Some of my friends and family already know this, but I had held back on posting a big announcement until I had more details, more of a solidified plan, and more reassurance that this is something I can, in fact, embark upon.
Since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of exploring, of embarking on adventures, of encountering experiences that would make the most of my one chance at life. If life is a cup, I intend to fill it right up to the brim. My biggest fear is regret, and I have no intention of putting off something for reasons that can easily be overcome. I don’t want to lie on my deathbed in 70 years and wish I had done something that I avoided or put off when I was younger.
I graduated college last year, and in the anticipation-filled months leading up to graduation, I was overcome with the burning desire to finally make my dreams reality. I planned a backpacking itinerary throughout Europe, which had to wait for this year since September 2011 didn’t work out. But then I decided that, instead of scraping my money together and taking off for Europe this fall, I wanted to wait a bit longer and do more.
Therefore, I am excited to announce that in January, I will take off for Australia, as the first stop in a long-term world exploration trip.
I plan to work “down under” in Australia’s government-run holiday work visa program for a few months, then move on through New Zealand and some South Pacific Islands, up through Asia, and (hopefully) over through Europe. I have a friend in Japan who has insisted I stay with her “for at least a month” (if she insists!), and I of course always have a place to stay in the Netherlands.
I’ve wanted to do this for years. I’ve dreamed up itineraries, planned trips I knew I couldn’t take yet, devoured guidebooks and travel writers’ blogs, and watched Rick Steves and the Travel Channel until my eyes bulged. I am now working two jobs and have two on-the-side home jobs that generate income, and I have set up a modest budget that includes downsizing some of my biggest habits (Starbucks, you were a dear friend but we must separate for now) so I can save as much money as possible by January. And I have spent a nauseating amount of hours reading, researching, and planning to make sure this can work.
At this green age of 23, I think it is essential to take time off and explore. Traveling is the quickest and most wholesome way to learn what life is all about – by encountering different cultures, meeting new people, seeing the planet’s most incredible nooks and crannies. It makes you a better person, knocks down your stereotypes and prejudices, opens your mind, and kicks you in the ass to make you grow up a little bit more. You come away wiser, more experienced, and perhaps even more patient a person than you were before.
I think it is the greatest gift you can give yourself. I want to give myself that gift – and I want to bring it to my future, in the job I have and the man I marry and the children I raise. Not to mention that experience is the only non-optional prerequisite to becoming a writer. Without it, you are nothing.
So off I go into the great unknown – excited and terrified and filled with anticipation. I’m sure I’ll be experiencing every emotion over the next 6 months as I prepare for my giant leap, but I’m prepared for moments of doubt. What I don’t doubt though, is that this is the best decision for myself and my life right now. My 90-year-old self will thank me.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. – Lao Tzu