It’s midnight on February 13, 2010. I find myself standing at a Wi-Fi point, trying to fight back my tears, hopelessly trying to get ahold of just one tiny piece of that world wide web. ‘World wide’ doesn’t seem to include Madrid Airport. Fear and misery ruled my world.
At that moment, the only things on my mind were my phone and my useless attempts to connect to home: the place I had just left for my first very exciting 6-month adventure in South America.
It was just me and my backpack.
No excitement, just fear. Oh, and my diary. So, as soon as I realized the chances for any connection were zero, I sought refuge in my precious little book and wrote:
‘Being alone and away from home, is way harder than expected. I just want to cry. My flight is delayed for 4 hours. This place is too big and too Spanish for me.’
But somehow somewhere after this transfer something changed. On my second flight from Madrid to Quito (Ecuador), I was just thoughtlessly staring at our flight route, when it suddenly dawned on me that we were not heading towards Quito. Just to double check I took out my Lonely Planet, which showed me the same: Quito was clearly not that far south.
Was I flying to the wrong city?!
Overcome your fear
After a second of panic and a deep breath, I finally regained my composure. I asked myself the magic question ‘What’s really the worst thing that can happen?’ and answered myself with ‘I’ll land in another city. I’m going to have to cancel the 2 weeks of language school that I booked and find another hostel. I will be lost. And unable to talk to ANYONE’.
This didn’t exactly strike me as ideal, but also not as life-threatening, so I smiled, sat back, relaxed and waited. My fear faded, just like that. From then on I did the only sane thing you can do in situations like these:
Keep calm and go with the flow.
Don’t stop reading to cancel your flight now please! To summarize: Yes, I still remember being that fearful, scared to death 19-year old at Madrid Airport very vividly, regretting ever leaving home and not knowing what got me into that situation in the first place.
But.. now I know, I understand completely and I’ll be grateful forever that I took that very first step of many.
Go for it
It took me to places I could never even dream of, it helped me grow in many ways, and it gave me countless precious memories. I met the most inspiring people, some of whom became my good friends. It gave me more self-confidence. Beautiful pictures and stories. Over and over it filled me with gratitude, laughter, courage.
I’ve felt like I reached the end of the world a few times and I’ve been deeply impressed by the places on our planet.
I can’t even imagine what would’ve happened if I would’ve turned around that night in Madrid. Definitely I would never have gone to live in China. I would never have met all the people I met along the way (like my current boyfriend). I wouldn’t be writing this story in Shanghai and I also wouldn’t be planning my next trips to Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan right now.
Also, I wouldn’t have been the person I am today!
You know.. It’s completely normal to be scared, and it’s OK to have doubts. But just remember: The things we fear often turn out to be the things we have to do most.
So what’s next?
As many travelers I experienced the fears, doubts and difficulties of taking a trip first-hand. I also experienced all the wonderful things it will bring you. That’s why I hope to encourage as many travelers to go and explore the world! There are many reasons why you should go on an adventure. Whatever your destination, goal, budget and travel style: there’s a perfect way out there for you.
The world is waiting!
* Wondering if I really landed in the wrong place? I did. We landed in Guayaquil. Luckily the same country, but the ‘wrong’ city. Turned out it was just another transfer. My ability to speak zero Spanish made it a huge-ass challenge to find out, too!