At 20 – I took the biggest leap of faith that changed the course of my life forever. This first post is dedicated to sharing my story and how I got started traveling.
Never having left the country, l had always dreamed of living abroad or backpacking Europe. Like most dreamers, I just continued to dream instead of trying to turn my dream into a reality. I guess I just kept waiting. It’s not like I hadn’t tried. I walked into the study abroad office at my college every other week. They knew me by name and would always ask..
“Is today the day?”
I got to the point where I started asking myself if today was the day ? Are you ever going to really commit? The days kept coming and as each day passed I grew more and more comfortable with life at the University. I fell into a routine and although I still longed for faraway adventures it just seemed unattainable. I reasoned with myself that I would travel later on and I didn’t need to take off for half a year in order to travel. I psyched myself out big time. I was terrified of not knowing anyone, terrified to be in a foreign country and not speak the language, terrified that I couldn’t just drive to my mom’s. I didn’t think I was capable of traveling alone. What if something happened to me?? I saw Taken, I didn’t have a Liam Neeson that would come and track me down. Anyway the fears were endless. Eventually I just reasoned with myself I would go at a later time. When I was ready.. When I wasn’t scared..
(Side Note *** You will always be scared. You don’t just wake up one morning and think, “I’m ready” there is a little force involved in taking life changing steps)
A year later, my anthropology professor was offering a two week trip to study the Mayan Ruins in Mexico and Guatemala. It was a study abroad course that immersed you in the Mayan Culture while still traveling with a group that I somewhat knew. (When I say somewhat, I recognized faces but it’s not like I spoke to anyone let alone knew their names) My heart lifted at the idea of making this happen. For whatever reason, this sounded a little more doable. I had seen the pyramids on Pinterest, on people’s Facebooks or Instagrams. It was definitely on my bucket list. I decided to put my name on the sign up list and just see what happens. I was still thinking to myself could I really do this? I still don’t know anyone.. I’m still going to be alone but it’s only two weeks and I have a professor that is experienced in case shit hits the fan. What could possibly go wrong? Over the next week I kept psyching myself out. I won’t have the money saved in time. What if I don’t get along with anyone ? What if my roommates weird? What if I hate the country? Again, even though every fiber of my being was dying to go the doubt kept flooding. I mean my thoughts were like Hurricane Katrina.
After another few days of this overwhelming doubt something reminded me of the months I spent in the study abroad office. “Is today the day?” kept flashing in my brain over and over again. I got on my computer went to hotwire.com
and searched flights to Mexico City. (by the way, Hotwire is not something I necessarily recommend for buying cheap flights. Stay tuned for my post on finding cheap airfare) I sat at my kitchen table staring at my computer screen with the flight in the cart and all of my information plugged in. All I needed to do was click confirm purchase. After four minutes, a box flashing offer expires in the next 30 seconds came on, I froze. This was it. 30 seconds. That’s all I had. “Is today the day?”
In the months leading up to the trip I had every emotion know to the human race. Fear mixed with excitement mostly. My professor put me in touch with two other students around my age that were on the same flight I had booked. He instructed me to get a cab with them when I landed in Mexico City and that we should all go together because it would be considerably cheaper. I texted with them a few weeks prior to leaving. I confessed how terrified I was and that this was my first time out of the country. We agreed to meet in our terminal before boarding the plane so we could meet up and talk a little prior to our arrival in Mexico. I remember thinking God, I hope they’re not weird. They’re the only people I’ll know so I need to like them. What if we have nothing in common? What if they don’t like me? I decided to stop worrying before I drove myself to a heart attack and promised to remain open minded.
Departure Day !
I still remember my best friend driving me to the airport on the day I left, passport in hand with a suitcase I could fit myself in. (This is also not recommended, stay tuned on for my post on packing hacks) She hugged me goodbye and said “don’t get kidnapped!” then got in the car and drove away. There I was standing in the middle of SMF airport thinking to myself holy shit what the hell did I just do? I texted Tyler letting him know I had arrived and I would see them at the gate. I proceeded to make my way to security smiling to myself the entire time. I had done it. I made it happen. I got to the gate and met Tyler and his girlfriend Tawny. Tawny and I were inseparable our entire trip and have remained close friends, neighbors, and continued travel partners.
The Mayan sites were nothing short of majestic. The knowledge I gained from this trip and these two countries were invaluable. I gained new respect for common comforts that seemed so trivial to anyone living in the United States. For example,
Going to the bathroom is not free. You must buy toilet paper every time you use the restroom in a public place.
Bottled water will save your health. Most people know you’re not supposed to drink the water in Mexico but don’t drink it in Guatemala either. Our bodies are not able to fight off the different types of bacteria found in the tap water. (P.S keep in mind the cost to buy water adds up. We were buying 5-6 smaller bottles or 2 liter bottles every other day)
Ice is not your friend. Often restaurants use tap water to make their ice, tap water is a big no no. Stay away from ice and anything that is blended unless you know for a fact the ice is purificado (Purified in spanish)
Mouth closed. Keep your mouth closed in the shower, and brush your teeth with bottled water.
I hope if you’re reading this with the same fears I had but a burning desire to see the world; I encourage you to take 30 seconds and click the purchase button.
“In the end… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have,and the decisions we waited too long to make.”