Traveling wasn’t my thing before coming to Dublin. It was something I wanted to do in the ubiquitous future when I had the money or wasn’t as busy or when I could rent a car. I was scared out of my skin to even fly out of the country without my parents and live in a city they’d never been. I wanted someone to hold my hand through the process. Even going on trips with the school was frightening because we would have free time in places I wasn’t familiar with.
Before this trip, I’d only traveled with my family, and we travel in a herd, with at least seven people. It’s easy to hide in a group that large. No need to learn the language, know the bus number, or figure out where the gate is or where the right train station is. Someone else is there to keep an eye on passports and itineraries or do the research. This time it was all on me to keep track of everything and figure out what to do. More of a challenge than you might think, especially in large European cities where there’s a million things to do and see.
In October I took on the enormous challenge of traveling outside of Ireland on my own. I went to London for a weekend because it was on my bucket list and I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go at the time. Looking back, it was so much fun and I met a few great people I wouldn’t have if I’d gone earlier with my parents, but I was having palpitations in the airport before boarding. I arrived at the coach station two hours early so as not to get lost. Ever three seconds on the Tube, I had to make sure I was going to the right stop. This was such a bad idea: I was too young to do this, too scared, why did I think it would be a good idea?
Looking back, it was one of my best experiences here. No one judged me for not going into Westminster Abbey or Buckingham Palace. There was no pressure to stay on track for time or know where I was going (the amount of times I get lost on a daily basis is ridiculous) and it helped me get over most of my travel fears.
Overall, this experience has shown me that I’m more independent that I’ve ever thought and being put in these situations only leads to more growth and preparedness.
I’ve been to four countries in Europe now and seen a fair bit of the country I currently call home. But what about the States? I’ve never left the eastern seaboard and explored my own country because I was too scared. If coming to Ireland has taught me anything, it’s shown me that I need to be willing to be uncomfortable because I’ll come out on top.
So this year the trip to learn from was Ireland. Next year, it’s somewhere in my own backyard. I’m thinking Montana…
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Fall 2014
Champlain College, Professional Writing, Class of 2016