If you have the chance to travel,
“I need an adventure,” I said to myself as I sat alone on my double bed, rubbing a hand across the brown cotton comforter. “A real adventure.” Then I opened the yellow booklet beside me, the scent of new paper engulfing me. I scanned my eyes across the page, admiring the colors and words.
“Maybe a new hemisphere kind of adventure.”
I was trying to pull myself together after a bad breakup and after suffering significant career doubts. (Go figure… I was about to turn twenty and didn’t feel the same way I felt at eighteen. Who knew?!) I hoped perhaps a study abroad experience would ground me in a way… help me find myself and help me connect with my Spanish major in school. I needed something…anything… to help me connect with myself.
with yourself isn’t abnormal. As we journey into adulthood, sometimes we stumble. Losing your footing is okay. Treat it as a learning experience rather than a mistake.
Then I closed the book and set it aside, allowing my slender body to stretch out across the bed. My mind spun on its own accord as I stared unblinkingly at the white ceiling.
I thought of work… of school… of my friends, family, and exes. I thought of myself, stumbling through life, trying to find who I am and where I am.
I sat up then, inhaling deeply, looking at my face in the mirror.
“Where are you?”
It was time to find myself. Maybe my old self… maybe the self I hadn’t encountered yet.
“Maybe you’re in Salamanca,” I said. Then I grabbed the yellow booklet and trotted from the empty room.
Quiero encontrar a un lugar donde hay aventura… esperanza… vida… Quiero… mejorarme.
Quiero ser diferente.
Quiero ser yo…una nueva yo.
“Let’s do this thing,” I said to myself as I galloped toward airport security with my family behind me. I should have been nervous; international travel under the age of twenty without my mommy? Terrifying.
But I was ready.
I was ready to experience a plane ride over the sea.
I was ready to submerge in a completely different culture.
I was ready to taste the food and drink the wine and take it all in.
I was… ready.
It wasn’t until my plane finally landed in Madrid that I panicked.
Like, really panicked.
I was so stressed out and had to force myself to breathe and read the Spanish signs to figure out where to go to be picked up by the study abroad program. To add to my stress, the wheel of my big-ass suitcase was damaged, and it wouldn’t roll. This may seem like a little thing that isn’t worth sweating, but I was sweating a lot.
Like, pit stains a lot.
It took me a solid 24 hours to finally get my shit together. But when I did, boy was it the experience of a lifetime. Not just for the Spanish language and all the amazing learning opportunities; I really grew as a person (and I’m not referring to the twenty extra pounds that came back with me). I learned what was really important, and the homesickness I felt halfway through was profound; you learn what you truly love and what really makes you happy.
I came home the same “me”, but sturdy. Settled. Something restless finally broke free of my soul on the other side of the planet and left me feeling prepared to tackle the next chapter in life. It even had me feeling better about my career selection
For maybe a few months.
Then I started my student teaching and had to start telling myself the big girl lies.
Here’s the thing. Travel. Have fun. But be safe and be smart. Don’t completely empty your bank account in Spain because you feel like you need to buy shoes and dresses and every single pastry you walk past for the “full experience”.
Your wallet (and your ass) will thank you.