Whoever said time changes everything was wrong. It’s not time, it’s experience. Experience changes everything. It just so happens that more commonly than not, more experience happens over a longer period of time. Yet that is not always the case. Sometimes we may feel like a whole lifetime has passed in a short amount of time because of the experiences we encounter.
That’s what happened when I spent five months studying abroad in South Africa. I took the biggest leap of my life and went away to another country alone. Sure I had the support of my study abroad program to help me adjust but either way I was taking the journey alone. The excitement embraced me every second leading up to my departure and every second while I was there. I left everything behind in order to see this new world. Before leaving I feared that everything I knew back home would be different when I came back and that it would never go back to being the same. But I took that jump anyways and what I ended up finding proved to be worth the risk. I found myself. Throughout all the adventurous activities, climbing emotional, mental and physical mountains, conversations with random strangers, forming friendships, bonding moments, facing fears, literally jumping into the unknown, and so much more, every layer of who I thought I was began to strip away and I became who I am supposed to be. Everything I was experiencing felt like a hunger I was finally satisfying. Every experience was a catalyst that made me crave more. I felt joy in a way I never had before. For the first time, I experienced real tears of joy. I felt lots of passion and thrill. But most importantly, I felt alive. On top of that I learned much more in these past few months than I could say I have learned in most of my school years. I am not saying I did not learn in school the past few years, what I am saying is that I learned so much MORE when I chose to travel. The world is our biggest classroom. We tend to forget that. But by studying abroad, I was finally able to attend class and that made all the difference.
To be honest everything that happened to me in South Africa, whether it seemed like it was a good or bad thing, all of it was the glue that put me together. It mended all my broken pieces and made me feel whole. In all honesty, coming back I felt an unshaken fear of falling apart. Being away from the place and the people that were part of the glue that finally solidified who I was meant to be truly scared me. But I know that fear didn’t have to be true if I reminded myself that every part of the travel, even coming home, was necessary for my growth. Being back, I could feel the change within me which I may have not been able to see if I stayed in South Africa.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,
“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
I’m at a point right now where I’ve chosen to look back on my experience in South Africa to see how far I’ve come, to cherish the memories I made, to be grateful for the people that I met and to use what I learned in order to guide me forward. I have made a plan to make the whole world and the people on it my home. I no longer will fear goodbyes because I will make see you laters possible. I promise myself I will never stop traveling. This trip has taught me the importance of that.
Travel will teach you many things. So do yourself a favor and travel. Be open and get ready to learn. Not only about the place you visit but also the people you meet, the history you can feel, and the beauty you can see. You should travel to learn about yourself. More importantly, travel so that you know what it is like to feel alive; to experience life through your senses, your surroundings, your emotions, and your heart. Because when you travel with true intentions of embracing the world, the world will teach you what you need to know, it will give you what you need, and make your life worth living. You will become grateful for it. You will never again want to waste your days away. You will know that every day, every moment is intended to be meaningful and beautiful. This is your life so don’t be afraid to start living it your way.
I could spend a lot of effort trying to explain to you the beauty of what I had experienced in South Africa but I won’t. It’s beyond words. Every person who has traveled will most likely tell you that. Genuine wanderlust is not an aim to travel for the story but for the experience. Therefore go out there and travel my friend. Experience it yourself. That’s all I can tell you, the rest you’ll learn on your own.
“Buy the ticket, take the ride.” – Hunter S. Thompson