Month: November 2013

Overcoming the Four Letter Word

Nothing’s certain. Nothing’s perfect. The time is now.

So often before I took the leap of faith and starting traveling around the world solo, I wanted all the stars to align. In my mind, I fancied every aspect of my life lining up in perfect harmony so that it would make sense to quit whatever I was doing and travel. After all, I had what all college graduate Americans had: a decent job, an apartment and a modest budget to purchase the important things, like a night out at the bars to forget about the monotony I signed up for.

I was living in Philadelphia, working a restaurant job and daydreaming, as I cleaned tables, of faraway places, places I would surely never see, especially on a waitress’ salary. When dealing with a difficult customer, I’d imagine taking a zip line through the rainforest somewhere, maybe Costa Rica, or even Hawaii. Hell, I’d take a zip line in my own backyard if it meant a few moments of serenity.

This yearning inside of me was new and in my mind, fairly controversial. . I was afraid and that four-letter word, fear, held me back.  How, as a woman, could I travel the world extensively solo? I would probably get raped, or mugged, or worse, end up back at home, empty-handed, broke and unhappy. These are the scenarios your worst enemies plot out for you. Unfortunately sometimes your worst enemy is your own psyche.

I took to the internet and gained an immeasurable amount of confidence. I discovered Matador Network, a travel writing community and signed up for their courses. This way, I could not only put my journalism degree to use (finally!), but I could gain some valuable insight and resources into how to make a round the world trip possible.

Through my travels, I learned that the power of manifestation is the key driving force behind our life’s biggest ambitions. I yearned to travel. It hurt how bad I wanted it. I saved up and signed up for my first US Passport. I didn’t know where I was going or when, but I was going.

I then emailed a childhood friend who had been traveling alone around the world since high school. I scrolled enviously through her Costa Rica and Thailand pictures. I emailed her asking in my naiveté, “How did you do it? Do you have any advice?”

She told me, and I would subsequently tell people who emailed me asking the same thing after my travels, the only thing holding you back from traveling is you.

A lot of people have the misconception that to travel you have to be rich. This isn’t the case. With resourcefulness and a bit of savings and bravery, you too can make your dream of traveling a reality.

After mustering up confidence, I was ready. Where should I choose first? The world was an awfully big place. I had never traveled internationally besides Canada and Mexico. The scope seemed so large and I was woefully overwhelmed.

Then it dawned on me: I could go anywhere. I didn’t have anyone to tell me “no” except myself. That realization sparked the enormous boost of self-confidence I had needed. My adventurous spirit was alive and well. I no longer had to wait for all the stars to align, because perfect isn’t real.  I manifested the most perfect situation for me to take a leap of faith. I was brave. I was ready.

I decided on one of the farthest places from home I could think of: Australia.

I researched ways to save money while I traversed the land down under. I organized a few home stays and hostels. The rest I would figure out as I went along.

As I was sitting on the long flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and think that I was starting my journey of self-discovery while kicking fear’s ass.

Fear is the most debilitating emotion there is. It puts ideas in your head that you aren’t worthy, that you’re stuck where you are. Fear makes you believe you are less important, weak, scared and futile.

I decided to throw fear out the window and start doing my own thing. I was starting with Australia.

When I arrived on the other side of the world, by myself, backpack on, all I could think as I headed into the warm, February air was “I did it.”

I took a bus to King’s Cross and checked into my hostel. From there, I didn’t immediately fall asleep because I was so wired from the 18 hour plane ride. I took to the streets, camera in hand, and started to get a better idea of what Australia was all about.

A few hours later, I collapsed into bed. The next morning offered a pleasant surprise: befriending other travelers.  A girl from Belgium and I hit it off right away and decided on a day excursion to one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, Bondi Beach.  As we walked along the coast to Coogee Beach, stopping along the way for a dip or a taste of gelato, I was in awe at my “luck.” How did I end up here? I wondered.

A view from the Coastal Walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach
A view from the Coastal Walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach

In front of my eyes were such beautiful sites, so many amazing, kind people. Is THIS what I had been afraid of? Having an amazing time? Meeting people from halfway around the globe who share similar interests as me? It all seemed so silly now. It’s true that nature loves courage.

From Sydney I continued my travels north to Brisbane. I stayed with a lovely young couple, their daughter, and a French exchange couple. In the few weeks I stayed there, I learned about Australian gardening, canoed, went on a day trip to the Gold Coast to watch some of the world’s best surfers and saw the first of many kangaroos.

After my stint in Brisbane, I craved more. I took a flight up north to Cairns. I wanted to see and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. I wanted to be the only person I knew personally to witness one of the Seven Wonders of the World. My thought was, “If not me, then who?”

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

I also wanted to take my bravery a step further and do something I saw people online in the travel writing circle seemed to do with ease: couchsurf.

I wrote a few couchsurfing requests from a hostel in Cairns and was accepted by Nevan, a 20-something world-traveler and aspiring skydiving instructor. He took me in for 10 days it was one of the safest, most sincere encounters of my life.

While staying with Nevan, we cooked, went to the beach and explored the rainforest village of Kuranda together. I had the freedom to come and go as I pleased and was during the time I was able to have one of the best days of my life snorkeling with sharks and various precious sea species in the Great Barrier Reef. 

Through couchsurfing with Nevan, I met Linnea, a fellow German traveler. She and I became quite close in the short time we had together and she even joined me on a rainforest tour in Cape Tribulation. The day ended in a giant rainstorm where we played in the rain and jumped in puddles. It was the quintessential carefree moment. I loved the way Linnea was always humbled and pleased by life’s “real” moments by exclaiming, “This is life!” or “This is really living!” It’s not every day you hear that.

Nevan, Linnea and I at Kuranda
Nevan, Linnea and I at Kuranda

When I finally left Australia a month later, I already felt like a seasoned traveler. Nevan told me to bring one thing back to America with me – a message to other fellow travelers. He told me to be an ambassador of international travel to my friends, family and anyone who will listen. He said:

“For so long, the world has been looking at America. Now it’s time for America to look at the world.”

The Gold Coast, Australia
The Gold Coast, Australia

Since my trip to Australia, my wanderlust became insatiable. I traveled all over the U.S., lived in Hawaii for a year and visited Thailand. By overcoming my fears, I discovered my life’s passion. Following your bliss and overcoming fear can produce some amazing memories and ah-ha moments. Fear is one four-letter word I won’t let hold me back. I’d only be restricting myself from the uncertainty and beauty this world has to offer.  And now, I know better.