It’s February 13, 2010, middle of the night. 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. I’m surrounded by a few seemingly equally desperate people and with my 19 years and no travel experience I’m not even consídering to talk to anyone.
At that moment, the only things on my mind were my phone and my many useless attempts to connect to home: the place I had just left for my first very exciting 6-month adventure in South America. I was just me and my backpack. And my diary. And no excitement, just fear. 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 the second flight from Madrid to Quito (Ecuador), I was just thoughtlessly staring at our flight route on the screen attached to the chair in front of me. Until 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?!
After a second of panic and a deep breath, I 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. Be unable to talk to ANYONE’. This didn’t exactly strike me as ideal, but also not as super life threatening, so I just smiled, sat back, relaxed and waited. From then on I did what’s the best thing to do in situations like these:
– Keep calm (I AM CALM!!) and go with the flow, people! –
Don’t stop reading and cancel your flight now please!! To summarize: Yes, I still remember being that 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.
Because it took me to places I could never even dream of. It helped me grow in many ways. 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 existing on this planet.
I can’t even imagine what would’ve happened if I would’ve turned around that night in Madrid. 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 would never have seen all the beautiful places I’ve seen. I wouldn’t be writing this story in Shanghai and I also wouldn’t be planning my next trips to Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan or anywhere else right now.
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 (want-to-be-) travelers to go and explore the world! There are many many many reasons why you should go on an(other) adventure. Whatever your destination, goal, budget and travel style: there’s a perfect way out there for you.
Read my post ‘Why Everyone Should Travel‘ to find out about those reasons and get inspired!
— 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!