August 15, 2013 marked the year anniversary of my embarkment on a 5 month European tour. Last year I felt excited and nervous about what my trip would have in store for me. I packed my bag and took some “me” time. After visiting 15 countries, spanning over 3 seasons, I learned a lot about myself.
I had just finished university a couple months prior to leaving and I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to pursue grad school? Study again to be a paramedic? Continue in the insurance industry? In the end I settled for travelling; I couldn’t have made a better decision. I am sure I am not the only recent grad in the history of the world to feel uncertain about their future. My age group may appear carefree, but we deal with the stresses of finding a career, saving money, building our own homes, with the end product being a fully indpendent adult. The world we live in does not make these processes and decisions any easier to handle. Travelling allowed me to escape the life I had grown accustomed to in Toronto and to, instead, create new memories and experiences.
While abroad I learned that I am much more forgiving, resourceful, and aware than I believed myself to be. Every day brought interactions with new and different people from all over the world. Sometimes they didn’t speak English and I would have to find another way to communicate while remembering to be patient and understanding. Travelling requires a certain degree of organization and keeping a handle on your money. I learned to live without the luxuries I had back home and to live a simpler and more “nomadic” lifestyle. Solo travelling can be dangerous and I quickly became highly aware of my surroundings wherever I went. Furthermore, I quickly realized how much the family and friends, that I left behind in Toronto, meant to me. I never thought I would learn so much in 5 months alone.
I brought these habits and behaviours back with me upon my return home in January 2013. I spent another 5 months after that looking for work, struggling with limited funds, weight gain, and slight sadness at the realization I wasn’t travelling anymore. But using everything I learned about myself, I kept my head up and stayed positive. Time spent looking for employment paid off in the end with my hiring back into the insurance industry this past June. I started continuing education courses to supplement my job search and help advance my future career. Volleyball and yoga helped maintain some structure in my very empty schedule. And of course my family and friends provided moral support through all my ups and downs.
Travelling is a very liberating and educating experience. It is something I would recommend to anyone and everyone at any point in life. I will continue to travel here and there for the rest of my life. I have never done anything that tested my communication and personal skills at this level. Having a successful and enjoyable time depends on being able to master these skills quickly and with grace. I am 100 times the person I was a year ago and I am forever thankful to everyone who helped me before and after my travels, to those I met during my explorations, and to myself for being able to trust my actions and emotions.
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