This is guest post #4 of “Dream, Dare, Go.” In this series, I feature stories from people who overcame their fears to pursue their daring travel dream (find us on Twitter at #DreamDareGo).
Post #1 by Kaycee Lagarde: I Left My Job to Be an Au Pair in Spain
Post #2 by Kimi Sugiyama: Quitting My Job to Travel the World Solo
Post #3 by Laura: Don’t Wait for Someone to Travel With You
This next post is by Andrea Mueller, a Vancouver based artist, traveler, foodie and avid story seeker who loves coffee, chocolate and beer; preferably at the same time! At 40 years old, she decided to make a BIG change in her life. Read on to find out more.
Guest post by Andrea Mueller
The year was 2009 and I was at my 20-year high school reunion. This was the night my life changed forever.
Since I graduated from high school I’d been to art school, jewellery school, had a couple of boyfriends and spent six weeks driving across Canada. In 1995 I met a guy who would be my partner for the next 14 years and started a jewellery business with a good friend after we finished school. Time flew by and before I knew it I was inching closer to the big 4-0 and feeling some extreme dissatisfaction with my life, but I felt trapped and didn’t know how to change it.
It was that fateful September night in 2009 that I was sitting at a table looking around the room at all of these faces that I’d known for 25 plus years. I couldn’t shake the thought that if I didn’t make some drastic changes in my life soon I’d be sitting right here in 2019 at my 30th grad reunion in the same rut wondering where my life had gone.
I started seeing a counselor to try to figure out just what was making me so miserable. I came to the realization that I was always living in the future rather than in the present and waiting for the right time to do the things I REALLY wanted to do.
“What is it that you really want to do?” she asked me.
“Go to Paris,” was my response.
She asked me why I didn’t just do it, and I told her I couldn’t; it was impossible.
“But why is it impossible?” she inquired.
I didn’t have an answer. All I had were excuses.
I knew what I wanted. I wanted to see the world.
My declaration that I wanted to go to Paris blossomed into a full-fledged trip around Europe for six months. I did the backpacking trip that I’d always wanted to (but had been too afraid to do) the year I turned 40. Most of the people I met while traveling were doing their “gap year” traveling that so many people do when they graduate from college or university. I may be a little late to the game here but better late than never, right?
One month after my reunion I broke up with my boyfriend and my business partner and started making plans for my trip. I had obligations to my business partner, so I had to wait a full (torturous) year before I could embark on this life changing journey, but it was a good opportunity to make plans, read guide books and decide where I wanted to go. Oh, and have my dad give me article after article of all the ways you can get scammed, robbed or raped while traveling. Yup, that certainly alleviated my fears–NOT!
Planning a six-month trip is no easy feat. First you need to figure out where you want to go. Then you need to figure out where you’re going to start and where you’re going to end. Then you have to decide how much time you want to spend where. For me, flying by the seat of my pants wasn’t an option. I wanted to book my accommodation prior to leaving, so I needed a pretty strict itinerary.
All of my reservations could be cancelled 24 hours in advance, so I did have some wiggle room but in general I stayed close to my original plan. That was something I needed for my own comfort level: to know where I’d be sleeping every night. I met a lot of people while traveling who thought my six months of hotel reservations was over the top, but I didn’t care because I knew what MY needs were and that’s the most important thing!
I started my trip in London to ease my way into being on my own and not getting totally overwhelmed. I have a friend who lives there, so that helped a lot too! I still vividly remember that feeling of anticipation those early days of my journey. I was excited of course, but fear was definitely in the mix.
“What if I get mugged?” (I didn’t.)
“What if I miss my train?” (I did, more than once.)
“What if I get lonely?” (I did, but I learned how to force strangers to talk to me!)
There were many, many other fears, but I just decided to push them aside and take each day as it came, the good, the bad and the ugly. For the first month or so I’d make sure to be back in my hotel room by dark. I was nervous about not being able to find my way back and having to ask for directions in another language. In a nutshell I felt vulnerable and didn’t want to put myself in a position of feeling helpless or in danger.
By the end of my trip in Turkey, I was eating, drinking and playing backgammon with strangers who had quickly become friends. Six months of traveling solo taught me how strong and independent I really am. It taught me that people the world over are generally good and want to HELP you, not HURT you as we’re led to believe by mainstream media. It opened my eyes to new ways of doing things and new ways of traveling.
I’ve always been an artist but I never realized I could also write until I started to travel. I blogged almost every day and found my voice as a writer. My friends and family kept emailing me saying they never knew I could write.
My answer? “Neither did I!”
This trip changed my life in ways I can barely begin to describe. Before I left, I was confused about who I was and what I wanted but by the time I got home I had a much clearer idea of what I needed out of life to be a happier and more content person. There’s nothing like getting out of your comfort zone and away from your peers to give you some perspective.
Any fears you may have about traveling alone are SO outweighed by the benefits. Who knows what YOU might discover about yourself?