A year ago, I never would have imagined myself as the person I am today. My first year of college has come and gone in a blur of textbook pages, tears, and laughter. I’ve seen darkness and light, experienced both sorrow and joy. In the midst of loss, I gained understanding. No longer am I a freshman greatly terrified of my dreams– I’m a sophomore with great and terrifying dreams.
One of those dreams was to travel the world, but I was terrified that I’d never be accepted into a study abroad program, that I’d never be able to finance such adventures, and that the places I’d read about would remain mere words on a page. While daydreaming about far off lands was wonderful, I wanted to experience those places. Still, I was too frightened to actually live my life.
Yet, here I am a year later having just returned from my first study abroad tour.
Of course eighteen days in Costa Rica was a dream come true, but it was still much more than that. It was a time of introspection and growth. Somewhere between breathing in fresh, ocean air and trekking across jungle paths, I realized just how much I have changed since my time in high school. Now after my first week back in the States, I’ve seen just how much I have changed in a single trip.
The truth is this: travel changes who you are.
When you watch the sun dip below a new horizon and when you watch the sun rise over a volcano, something inside of you changes. Things that would terrify me at home–the world’s longest zipline, spelunking, getting lost in a jungle– become thrilling adventures. Honestly, I am more alive when I travel.
Maybe it’s experiencing a different culture that draws me out of my shell, or perhaps it’s the complete uncertainty of everything that forces the rarely seen me into the world. Whatever it is, I’m very thankful for it. My confidence soars. The anxiety that is typically overwhelming and often keeps me hidden away becomes much more manageable. My stoic and serious disposition fades away into a silent sense of adventure. While I’m very much “myself”, the studious person most people are acquainted with, I am also someone very different.
These are things I’ve known for most of my life–I was at my happiest in high school when I was adventuring. My trip into the Yukon made me realize that traveling was the key to my self-imposed cage. I’ve known for years that travel makes me happy, that it does effect who I am… But how did I keep that happy person with me?
“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place… Like you’ll miss the person you are now, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” -Unknown
Thankfully, this trip to Costa Rica showed me that I don’t have to say goodbye to that person; I don’t have to leave the changes behind.
What was it about this trip that made me realize so much? I think it was the fact that two passions, learning and traveling, were combined. I am myself when surrounded by mountains of homework, but I am also myself when I’m trekking over a mountain. This trip was a convergence of two separate lives. I’d been too scared to dream of having them both. Now? The combination of study and travel has become a stunning reality. I can be both anxious and adventurous, studious and ignorant. Most of all, I can be free to truly be myself.
This reality is terrifying like my dreams, but I’m determined to chase after it with everything I have and continue to let the life of travel shape me into the person I was meant to be….