A lot of people have asked me why I’m leaving my perfectly good life in Chicago to go on a ten month (or longer) adventure abroad. While I don’t feel the need to justify it, I found it valuable to reflect on my intentions for the year. So here are some of the reasons why I am traveling for the remainder of 2020.
- The timing is right. At 23 years old, I have the rest of my life ahead of me to work and to “settle down.” I have no pressing financial obligations, I’m not romantically involved with anyone, my family is happy and healthy, and my friendships couldn’t be stronger. If ever a time to feel confident in leaving home, it is now.
- I’ve been dreaming of doing this since I was 16. My first trip out of the country was at 16 years old to Moshi, Tanzania, where I am returning to for the first few months of this trip. I wrote a journal while I was there and in it, I said that after I graduate college, I am going to take a trip similar to the one I am about to embark on. While I have gone through many changes since I was 16, my dream of doing this has been consistent.
- What’s the worst that can happen? I believe there are far more people who regret not traveling than regret traveling. While many of the places I am going this year are unfamiliar to me, they are safe. The bad things that could occur in these countries are the same bad things that could happen to me walking down the streets of Chicago.
- To challenge myself. Traveling abroad by myself inherently puts me in situations much different than what I’m used to experiencing at home. Trying to figure out cultural norms, learning how to get around knowing little, if any, of the language of the countries I am in, and don’t even get me started on navigating my dietary restrictions. All difficult, but all great learning experiences. I am going to intentionally push myself, mentally and physically, knowing that I will come out stronger for it. One of the things I’m most looking forward to this year is an overland tour through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. I will be camping every night, facing terrain and bugs much different than I’ve faced glamping in Wisconsin. Am I going to freak out? Probably, and probably more than once. This trip, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.”
- I want to make a difference. Long-term, I want to pursue a career that will help solve some of the pressing issues facing society, but I don’t know what exactly that’s going to look like yet. I need to better understand myself, where my strengths lie, and what I am most passionate about. I hope to come back from this as a stronger leader with a clearer sense of direction, more equipped to face challenges, to think laterally, and to ask better questions.
- To experience the beauty of being human. I think if we all took more time to learn how people different from us live, we would have a greater sense of humanity and be more willing to come together. As Melinda Gates wrote in The Moment of Lift, “If there is any meaning in life greater than connecting with other human beings, I haven’t found it.”
So off I go to listen, to learn, and to enjoy this big, beautiful world. I could not be happier or more grateful for this opportunity! I look forward to sharing stories and photos throughout the year.