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