Revisiting First-Time Travel Jitters

I’m home for the week, cleaning out my room and I’ve come across the diary I’d kept prior to, and during, my exchange in Poland. The entries bring back fond memories of the excitement and nervousness I’d felt about my first trip alone, and my attempts at drawing strength and courage from my family and within myself. It’s nice to reminisce about this positively turbulent chapter of my life, but what good does it do without sharing it with others who might be going through the same?

 

So this post is dedicated to those of you who are about to travel to the next city, the next country or halfway across the world, alone, and without your loved ones. Below, I recall my own experiences as they happened and as I had recorded them in my diary, to tell you that it’s going to be all okay. Better yet, it’s going to be more than okay. Learn to embrace the fears of missing your family, the hysteria of being alone in a foreign country, and the sporadic episodes of excitement in your chest. This is all a part of growing up, of becoming independent, a citizen of the world and learning to appreciate each moment as they come- before, during and after.

Sunday, 8th September 2012

I have looked at it so long,
I think it’s part of my heart.

Last night, I got accepted into the Enter Your Future AIESEC program in Wrocław, Poland. While it has not yet been finalised, I am really excited about the prospect of travelling to Europe, and seeing and experience all that I’ve dreamt of for years!

I have no idea what it’s going to be like though. I also have no idea what the entire trip will be like, since not only will it be my first time travelling to Europe, but the first time I will be travelling alone without my family.  I will know no one, and not least the language. Once I get closer to the date of my departure from Sydney, I think I might get scared… of everything. The unfamiliarity of it all- of a new and different country that I don’t know much about. Maybe if I were going to, say, China, I’d be less afraid because I’ve been there before, and I at least speak Cantonese. But Poland? Polish? So far, I only know how to say ‘hello’ [cześć] and the name of the city I’m going to. I’ve watched so many videos on the city already, and searched for a multitude of guide- and phrase-books that I feel as if I should already know the place quite well; but the fact of the matter is, I don’t. I have only a superficial knowledge of the city…

But why do I take this trip? And moreover, on my own? Well, for a myriad of reasons… First I want a life-changing and amazing experience. I want to experience the world and absorb culture, history, language- in a word, Europe. I have dreamt about such an opportunity as this for so long that now there is a chance of fulfilling it, I feel like I must seize it. And I am. I am seizing the opportunity and running with it. I want to be able to say that I’ve gone to Europe before; that I’ve visited many of its wondrous countries, looked into its nooks and crannies, and come back to Australia with my experiences. I want to finally be able to visit and see- first-hand- all those places that I’ve only ever seen in photographs taken by others. I want to finally be there to experience what I’ve only ever vicariously experienced.

Secondly, I think this trip also has a lot to do with my want/need to seek maturity and independence. I want to push myself into a totally unfamiliar environment and know that I was able to take care of myself. That I am ready to take the world on my own. That I don’t always need others to look after me, especially in the most vulnerable or crucial moments of my life. I want to learn things on my own, and call each and every moment of this MY OWN and no one else’s. I want this trip to be, above everything else, a period of my life that is so integral to me. I want to make it a part of my history.

So, while it’s going to be… challenging, scary and intimidating, I must bear in mind that this is what I wanted. It’s a package deal to finding out who you are, and in creating a life for yourself. Everyone must move into unknown territories before they can ever grow as a person. This is something that I must both understand and accept before I proceed. 

Wednesday, 30th October 2012

The days are drawing nearer to my departure, and I am a mixture of nervousness, excitement and apprehension. I’m going to miss my family so much, being gone for two months. But at the moment, Vicky and I are also planning our trips to France, Italy and Czech Republic during the Christmas and New Year’s break… I think of myself walking the streets of Paris in less than 2 months from now, and it makes me so eager and excited, for this is what I’ve wanted for so long… I keep thinking that, I’m finally doing something I want to achieve, rather than sitting around waiting for things to happen.

The only reality is in action.
– Sartre

Wednesday, 28th November 2012

Today is the day, and I’m on the plane already. I’m hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away from Sydney, my home and family, on my way to Poland. First stop: Hong Kong.

I don’t really know what to write: I’m such a confusing mess and tangle of emotions at the moment, and right now, as I’m writing, I’m… either overwhelmed, or just blank.

On the way to the airport with my mum, when I was telling her about the letter I’d written to Gordon telling him to be good to parents because they love us so much, I couldn’t hold back that the tears anymore. Even now, I’m trying to restrain them because although I’m excited about the prospect of a new adventure before me, I’m also homesick. Already.

I’m going to be on my own for 2 months. 2 whole months and it is frightening… But maybe this will turn out to be a new love of mine. Maybe… it will even help me be more independent, and calm and I could do with such an important life experience. 

The funny thing is, in the few days leading up to today, it really struck me how ‘present’ we are. And must be. One must always live in and enjoy the moment as it is, because every second is ticking away; every minute, hour and day. This epiphany has had me trying to absorb every moment that has passed me in the past few days, like my family’s conversations and the animated looks on their faces as they converse. It’s as if I wish I had photographic memory so I could remember everything and take it away with me to Poland.

If a person had come up to me a year ago and told me I would be going to Europe alone in a year’s time, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Because this still seems so surreal, and I’m nervous because I’ve never done this sort of thing on my own before. But as long as I clear my head, and remain calm, I’ll work it out. Somehow. 

Looking back, my feelings were melodramatic and perhaps even a little over-the-top, but it goes to show how overwhelmed I was feeling at the time. My fears were less than necessary though, and were quickly assuaged the moment I stepped off the plane and found myself in Warsaw. I could feel that a new adventure was in store for me, and I was right. There was.

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