Something happens when you step outside of yourself and listen to your heart beat wildly for the first time. When you are open and vulnerable, you are at your most true, raw self. Sometimes you can find that self in your backyard, among good friends, or lost in the world of a brand new book. Other times you find that self when you are away from everything familiar, taking one wobbling step at a time down a strange new path.
This time last May, I was traveling in Ireland. I journeyed with 15 other female students from my college and we spent time exploring Dublin, Galway, and little cities between the two. From the beautiful heights of The Cliffs of Moher to the always-bustling Dublin city streets, the whole journey was breathtaking and eye-opening.
The biggest challenge I faced as I left for the trip was that I didn’t know a single soul going. To you that might not be a big deal, but to me? Pure. Horror. Not only was I going away from the city I knew but I was flying (eek!) to a whole new country (gulp) without any friends (shaking and sobbing begin at this point).
I’m talkative and weird around close friends, but in a group of people I don’t know (not to mention a foreign country) I clam up. But actually. I get clammy. Sweaty palms, itchy arms, blotchy face. I don’t know exactly how I missed that element of the trip when I signed up, but suddenly a week before leaving for Ireland I freaked out upon realizing what I was about to do. It took a lot of comforting and supportive words from my best friend and my boyfriend Tyler to help me walk into the airport and away from everything I knew.
To say that Ireland was an experience in self-discovery would be an understatement. I have never been quite so challenged in my confidence of my self nor have I ever explored my own independence in such a beautiful and unique way before.
When you travel away from your comfort zone (literally travel), something strange and beautiful takes place. Away from your usual friends, your own neighborhood, and the comfort of knowing exactly where the grocery store is or your favorite coffee place–you begin to discover new things about yourself as you are forced to discover new cafes, attempt to understand thick Irish accents, and learn traditional Irish clog dancing in a pub. While it’s not necessary to travel to be able to fully live your life, there is a specific inner awakening that happens when you are completely surrounded by a new (and stunning) environment.
I truly shouldn’t have worried before leaving for Ireland. Hilarious and beautiful memories were created on the trip with the amazing new friends I made. I tasted the most delicious of foods and saw breathtaking paintings and sculptures. I bonded with two Japanese students studying in Galway who taught me how to dance “the Irish way” and told me “don’t worry, we all look silly” when I resisted their nudges to join the throng of dancers. Up on a tall mountain, I rode a (rather mean-spirited) horse and befriended a friendly cab driver (who had an obsession with Prince).
What truly stands out to me as I reflect on the trip I made a year ago, is the confidence and courage I gained from stepping out on a limb and walking down a new path. I discovered that it doesn’t really matter where you are or who you are with; the beauty of life is ready to be seen as long as you are wiling to open your eyes to new experiences and (sometimes terrifying) leaps of faith.
I truly will always be thankful for how Ireland and its people pushed me to think bigger and live bolder. What is currently challenging you outside of your comfort zone? Do you have a story of when traveling somewhere helped you to grow personally? I’d LOVE to hear from you!