I don’t know exactly how I lost my wallet containing all my money, credit cards, and identification. I know it was while I was on an overnight bus in Morocco travelling from the coastal city of Essaouira to Chefchaouen. Maybe it was stolen from my bag as I slept. A few, let’s say, ‘unsavoury’ characters did board at a stop in Casablanca. But more likely, it fell out as I pulled my water bottle out for a sip. Whatever the cause, it didn’t matter. I was in a foreign country, couldn’t speak a word of the local language, was travelling alone with nowhere to stay, and now had no money. Despite this, I wasn’t fazed or felt out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t stressed or uncertain. It was just another aspect of the road I needed to deal with.
My first time travelling alone overseas was to the USA in 2012. I had everything booked and planned in advance. I knew exactly where I would be, on exactly which dates, and exactly how I would be getting there. About a week before I left I was lying on the couch watching TV when a sudden wave of anxiety hit me: what was I doing?! I’m going to travel to the other side of the world to a place I’d never been before and I was doing it alone. I’m completely out of my comfort zone. Was I crazy? Think of all the things that could happen!
It now seems crazy that I thought that at all. From that first trip to the USA I have grown, learnt more about myself, and realised I’m capable of a lot more. So much so that when I encountered trouble in Morocco this year it wasn’t a big deal at all.
Back then I would play it safe. Stick with what I know. I was impatient and would get annoyed about missing a bus, or having a loud neighbour. I’m now a much more well-rounded person and I have travel to thank for that.
When we set out on a trip there is a lot of things we can expect. We know what sights we will see. We know what language we will hear, even if we can’t speak it ourselves. Most of the time, we know when our flight home will be and when we will be able to see our friends again and tell them our stories. The best part of travel, though, is the parts we don’t expect and the way these things shape us.
I never expected that navigating a Chinese train system would make me more patient. When a train comes, it comes. When it doesn’t, it doesn’t. And that’s all there is to it and there’s nothing I can do about it. When a neighbour in a nearby room at my hostel is noisy I have to just put earplugs in and deal with it. It comes with the experience of hostel life.
Travel has made me a much more confident person. I’m no longer nervous to speak up, put myself out there or try something new. I’m much more comfortable with myself and my failings. I no longer have a fear of missing out on things and I’m OK being on my own. I can rely on myself and know that I am capable of overcoming any obstacle I face.
These are the parts of travel that no one expects to have but happen anyway. Over time the photos I took will fade and my memories will drop in and out but the way it has shaped me as a person and influenced me in a positive way won’t change.
These parts are you, not the destinations you’ve been to. Get out, push yourself outside your comfort zone and embrace the experience to find who you really are.