My decision to travel didn’t stem from some existential crisis, nor was it a ticket to escape. It wasn’t until later that I realized that no matter why you embark, the “I’m traveling to find myself” spiel is a cliche for a reason. So here’s what I learned about life and myself:
1. Stop micromanaging. You’ve got three tests, a draft, and a midterm due next week, not to mention babysitting and work study. By all means crack out your Lily Pulitzer agenda and scribble away. But don’t forget that life happens. And when it does, it’s more beautiful than anything you could have planned. Instead of buying a Starbucks protein box for lunch on the way to work, make something from home and eat in the park. You’ll never know what might happen when you let life take its course.
2. Stop giving a shit. In five years, or even a year from now, is it really going to matter if you have that Berkin you’re dying for? (Okay, it’s a Berkin so it probably will), but what the “cool kids”/anybody not in your immediate circle of besties thinks doesn’t. You ate shit on the way to class? Who gives a shit. You had to sing the banana song twenty times a day? Who gives a shit. If you’re happy, having fun, or doing something meaningful, nothing else matters. I learned early on in my travels that “I don’t want to do this ‘cos it doesn’t seem cool” is the stupidest thing you could say. Stupider than “you’re Japanese?! That’s so cool! What language do you speak?”
3. Lost love is better than never loving at all. Pretty self-explanatory. I fell in love twenty times over while abroad. With places, cultures, adventures, friends, and people. Being away from it all feels as though I’m wandering. There are a million songs on heartbreak for a reason, and there’s nothing I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. But my daydreams and memories remind me that I was a part of something extraordinary that most people don’t have the privilege to experience.
4. Different eyes, different judgement. How we see people and judge people is different depending on what our needs are. If you’re looking for a relationship, every guy is going to be a potential target. If you’re looking for a job, every person is a potential employer. While I was in Sri Lanka, I was a meal ticket, a person from privilege: a ticket out. In Koh Phi Phi I was a partier, a potential target. In Chiang Rai I was an authority figure. None of those perspectives are wrong, just different world views and privileges.
5. You may not make the conventionally right decision, but it’ll be the right decision for you. At twenty-something (or thirty-something for that matter), we aren’t supposed to have life figured out. Not all of our choices are going to be impeccable. We do what we need to do to be happy, and that’s the end of it. Two days ago, I made a decision that is going to impact me for the rest of my life. I made and executed said decision in a matter of two hours. It’s what I felt was best for me in this moment and I went for it and see where it takes me (no I’m not going to say yolo now).