I can’t exactly remember when I got the bug, but sometime in my late teens/super-early twenties, I felt my first rush. You know the one you get when you realize how magical the world outside of your little bubble can be. The one you feel when you have an amazing meal surrounded by people you love in a place that you never dreamed existed. The one you experience when you do something crazy, that’s completely out of your element, and learn a little bit more about yourself in the process.
I hope you know that rush, because it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
When I graduated high school, a few friends and I decided to take a trip to Florida. It was my first time traveling anywhere significant without my parents. It was the summer before I was going away to college, and it made me confident that I could do ANYTHING.
When I went to Italy the first time, I was 19. I rode the canals of Venice, got pooped on by a pigeon in Florence, went to a “disco” in Sorrento and used horrible Italian to ask how much a bracelet cost a street vendor in Naples. Again, I felt like I could rule the world.
A few years later in Barcelona, I climbed the Sagrada Familia, watched a futbol game in a bar, and ate the best paella of my life while pretending I lived in the city. Again, I felt invincible.
After college, I went to Ireland. I rediscovered the magic of music, found my happiness in the mountains and shared an amazing few weeks making memories with friends. I came back refreshed and excited and ready to take on graduate school full force.
Two years ago in Costa Rica, I rode a horse up a mountain and zip-lined down, went white water rafting, spent an afternoon kayaking, danced the night away during a stopover in Nicaragua, and truly lived the Pura Vida motto to its fullest. I felt like the world was in the palm of my hands.
I obviously can not do any- and every-thing since I still haven’t been able to lick my elbow or do a back handspring, but when you travel, you tend to gain confidence in yourself. I think that might be why I love it so much. I’m going to be pretty candid right now. My everyday life tends to be full of events that chip away at my confidence. In my career and relationships, I find myself constantly questioning if I’m good enough. And wondering how I could be better. I’m sure many people feel the same. The world has a shitty way of knocking you down over and over again. But when you have to truly fend for yourself and make decisions and stick with them, you learn that you ARE.
Good enough, that is.
Traveling gives you those opportunities. You can hike that mountain that seemed too strenuous or ride that rollercoaster that scares you senseless or go rafting on those rapids that you’re sure you’ll break your neck on. And you’ll survive. And when you share those experiences with other people, it really only makes you stronger. Now you have stories to share. You’ve gone through life events together. And, more often than not, you’re devastated to leave those things behind for the “real world.”
I think that’s the true test of a good traveling experience. If you’re sad to go home, it’s been a success. As I write this right now, I’m sitting on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, two days away from boarding a plane home, not looking forward to it at all.
This summer, I urge you to book that hotel, take that flight and do that thing you’ve been meaning to but haven’t had the chance to. Try and not worry about the money you’ll spend and look at it as an investment to better you as a person.
I can pretty much guarantee that you will win too.