Since I joined the world of the living, just over two decades ago, I have been travelling and the most important thing I have learnt is to take risks.
I began travelling before I could walk, unfortunately this means I have no recollection of Hawaii’s blissful beaches, and have continued to do so since then. However I must confess that it wasn’t until recently, when I started to travel on my own, that I fully realised all that travelling truly entails.
My first experiences travelling “alone” were the month-long summer programs that many of us seek as a chance to escape the monotony of being at home with nothing to do while our parents are at work. To be honest, the first time I tried it wasn’t great; dreadful would be a better word to describe it. But three summers later I took my tears from that summer and chose to laugh under the perpetual tears of the British heavens. I had no guarantee that this time would be any better than last, but I decided to go for it anyway and it was wonderful: for once the pamphlets were right because I did make life-long friends, many of whom still receive post cards from the many travels that were to follow that summer, some I’ve even managed to see during said travels!
Later on, as my high school days ended, a month became three years when I took the decision to complete my university studies in a place no one seemed to have heard about. Not many people know this, but when I made that decision I had already completed six weeks of university at home, then I got an offer from the other side of the world and didn’t think it twice before accepting because, why not? I packed my bags and boarded an airplane having no idea what to expect, for the most investigation I had done about what was to become my home for six semesters was entering its webpage to choose what degree combination it offered: I chose Math and Economics. Keele Universtiy is basically in the middle of nowhere and not many people know it exists, yet many adventurous souls like myself converged here and turned it into our base camp as we explored Europe with eager grins to hide our baggy eyes and a wallet bursting with an ever-growing bucket list which we hope to one day afford to complete. When I decided to change my home of sixteen years for a room in the middle of the British midlands little did I know what it meant; for the very first time I was starting to write the story of my life without guidelines. I could have remained at home where I knew what to expect, where I had a network of family and friends to offer a shoulder to cry on and where everything is served on a silver platter, but that would be a shame for you because then I would not have half as many adventures to share with you and would probably still be too embarrassed to start a blog to share them in.
More recently, having graduated from university after three years of arduous work, the prospect of a summer spent at home was most decidedly out of the question so, once exams were out of the way, it was time to do something about it. I returned home from university on a Wednesday evening, carrying the little belongings that had remained with me until my last days on campus and looking forward to sharing a family dinner with my cousins and my two beautiful nieces. That night I crawled into bed ready to make up for the lousy bed my body had been confined to for three years as it strained to get some rest from the endless sleepless nights university had put me through, not many would have guessed, myself included, that a mere eleven days later I would be on a flight ready to face unimaginable adventures in Thailand.
Thailand was a leap of faith on my part and most people only found outabout it once I was there or, in some cases, when I got back with a tan that did not belong in England. When I boarded the plane I didn’t know what to expect of the ensuing month but what came was truly wonderful and most certainly the best way to start my life as a graduate: I was received in Bangkok by a sunset that set the Temple of Dawn ablaze, my taste buds were captivated by the succulent essence of Thai cuisine, the hands of a snow-haired lady taught my own the secrets of ancient Thai massaging and, in return for the knowledge gained, I had the chance to help autumn-clad monks improve their English amongst laughter that rang of spring. Thailand was unlike anything I had done previously for never had I travelled to country where the language barrier was as noticeable and I had certainly never been fully in charge of a class of teenagers that barely understood what I said. I wont claim it was easy, but I got through it and now I am sure that no challenge is too big when you let got of your doubts and choose instead to open your heart and mind to experiment so that, instead of keeping you in the comfort zone of what you know, those doubts push you to new experiences that will help you know yourself better and expand your horizons.
In addition to travelling, literature has always been one of my passions and has often inspired many of my adventures. An example of this is Robert Frost’s poem “The Road not Taken,” which made a great impression on me when I first read it during middle school. In this poem Frost narrates about a traveller that, having a choice of two paths, chooses to take the one less travelled by, although it represents a risk as not many people have travelled it and knows that he might never have the chance to take the other path. Frost concludes by saying that the decision to take the path less travelled by “has made all the difference,” and I couldn’t agree more with him.
Going to that first summer camp was certainly worth the risk; it could easily have been another summer of hoping every day was the last day, but instead it turned into a summer hoping the last day would not come. That month spent in Cambridge, for that was were I went, not only provided a month-long collection of memories but helped define what the rest of my high-school summers would be like; it helped me have the guts to spend three years studying university in that same island where I first tasted independence; it taught me to embrace the thumping of a heart that doesn’t know what awaits it the following day; it taught me to talk to strangers without a need for an introduction; it taught to let go of my fears and take leap into the unknown and that, dear reader, has made all the difference.