Last November 2013, I did something I’ve never done before: traveled to another country by myself.
In truth, I’m afraid of traveling. I dreaded the times I needed to travel for work. I was so stressed the week prior to the two-week trip in France and Italy I took with a friend. I am inordinately nervous about visa applications. I get lost in my own city, as my brain is strictly “street view”.
But that two-week trip we took was the start of something new. It did not hit me like a freight train, but like flowing water it kept eroding away my tendency to stay put.
I wanted to go.
Unfortunately, there was the problem of travel schedules and travel buddies. I’m single, and most of my friends are either married, not inclined to travel, have already traveled where I want to go, or already have plans with other people. And I didn’t want to go alone, the mere idea was crazy. I can’t go alone, I would get lost, I would get mugged, I would be miserable.
But there was this voice that said, “would you really be miserable? is it really that crazy?”
So precisely because I feared it, I told myself I needed to do it.
I’m thirty, for cryin’ out loud.
So I committed myself by telling my friends I was going. Just to make it a little easier for me, I chose a first world country, where English is a first language and I had a few friends: Australia. It worked out: the first week, I was always with friends, getting to know Brisbane and Sydney, getting to know Australia. The second week, I was on my own: half of Sydney and all of Melbourne were for my own fledging wings to try.
I’m so glad I took the trip.
It did not go as well as I’d planned. I was tired and cranky when I got to my Melbourne lodging (having missed my tram stop and had my umbrella fold up over me). I got horribly lost trying to get from Southern Cross station to Federation Square (yes, seriously; I think it took me an hour to find my way). It rained so much in Sydney, I almost couldn’t feel my toes, and I did not go to see the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters anymore. Some attractions were a total bust. I dripped oil all over the front of my only spring coat during the coldest part of my trip. Oh, yes, I had planned for Australian summer, but temperatures were down to the early teens.
But oh, afterward.
The experiences I’ve gained, the memories I can keep.
Meeting a longtime online friend and finding out that my worries about meeting “in real life” were unfounded. Reconnecting with old friends. Seeing so many cute cubs, and petting an adorable tiger cub. Meeting my friends’ lovely pets. Delicious food. Amazing history. Fantastic gardens and parks. Discovering new places, all the interesting streets and alleys. My first liquid nitrogen ice cream. Absolutely delicious rare steak. Sprawling vistas, majestic views. Intriguing wall art amidst traditional building facades.
Finding myself in the middle of nowhere.
I’m still the same generally-timid, introverted girl. I can’t travel like “most people”: you have the people who skim the surface and the tourist attractions, and the free spirits who book tickets and see where it takes them. That would drive me crazy, not knowing. I pore over itinerary details, look up maps, think of routes and how to get to places (preferably on foot). I try to schedule whole days of places to go and things to experience, and then when I’m finally there, take it slow and let things drop in order to fully experience the place (also, because I get lost) (and take lots of pictures).
Some things never change.
But some things do.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”– Henry Miller