Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thoughts on Travel as a Confidence Booster

By nature, I often lack confidence. By that I mean I have always second-guessed myself and my decisions, for as long as I can remember. I am also somewhat lazy and have no problem getting someone else to reach things I can't get to and open jars that won't budge. There's also that pesky issue of having very little in the way of a sense of direction. I constantly rely on my significant other to lead the way and know where to go no matter where we are. It's easy to get set in your ways, people and I'm living proof. But travel has a weird way of flipping who you think you are, upside down

Getting un-settled
The first thing I noticed upon landing in Paris several years ago, alone, with one suitcase and a fuzzy photo of the girl I would be meeting upon arrival (to sublet her room), was that I didn't have anyone to rely on. It was all me and it was terrifying. But as the days wore on, and I took off every day to explore, I got less and less terrified. Finding where I wanted to go became a no-brainer and asking for what I wanted was indeed turning into second nature. I didn't get lost -- I found every museum, gallery, cheese shop and metro stop with no problem. I did what I wanted and when, without worrying about whether it was "the best idea" or if it was what I "should" be doing. Very different than at home.

Going in alone

Hiking the Bolivan Plateau, Laos
Not only did I get on a plane to brave Paris solo for two months, I also hit up a few other European cities without company. This isn't something new and loads of people do it all the time, many of them much younger than when I was traveling alone, but that's not my point. I want to stress how OK I was to hop over to Barcelona or Copenhagen, whip out a map and find my way to my hotel. I get lost in my own neighbourhood at home but could somehow navigate a new city alone without ending up stranded, mugged or in police custody. For some reason, I just *knew* I would be OK, whereas at home, there is so much more room for self doubt. What is it about travel that seems to wipe out the doubt? I'm not saying there isn't fear (there is), but I there's also more trust that everything is going to turn out fine.

A more open mind
Lately I've been travelling with my boyfriend so not solo, but there's still some very distinct changes that come over each of us when we're away. At home we have routines, the places we always go and the places we talk about going, but never do. We're creatures of habit and don't often try new restaurants and bars, or make spur-of-the-moment decisions. But when we travel, we're up for anything. I realize on a limited trip there's an innate desire to make the most of the time you have, but it still amazes me that while traveling we won't think twice about going into that bar, or trying that restaurant or going on that hike and (in the boyfriend's case), jumping off of that waterfall.

Finding a balance
So far, I've only been able to retain that travel-confidence in very small bits. I know everyone's mentality on vacation is different, whether spending a week at an all-inclusive resort, or several months abroad, but I would love to figure out a way to hold onto some of that magic that happens while away, once I get home.

How are you different while travelling? Do tell!

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