Why It’s Important to Take Risks

It’s just over two weeks since I bid farewell to my loved ones in America and began my slow journey to New Zealand. As I previously mentioned in my reflection on what it’s like to go home after living abroad, my time spent back in America was absolutely wonderful. While it was filled with laughter and an incredibly unhealthy amount of pierogi consumption, I spent part of my time home silently – and sometimes not so silently – fearing the months to come, too.

take risks www.willfulandwildhearted.com

Exciting times ahead!

A standout moment was when I was sitting across from my best friend in a quaint vegan cafe in Pittsburgh’s trendy Shadyside neighborhood writing my post regarding what to pack for Southeast Asia. I’d felt as though I’d been writing the post for weeks; I had all of my photos taken and thoughts laid out, but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to write it. I started Facebook chatting with a friend of mine currently living in Auckland, New Zealand, informing her that I was – and I mean this wholeheartedly – FREAKING THE F*CK OUT.

My mind was abuzz, wondering what it is I’m exactly doing with my life and whether or not this giant leap was the right choice. Of course I wanted to reunite with James and travel with him; we have a set plan and he’s no doubt in my future. However, this sense of panic continuously poked at my heart and mind until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. This feeling was so strong that eventually, I broke down.

WHY WAS I AFRAID TO TAKE RISKS?

The day before this moment I had said a heartbreaking goodbye to my mother, who was so shattered that she’d refused to throw away my “Welcome Home” balloons quite yet. I’d spent hours catching up with high school friends, most of which really seemed to have their lives figured out – including my best friend who’s just opened up her own law practice. And here I was whimsically leaving the country at age 27 to travel the world again with no guarantee of anything. I looked up at her, closed my computer and just started to cry. We went outside for some fresh air and she held me in her arms as I tearfully confessed all of my stresses and fears.

“Don’t ever feel like you’re aimless,” she said. “You’re amazing.”

As the days went by I started to feel less scared, but at the same time I wasn’t as excited as I’d assumed I’d be. What was wrong with me? I had a bad case of the pre-travel jitters, of course. This time around the fear felt almost debilitating, though. Eventually, the panic morphed into sadness and then turned into regret.

take risks www.willfulandwildhearted.com

Love you, Jackie.

As I got ready to board my overnight bus to New York City, I mentally prepared for yet another tearful parting. I’d gotten used to getting re-acclimated to life in America, again, however, my boyfriend was waiting for me on the other side of the world. Both of these scenarios were so important to me, and yet, I couldn’t have both.

I spent two days in New York City with my friend who I met on Phish tour in Colorado as well as catching up with a few friends from high school. Unfortunately, despite the delicious pizza and pub crawl my friend took me on, the fear eventually crept back in. I sat in the John F. Kennedy Airport saying my goodbyes, first FaceTiming with my mom, followed by James and finished with a phone call to my dad. I felt numb as to what was going to happen as I boarded. I fell in to a deep sleep and was out most of the flight on my way to my stopover in Stockholm. Once my first of two planes landed, the fear dissipated and turned into the excitement I’d been longing to feel.

take risks www.willfulandwildhearted.com

See that little person in the right hand corner? That’s me! This world is fascinating.

I felt so incredibly happy to see James again and was so eager to start our next adventure together. We had an amazing time in Bangkok meeting new friends, seeing majestic sites and enjoying the delicious local fare. We made our way up to Chiang Mai where we’ve ziplined alongside elusive gibbon monkeys, bathed, fed and played with elephants, watched a “ladyboy” cabaret show, learned to cook some of our favorite Thai dishes, witnessed a Muay Thai fight in person (something I was very excited about) and continue to meet amazing people and make memories together.* I even reunited with a girl I met in Stockholm en route to Bangkok which was great. I love how small this world is. 

*Lest we not forget our horrific food poisoning in Chiang Mai. Let’s add that to the “not so amazing” memories. It happens to the best of us!

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TAKE RISKS?

If I hadn’t boarded that plane, I would have let myself down. While it’s terrifying to take risks without knowing whether the outcome will be good or bad, I think it’s more important to have trust in the universe that everything will work out just as it’s meant to. When I look back and reflect on my life and my decisions, I know that I’m not actually aimless, but rather following a dream I set out for years ago when I moved to Korea. Like many people, I used the country as a stepping stone to something better, and had I not done that, I wouldn’t be where I am or with James at my side on this journey. If I hadn’t ever experienced the worst year of my life, I may not have even been in this position to begin with. Ah, beautiful synchronicity!

We’re all on our own paths, seeking happiness, stability and love. Don’t compete with anyone and don’t compare your experience to anyone else’s. Nobody’s better than anyone else. Remember that any major life transition and transformation will bring anxiety and stress of some kind. Don’t let it deter you from chasing after something that you really want.

The important thing is to keep the eye on the prize, an open mind, a willingness to learn and the courage to dive in head first and enjoy the ride. If you choose to take a plunge and it doesn’t quite work out the way you wanted to, be patient and try to ride it out. If it gets to a point where you’ve got to go home or divert your plan a bit, by all means do what is best for you. Sometimes decisions lead to regrets and sometimes they don’t – embrace it either way. But never, under any circumstances, hold yourself back from taking a chance on something big. You never know, it could change your life.

take risks www.willfulandwildhearted.com

Love this English cup’o tea.

When was the last time you put your faith in the universe?

take risks www.willfulandwildhearted.com

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10 Comments

  1. April 5, 2016 / 12:02 pm

    That is so sweet how supportive your mother is. My mom is starting to come around, but it’s taking forever! This is some solid advice! I am so glad I took the risk of moving to California after college without a job (I figured it out), I am so glad I left my unfulfilling career behind to move to South Korea, and I am happy that I am taking the risk to figure out how to make this life of travel work out. Risk is scary, but taking risks is better than living with regret of chances I didn’t take. Thanks for sharing your take on this!

  2. April 5, 2016 / 2:07 pm

    Wow! You have spoken what I feel totally. I totally feel that we miss 100% of the shots we don’t take – and so it is so important to take risks in life! You have summed it perfectly “Sometimes decisions lead to regrets and sometimes they don’t – embrace it either way. “

    • April 6, 2016 / 2:51 am

      Exactly – it’s all about the balance and understanding that it won’t always work out. But how can we know if it will work out or not if we don’t try. Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

  3. April 5, 2016 / 4:24 pm

    I love this post! I’m planning to move overseas in the next year or two, so this was really a perfect read for me. I know it’s going to be hard, but it’s something I’ve really wanted to do. It’s good for us to get pushed out of our comfort zone. Also, I really love your writing style! Good luck and hope you have a great time!

    • April 6, 2016 / 2:51 am

      Thanks so much! That means a lot as I am an extremely honest person and try to convey that through my writing. Sometimes your mind will play tricks on you and will make you second guess yourself but it’s all worth it – trust me. Let me know if you need any help at any point!

  4. April 6, 2016 / 2:26 pm

    Nice! One of my best friends is from Wellington, so I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences in New Zealand. I definitely want to head there myself someday.
    To me, it seems like nothing in this world is a guarantee. Things could change at any moment, so living is a risk. Why not do something a bit more interesting? Playing it safe is not going to do much for you. My family definitely thinks it’s a bit mad when I drop everything and run off to Europe for a few months, or when I move somewhere without a job or apartment secured, haha,

  5. April 10, 2016 / 9:32 am

    Good for you and your cultivation of personal strength and confidence! Like you, we are often prone to second guessing and pre-flight jitters. Thankfully, we do a pretty good job keeping each other motivated and stress-free about stressful prospects. It’s true though, The Great One said “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take,” and this also applies to taking chances. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. I’d rather fail at something than never try and never know. We’re really happy that you dug deep and have such great support in your life. Keep going and keep posting about your adventure both of travel and in spirit!

  6. April 11, 2016 / 2:19 am

    Goodluck to you, Laura. You’re such a talented writer and nobody will ever think your aimless. Come to think of it, your travels and your passion and talent for writing makes you a great travel writer. A travel book in the future, perhaps?

  7. Chelsea Brady
    April 11, 2016 / 3:03 pm

    I love how authentic and real this post is! It deifnitely pulled on my heartstrings. As I’m currently teaching in Korea, I’m getting reverse anxiety, as I like to call it, about going back home to Canada and being lost. What am I going to do next? What if my friends have moved on and we are just in different places in our lives? I always fear that I’ve changed too much while abroad, and people won’t connect with me anymore. Stupid, right? Of course moving across the world will change us! We should not be afraid of this change. Instead we should celebrate and embrace it. I love how you touched on the destructive behaviour of comparing your life to someone else’s. In today’s global society, with social media being leading elements of socialization, comparisons are inevitable. But, so so so destructive to both our self-esteem and mental health. I hope you are enjoying your new journey, and I am now binge reading your past posts! I really appreciate your honesty! Great read, girl.

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