Lessons Learned · Travel

An open letter to myself 

Dear Alex,

The big adventure is only ONE WEEK AWAY!!! It’s amazing how fast the time has flown since you first contemplated long-term travel. Up until this point, the thought of doing something drastically off the beaten path felt really far-fetched and unattainable; I guess you could have called it a dream. But now here you are, with your 45L bag packed, ready to travel to a different continent, alone, with no defined plan.

It’d be an understatement to say you feel scatterbrained and so apologies in advance if this letter is all over the place. You are feeling so many emotions right now but the most predominant one is fear – fearful of what will happen in the next 3 months or possibly worse, what will not happen. You first set out on this journey with the intention to dig a bit deeper into yourself and to discover your purpose in life. Although you are desperately hoping to have some earth-shattering epiphany abroad about what you ought to do with the rest of your life, I want you to be realistic. Most likely, you are not going to wake up one day and have a light bulb hanging above your head, and that’s okay! You are so young and have your whole life in front of you.

Alex, I challenge you to not search so hard for those picturesque moments you crave and to instead, embrace the present moment. Focus on the beautiful landscape, the people, the incredible food, the small victories. Focus on your thoughts and the sensations in your body. Notice when you become filled with joy, relish in it and then write about it. Equally as important is to notice when you are unhappy – don’t try to distract yourself or run from it, but just sit with the emotion and then try to understand why you feel that way.

You are about to embark on a once in a lifetime journey. Don’t forget to appreciate this opportunity – be grateful for the fact that you were able to quit your job to travel, that you have the financial means to fund this trip, and that you have the endless support from family and friends and a loving boyfriend who all want the best for you. Keep in mind, that a majority of the population do not get opportunities like this one and if they do, they don’t always take them. You are a fortune lady so do not take that for granted.

You know that this is not going to be easy. In fact, you’ve probably over prepared for the challenges you might face. In reality, no amount of preparation will bring you face to face with the fact that you are going to be pushed outside of your comfort zone like never before. I can tell you now with certainty that there are going to be times where you’re going to have to shit in a dirt hole with no toilet paper, you are going to sit on a hot, cramped bus for 20+ hours , and you’re going to have to try to barter with locals in a language you don’t speak…the list goes on. All of these challenges will push you to be more cultured, independent and tough. Try not to get aggravated or discouraged and harp about how hard traveling is. Always keep your long-term goals in mind and think about how, for example, communicating and reasoning with someone in a language that’s not your own, will help you communicate with people down the line.

Please keep an open mind over the next 3 months, especially when it comes to meeting other travelers. Don’t jump to conclusions – remember that everyone has a story to tell. Like you, many people who embark on quests like these are striving for something bigger and are probably searching for something within themselves that they couldn’t find in their life back home. You are going to meet incredible people from all over the world who will further inspire you to choose happiness and to pursue a life that is intentional and meaningful. Be a good listener and don’t rush people. Which leads me to my next point…

Remember that you have all the time in the world. This will be the first time in your life in which you will have no prior obligations, to-do lists, deadlines or responsibilities. Enjoy this time to just explore! Don’t feel the need to pack your days full with activities. You won’t get this time back so take full advantage because before you know it, you’ll rejoin the “real world” and be faced with all the stress that accompanies modern-day life in America.

Instead of letting fear consume you, think about everything you are excited for: the new and delectable food you’ll get to savor, all of the new friends you’ll make that come from all over the world, the beautiful culture you’ll get to immerse yourself in, the bonds you’ll form with the locals, the crazy cool activities you’ll get to do, all of the rich history you’ll learn. There is so much to be excited for! I know it can be easy to fall into a negative mindset sometimes, especially when things are not always going your way. But if you practice optimism, I promise everything will turn out fine!

You are such a badass, Alex. How many people do you know that have done something like this (and your virtual travel blogger friends don’t count)! Remember that people are rooting for you; they are on your team! Of course it’s going to be scary as hell but no one ever did anything amazing by just remaining in their comfort zone. This trip has the power to change your life; you know that already but you truly need to believe it.

As this letter comes to a close, I want you to remember these three important things.

1. Breathe

2. Be present in the moment

3. Practice gratitude (and always always always say thank you)

Now, go travel the world, you awesome, brave, adventurous lady. YOU CAN DO THIS.

Love,

Alex

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