Today is the day: my journey begins! I’ve spent all day on connecting flights across the United States, and as I write this now I’m on my final plane ride into Iceland. Even as my fingers click against the keys to spell out the word “Iceland,” it still doesn’t feel fully real. Mere days ago I was still working at my summer job at a local newspaper, watching cable with my family, or snuggled up in my own bed with a good book. Life has transitioned from ordinary to indescribably adventurous in the span of just a few hours, and my brain just hasn’t caught up or adjusted to the concept yet. Lately I’ve struggled to overcome my mixed emotions in order to fully embrace what lies before me.
When I first made the decision to sign up for this program, it was a no-brainer. I’ve always dreamed of traveling as much as I can and writing about what I see. England specifically has always been at the top of my bucket list, because it is the origin of so many of my favorite authors and the setting for many beloved TV shows and movies, and it has such a rich and fascinating history. I didn’t think I would have any qualms whatsoever about dashing off into the Icelandic frontier or the English cityscape; my daydreams consisted of mastering the Tube system in London and spending all of my free hours uncovering hidden gems throughout the city.
But as the reality of my adventure inched closer and closer towards the end of this summer, I noticed something that surprised me: I was also scared.
I am scared to be away from my loved ones. I am scared to miss them all so much that all of the wonder and beauty surrounding me is tinged with sadness. I am scared to forge another round of new friendships with a traveling group that consists of mostly strangers. I am scared that I will make mistakes along the way in my journey. I am scared that somehow, I won’t live up to my potential as a student, a writer, a traveler (perhaps even a person?).
But the second thing I realized, and it is by far the most important, is that being afraid doesn’t have to hinder me. In fact, it’s all the more reason to go.
Life is fleeting, (that phrase might by corny and overused, but that doesn’t keep it from being true), and we spend so much of our limited time on earth sticking to what is comfortable and safe. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing to live like that. But the more I think about it, the more truly I believe you will miss out on the full extent of what life has to offer if you avoid the things that scare you. Overcoming my anxiety and learning how to be fully content regardless of my circumstances is definitely an area where I need to grow, and this journey grants me the perfect opportunity to do that every day.
As I packed (and repacked) my enormous suitcase last week, I didn’t feel quite ready to leave yet. As I hugged all of the the people (and dogs) I love dearly goodbye for the last time, I didn’t feel ready to leave yet. As I carted my armloads of belongings through security checkpoints at the airport and searched for familiar faces at the gate, I still didn’t feel ready to leave yet. But when I finally reached the terminal and came face to face with my beaming professor and a handful of my classmates with their backpacks in tow, it slowly sunk in that I’m really doing this. The dream is becoming a reality. It’s getting more and more real with every passing second. And as I sit on the last plane ride of the day and glance obsessively up at our destination tracker screen, (3 hours down, 2 left to go, in case anyone was wondering), I think I’m finally ready for an adventure. Bring it on.