It’s been a year since I left home. A year since I sat at the airport, anxiously waiting for my flight to New Zealand, wondering what I was getting myself into. With only a backpack, a camera, a laptop, and a few sets of clothes, I left behind my world of familiarity for the unknown. I was going alone, to a country I had never been to before, without any prior work lined up. I knew no one there. I wasn’t even sure how long I would be gone as I had only bought a one-way ticket. The thought of sustaining myself outside the comforts of the US and living abroad both excited me and filled my stomach with butterflies. But just as the old Dutch saying goes, leaving and getting yourself out the door really is the hardest part of the journey. Once that was out of the way, I realized that I could feel right at home on the road.
And now, one year later, I’ve been all over New Zealand, spent a summer in Europe, and now going on with another working holiday in Australia! It’s been an amazing year. A big thanks to my friends and family who supported my decision to travel and of course to the people I’ve met along the way that made it incredible. I look back at myself a year ago and see a different person. If I could leave a bit of advice for other dreamers, soon-to-be travelers and working holiday makers, here are five things I learned once I started travelling:
You Will Make Friends
Being able to find new friends was one of the biggest concerns I had before I started my trip and now that I think about it, it really should have been the least of my worries. Although I started my trip alone, I soon discovered that no matter where you go there will always be other travelers in the same situation as you looking for a friend. So don’t worry. You will make friends. Even better, they’ll be from all over the world! I still stay in touch with many of the friends I’ve made overseas. Having shared travel experience really creates close bonds. Some may only be a friend for a day, others a few weeks, and then there’s the few that last a lifetime.
The Best Itinerary Is Not Having One
I had a planned itinerary for my first few weeks of my travels, but I found that it’s really better not to have one. It’s one thing to have a goal or something in mind for what you want to see and do, but when and how you do it will always be changing. You’ll meet new friends, you’ll discover a place you’ll love, and you’ll want to stay longer. That’s exactly what happened to me after my second week in New Zealand when I arrived in the Bay of Islands. I originally only wanted to stay four days. Unfortunately I had already booked myself a flight to the South Island, but after a short time I came back for the summer and stayed for three months. You just never know what might come up. Besides planning every little detail of a trip becomes super tiring very quickly (for me at least).
Learn to Love Spontaneity
Changing of plans is pretty inevitable when you travel (especially long-term), so just learn to embrace it. That and with a little spontaneity sprinkled in really makes life more interesting. When I first arrived in Australia I had no idea what I was going to do first. A few days later I’m on a road trip going up the East Coast with some people I met in Sydney and afterwards somehow ended up on a cross-country trip through the Outback! The possibilities are endless if you allow them to happen. Of course it’s always good to have goals and ideas on the things you really want see and do, but flexibility is key for those sudden opportunities. Some of my favorite memories while travelling were the unplanned and spontaneous days.
Put Aside Expectations
Not every day on the road will be the way you envision it to be. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days. Sometimes there will be things out of your control. Bad weather. A canceled sailing trip. Missing a train connection. A famous landmark closed due to renovation. Things won’t always go according to schedule and having a lot of expectations really will just mean more stress and unhappiness when things don’t go right. Just enjoy each day for what it is and learn to appreciate the misadventures (sometimes they make for good stories!).
You’ll Be Surprised at What You’re Capable Of
When you travel, oftentimes you’re pushed to breach your comfort zone. You have to learn and adapt to new cultures and find ways to communicate with language barriers. You might even get yourself out of getting lost while finding your way around a new place. Unless you don’t want to make friends, you’re forced to interact and introduce yourself to strangers. You become more social. You find it easier to embrace change and the unknown. You become less afraid of things you might have been afraid of before. You become more independent. You might even learn a new language! Most of all, you become more confident with yourself and you’ll discover you’re capable of. It’s amazing how transformative traveling can make a person.