I am not a professional adventurer. In fact, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a typical adventurer at all. I’m a self-professed careful girl – I like plans, structure, and routine. I like drinking the same type of tea every morning, chatting with the same colleagues, eating at the same restaurants, and keeping the same hairstyle I’ve had since basically, well, birth.
I’ve never been drunk, I never missed a class in school, and I didn’t kiss a boy until I was 22. In fact, I consider myself to be pretty wild when I embrace the spirit of mobile working and sit in a different cubicle every once in a while. Change doesn’t excite me; rather, it makes me think about the many things I need to plan and prepare for in anticipation of that change – and it’s exhausting.
But in spite of my love for predictability and the inherent security I feel when things are in order, I love experiences and adventure and exploration much, much more than staying in my comfort zone.
The memories that I cherish most aren’t of my routine day-to-day city living, white-collar working life. My memories are of heavy backpacks, wrinkled maps, sore feet, and kind strangers. My memories are of swimming with friendly sea turtles, walking through the ruins of ancient history, marveling at the palaces of past emperors and kings, and sifting my feet through hot desert sand.
The pages of my journals aren’t filled with what I ate that day, but they’re filled with hasty scribbles during bumpy train rides, thoughtful reflections during flight delays, and physical memories of entrance tickets, autumn leaves, and boarding passes.
So. How does a careful girl explore the world? 3 tips:
1. Evaluate the risks and say yes to opportunities: When your school offers an international exchange program, say yes and live and study in Europe for half a year. When your company offers a project role overseas, say yes and live and work in Asia for a year. What’s the worst that can happen? That you’ll be absolutely miserable? If you’re absolutely miserable, it’ll only be for a brief chapter in your life, and I can guarantee that you will learn the most valuable tidbits about yourself and others when things go wrong. The best way to travel is when you’re living in another part of the world and your home base is just a hop, skip, and jump away from countries and places you can’t even pronounce. You’re not living the backpacker lifestyle of dropping everything and travelling for four months. For the most part, you’re taking long weekend trips to a city that’s an hour’s flight away. No sweat.
2. Find someone who will push you out of your comfort zone: There’s a fine (but important) line between someone who encourages you to try something new and someone who pressures you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. Travel with a friend who has a higher tolerance for risk and will give you that tiny bit of extra courage you need to climb up that mountain or jump off that cliff. Be comfortable saying no and doing your own thing if you’re not interested or not ready – there’s nothing wrong with that. But also build up the courage to say yes and try something new – some of your most memorable moments will come out of those experiences.
3. Plan as much or as little as you want: There are people who will pack a backpack, buy a one-way plane ticket, and just go. There are others who will plan out every hour of every day; they will know how to get to every destination, what to eat in every restaurant, and what their itinerary looks like a week from now. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter how you go about your travels. If it makes you feel better to have every detail planned out, do it. As for me, I just make sure I know how I’m getting there and where I’m going to sleep (all meticulously written down in my trusty notebook) – and that’s good enough for me.
Exploring the world doesn’t have to be about full moon parties, all-night club crawls, or travel hookups. Exploring the world can be about history and architecture, castles and churches, beaches and mountains. Or exploring the world can be both; it’s completely up to you.
So if you’re a careful girl like me, don’t feel like you can’t have the most magnificent adventures just because you want to see, feel, and taste the world in a different way than most of your friends. Take a deep breath, step out into the unknown, and you’ll find that strange cities, foreign cultures, and the occasional lack of plans aren’t as scary as you might think.