You’ve got your bags packed, passport in hand, last farewell text to the parents sent and you’re about to board a plane that will whisk you away on your first great voyage to the exotic and unknown. This is different from that family vacation to Yellowstone or the time you and the girls went to Cancun for spring break. You know this will be an adventure of epic proportions; a story you will tell your grand kids. Maybe you’ve been inspired to follow in the footsteps of your favorite literary characters. Perhaps you’re in search of the perfect wave. Whatever your reason for traveling, this will be a time of first experiences, new beginnings and lessons learned. In fact, there are five realizations that every new traveler experiences during their first big adventure.
1. You’ll realize how small your world really is.
No sooner than stepping off the plane, you’ll experience a sensory overload. The taxi or bus ride to your first stop after leaving the airport will inevitably involve your face plastered to the window, reveling in the newness of everything – the cars, the buildings, the billboards advertising products you don’t recognize – and you’re still in the industrial outskirts of town. Suddenly the details of your familiar surroundings back home – the music you listen to, the sports teams you follow, the brands you wear – they’ll start to fade away as you find yourself being swallowed up by this new culture. It’s a whole new and exciting world, and you want to relish every part of it.
2. You’ll find out how resourceful you can be.
At some point on your first adventure you’ll be forced to rely on your street smarts, your negotiation skills, your innate sense of navigation or even your ability to sweet-talk. The moment might come in the form of a lost passport, a stolen wallet, a missing reservation at your fully-booked hostel, lost luggage or catching the wrong train to nowhere – but you know you’ll be alright. You’ll see the experience as part of the journey; a test of your skills as a traveler; a story to tell your friends.
3. You’ll develop a new appreciation for simplicity.
It’ll happen when you’re sprawled on the sand under a palm tree and your most complex thought is when to start heading back so that you can get a killer view of the sunset before dinner. Maybe you’ve been wandering up and down the narrow, winding streets of a medieval town and you’ve got no idea where you’ve been, where you’ve ended up or how to get back to your starting point, but you find your way into an inviting little corner pub and all of the sudden that plate of fries and pint of cider are the most important things in your life. You haven’t looked at a clock in days. Who needs schedules? Suddenly you’ve become this messy-haired, care-free version of yourself – and you like it.
4. You’ll find there’s no place like home.
Give the new-and-improved you some time and you’ll be surprised to find yourself craving some of the old, familiar comforts of home. Suddenly you’d give anything to wrestle with your dog, eat at your favorite burrito place or hug your parents. Your heart will ache for the familiarity of the people and places you know and love. Travelling abroad is one of the greatest decisions a person can make, but there’s nothing like an adventure far away from home to make you appreciate what you’ve always had, and that’s a beautiful thing.
5. Life as you know it will never be the same.
Once you get settled in back home, you’ll notice yourself doing things a little differently. Maybe you’ll start riding your bike to the grocery store or find yourself watching foreign films on Netflix while feasting on French cheese and a fresh-baked baguette. You’ll begin to dance to a different rhythm than everyone else because it’s the only way that makes sense to you anymore. One day your heart starts calling out to those far-away sights, sounds and smells you left behind – those dazzling city lights, the humidity of a rainforest after a downpour, the heavenly smell of greasy food at the street market, the orchestra of monkeys, birds and other wild things outside your window at night, lulling you to sleep – life as you know it has forever changed, and the explanation is simple: you’ve left a little piece of your heart behind that you’ll never get back. Your newfound sense of freedom will have you scouring the internet for the best deals on flights in search of the last undiscovered paradise, challenging the old version of yourself with new interests, pastimes, foods and ways of understanding the world around you. It’s not a matter of if you’ll set out on another adventure, but when.
Congrats, my friend, you are a true citizen of the world.