After I graduated college, I decided to do something crazy with a friend of mine. Not crazy like streaking in the ocean or buying a pogo stick. I’m talking about a ‘backpacking through SouthEast Asia for six months’ type of crazy. I’m not exactly sure what seemed so enticing about this kind of adventure. Maybe it was the challenging aspect, maybe it was the understanding of how dirt cheap SouthEast Asia is, or maybe it was because I was dying to learn more about the world we live in and myself simultaneously in a unique and exciting way. Okay, so it was all of those things. The point is: this decision would change our lives and it was one of the most terrifying decisions I’ve ever made.
About a month before our one-way flight departed, fear and anxiety started to kick in heavily. We’d done our research, and for the most part, knew what we were getting ourselves into. We had just enough savings to survive, and we’d be continuing our freelance lifestyle throughout the trip, so we’d have a somewhat steady income to support us on top of that. Although all of our ducks seemed to be in a row, there was this underlying apprehension tied to each moment leading up to our departure. It was normal, we knew, but we still didn’t like it.
How did I help myself be okay with this new chapter that I knew would ultimately feel amazing to accomplish and grant me with a surplus of rad experiences and new opportunities?
I know this “hippie” stuff can sometimes seem like the kind of voodoo magic the weird kid from High School would talk about, but I’m telling you… this really worked for me. I read about it in a book and I decided to give it a shot as I was desperate to relieve the negative thoughts of concern I was constantly being flooded with (from family, friends and myself).
I visualized every night for about five minutes and after each short session, I felt the worry slowly start to fade and the excitement start to ramp up.
I imagined us boarding the plane, landing, walking into our first hostel, opening up our backpacks for the first time, getting ready for our first hike and talking to our first locals. I imagined us learning some of the lingo, getting lost, and finding our way again. I imagined us meeting so many amazing people and adventuring with them. I saw us scuba diving together, ziplining, spotting monkeys, sailing, climbing, all of it. I imagined it. I felt the positive feelings and soon, the eagerness to get on that plane came back to me. I know it sounds wacky, but the mind is a wild place and there’s many tricks to hack it and get it to do what you want it to do.
Apparently keeping a travel journal is an “American thing”, but I only learned that after people we met from our hostels saw the journal I brought with me. I didn’t care. Journaling kept me sane and allowed me to keep track of all the amazing things I was experiencing. I knew if I had some sort of outlet when we were abroad, I would feel a little more at ease when my brain undoubtedly forced me to think about any potential bad days I could have on this trip. I bought the journal and began to capture thoughts prior to our leave date.
I wrote down anything and everything I was afraid of happening as a list on one page.
On the next page, I wrote down what I would do if all of those “scary” things actually winded up happening. This was incredibly cathartic because I realized even the worst thing that could happen was solvable. I remember writing down, “I could die” on the first page and feeling accomplished when I solved that fear on the next page with, “Then I die doing something I put my mind to and living adventurously”.
You can plan and prep yourself as much as you possibly can, but nothing is going to get you from A to B more than just going for it and figuring out the rest along the way. In these six months (that actually turned into five because we started running low on money), I learned more about myself and the direction I saw for my life than I have in all 24 years of living. Every day was filled with a new experience that catapulted me further into the person I am continually creating. I saw things I never could have imagined myself being lucky enough to see. I met people and made the connections of a lifetime. I feel far less fear and anxiety toward my everyday life, and I walk with more confidence and a certain enthusiasm for the next day I wake up. Imagine if I had let those fears overcome me and I never jumped? I’d be a different person.