What Travel has Taught Me – Lesson 1: Relax

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With every mile I’ve travelled, I’ve learned something new. Traveling teaches you so many things about the world and the people who inhabit it. But apart from that, traveling teaches you about yourself. You grow as a person and never return exactly the same.

The thought of traveling or moving abroad can be super scary, so I’m here to tell you that, out of all of things traveling has taught me, the biggest thing I can say to anyone is to just relax.

I have a friend who is temporarily moving to Shanghai for work,  and it has finally hit her that she’ll be living in China for the next two months. Messaging her has reminded me of how I felt before my first big international trip.

First and foremost, I was excited. It was a couple weeks before my 21st birthday and I was finally getting to study abroad in France, something I had dreamed about since I was a kid. But I was stressed. I had so much I had to pack, a long checklist of things I needed to take care of before leaving, a list of people I needed to see before I left, all while balancing my normal everyday life and responsibilities. I was nervous I wouldn’t get it all done.

Then I got emotional – and with plenty of reason. The week before I left, my grandfather suddenly passed away. Then, my boyfriend of two years decided it would be a good time to break up. Plus, I had a two day retreat I had to run for the student organization I was President of. And I still wasn’t packed!

It felt like a nightmare.

For a second, I actually considered cancelling my travel plans. I thought that I needed my friends and family more than anything at that time and I was overwhelmed. Staying home didn’t seem like a bad idea for my sanity.

What I didn’t know then was that taking that trip at that specific time in my life was actually the best thing I could have done for my sanity. I changed on that trip. I learned that when everything around you seems like it’s crashing down on top of you, it’s not the end of the world. Nothing ever is. I didn’t need to be in control of everything. Things will never play out perfectly, and when that inevitability occurs, you just have to take a deep breath and relax. Nothing is ever as bad or as scary as it seems.

Since that trip, I’ve travelled quite a bit. With each new country I travel to, I realize that there’s no reason to be nervous, stressed, or afraid. You don’t have to be fluent in the local language or have a strict itinerary planned before your trip. You don’t have to pack everything you can think of (because you probably won’t use half of it anyway), and you don’t have to spend all your money on accommodation and tours.

Pack light but efficient. Book your flight and accommodation.  Exchange a little bit of local currency. Notify your banks. Breathe easy, be flexible, and go.

It’s important to realize that while it seems like everything changes, living a few days, weeks, months, or years somewhere else is not all that different. You’re still a human being alive in a community of other humans who are also just being alive. The culture will be different, but it won’t be so different that you can’t function. Things might not go exactly as planned, but everything works out in the end. Don’t let stress or fear control your trip, and definitely don’t let it ruin your trip.  You simply just have to be. That’s it. So relax and enjoy!


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