Now that my few months of world traveling are over (for the moment), and I’m back and settled into a routine, I’m able to look at all my experiences with more appreciation.
My memories aren’t colored by the embarrassment that was there for the first few weeks, where I actually blushed with shame every time I had to tell someone new that I came home earlier than planned. The stress of being IN the situation is gone too, and I’m not worried about nailing that meeting tomorrow or getting in touch with a hard-to-reach secretary. Finally, I can take a first look at so many things I got to do, and realize just how lucky I was, and how much I actually needed to do that. **Let’s be honest, I’m 22 and have, on the life experience scale, basically a zero. I did say first look!
If now I were to hop on a plane and land in a country where I didn’t know a single person, that doesn’t make me nervous. I know how to handle it, and I’ve done just that a few times. The morning I landed in Belgium, I was petrified and trembling and numb. I’m actually surprised I didn’t break down in tears. It was the first time in my life I had felt completely isolated from every person I knew, and had to maneuver through customs and filing a claim for lost luggage and finding a phone to use to let the company know I had arrived. I remember waiting for Herman to pick me up, standing outside the airport, and fighting not to vomit or run. Run where, I don’t know. I felt like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I was so, so wrong.
I will never forget, about a week before I left to come home, spending a day visiting with potential clients in Manila. I was by myself for the entire day, haggling with taxi-drivers and making phone calls in-between meetings; answering work emails while I ate lunch at a restaurant alone. I was running to Starbucks (hello globalization) and it struck me that I would not have wanted to do this four months ago. I had a new confidence that did not get on the plane with me in Atlanta, but that I had found, in bits and pieces, through Belgium, Malaysia, and the Philippines. I left a week later, but I took that confidence with me.
The timing of my realization and departure make me think that that was exactly what I needed to gain from the whole experience, and I certainly fought for it! No sooner than I seized my inner independence and let go of my need to plan my life, I was thrown back into America, where both of these new-found attributions were put to the test! It took me traveling half-way around the world, but I found my confidence–some in a small office in Lommel, Belgium, pieces on the streets of Manila, and a large chunk in Kuala Lumpur–and I do NOT plan on losing it again.