When I was in university, many of my friends did a semester abroad. They all came back with great stories and experiences. They made it sound great and it was something I always thought of doing. Being in a foreign country, learning a new language, reinventing yourself, meeting foreign girls, and being able to legally drink. For a college student, it sounded like the perfect experience and a chance to really grow.
Except I never went. I was always too afraid. Not afraid of what might happen but afraid of what I might miss back home. What if I miss “something” I always thought- never really sure what that something was except that I knew I didn’t want to miss it. I never wanted to hear the stories of my friends- I wanted to be part of them. In the back of my mind I knew I’d have created my own stories abroad but I never wanted to miss out on what might be back home. So, I never went. I stayed while many friends went and created their own great stories.
And to this day I regret that decision. In 2006, before I left for my round the world trip, I was talking to my friend Mike. Mike had spent a semester in England and, to this day he says, it remains one of his favorite experiences. He told me that though I may think things will change while I am gone, they won’t. When he came back from England, it was like he had never really been gone. He picked up right where he left off. When I came back in 2008, I said to him “Mike, you were right.” While I was gone, I had changed but the world back home didn’t- everything was the same. Like Mike, it was as if I had never left.
If I had let the same fear hold me back in 2006 as it did in college, I would never have experienced the world and begun the path that has lead me to this life. And so my biggest regret still remains that I never spent a semester abroad. I put off a great experience because of fear.
Don’t let your fear hold you back. In previous posts, I’ve written about how now is a good time to travel because of the economy and about how the only secret to long term traveling is desire. But even those with the greatest desire to travel can be held back by fear.
But what really keeps people back is fear of what they will leave behind. What if people get pregnant? Married? What about the celebrations? The crazy weekend antics? My favorite places to eat? The list goes on and on. Comfort of what you know keeps you from experiencing the things you want and desire to see.
But if you talk to any traveler, they will all say the same thing: nothing changes back home. People might get a new job or a new girlfriend. Maybe they will move. But fundamentally, the lives of those you left behind are the same. What changes is you. You come back and, anticlimactically, you realize you moved on and life at home didn’t and you see that staying would have been the worst thing you could have done.
Fear is a powerful thing but don’t let your fear hold you back from traveling. Because in the end, you will just look back and have regrets. Life never gives you the same chance twice and destinations never stay the same. Get going now because you are missing the world out there, not the world where you are.