zealand yet, GO. Seriously. I have been to a lot of places and New Zealand takes the cake. The whole vibe there is amazing and the scenery is unreal. They welcome backpackers and have many backpacking facilities.
Before I became a “backpacker” I thought they were smelly and poor and I looked down on them. Of course we are smellier and poorer than the people staying in hotels but backpackers are the coolest people you will ever meet. They live for experiences and fun. They have put up with living 8 to a room and know how to be patient and understanding. 99% of them wont jack your stuff or have sex in the room. They are just cool people traveling around looking to meet YOU. I learned a lot from my fellow backpackers and I am so grateful I went traveling and opened my mind to the world of backpacking.
I learned so much from my time abroad. I learned that you don’t need to get married and have babies to have a successful life. I learned to take chances and trust that things will work out. I learned I didn’t need to control everything. I learned to take risks and be open to new possibilities. I learned that I am strong and independent. And I learned that there are people just like me who think traveling is an acceptable way of life!
Dear past me,
Thanks for the advice.
I forgot I even wrote this.
Mika – nice! Thanks for stopping by again – hope things are well – do you live in SLO? I was just there again last week.