Exactly one year ago today, I was stuffing the suitcase that would become the closest thing I had to a home for the next ten months. I was getting ready to head to the airport, to say goodbye to my family and to this country and to travel as long as my savings would hold out.
Instead, I was a bundle of nerves and worry. My worry greatly outweighed my excitement for what I was doing.
I knew deep down I was doing the right thing, but a pesky voice in my head was full of questions and worries and doubts that made it impossible for me to think about how fun and exciting and fulfilling this adventure would be.
Was it stupid to quit such a good job to go have fun around the world?
Did I ruin my career?
What if I can’t find another job when I get back?
What if I run out of money?
How will I make money when I get back?
What if something scary happens to me on the road?
What if I get lonely?
What if I get homesick?
What will I miss out on being away from home for so long?
Will my friends remember me when I get back?
What will people think of me – my parents, my friends, potential future employers – quitting my job just so I can galavant around the world?
And the biggest worry I had was, what if I don’t get everything I want to get out of this trip?
Stories and comments on the Internet and conversations with people I meet tell me that there are many, many people out there who would love to put their career lives on hold for a period of time to travel the world. But they tell themselves they could never do it, there are too many obstacles.
There are real obstacles to traveling, of course. You do have to save some money. But I think most people would be surprised at how cheaply you can travel and how easy it actually is to save money once you decide to do it. But that is a story for another day.
The biggest hurdle to taking that trip you’ve always dreamed about is that pesky voice in your head that tells you it’s not possible. The voice that comes up with questions and worries and doubts that make you think you could never do it.
This is what I would tell the me of one year ago and all of you would-be-world-travelers who have the same voice telling you you can’t do it:
Just ignore that voice.
Admittedly, it’s really simple to say, “just ignore it!” and it’s quite another thing to actually do it. But think of that voice as your enemy. That voice is a naysayer and isn’t looking out for your best interest. It’s telling you what you can’t do, not what you can. It is trying to inhibit your ambition, oppose your dreams, stifle your capability, smother your aspirations. Why would you want such a negative voice making such important life decisions for you?
The minute I arrived in Beijing, the disagreeable voice was silenced for good. I had different worries, of course, like “What is the exchange rate again? Did that cab driver just rip me off?” and “How do I figure out which of these Chinese characters translate to the subway stop I want to get off on?” Worries specific to traveling that turn into learning experiences and contribute to the knowledge and wisdom you gain while traveling.
Once I was actually out there in the world, seeing things, meeting people, having new experiences, doing things I’d always wanted to do, not one of the questions or worries or doubts that I had before I left seemed to matter one bit.
Even now that I am back in the States and having to face the real world again, I have gained such a different perspective on my life and what I want out of it, that my worries from a year ago are no longer relevant. Traveling has given me confidence and security, understanding and awareness, insight and enlightenment. It has given me a feeling that I can do anything in the world I want, be it something new or exactly what I was doing before.
Traveling has given me something I never would have gotten had I listened to that pesky voice of negativity.
You will never, ever regret ignoring that voice. If you listen to it, you will most definitely always wonder what you could have done and been if you only didn’t listen.