Eight Things I Would Tell My Pre-Traveled Self

There are things I would tell my pre-traveled self if I could. You see a lot of lists like this on the internet and if they annoy you, for my part, I'm very sorry. This list of things came to me because I have so many friends back where I grew up who have asked me how I did it, what it took to leave everyone and everything I knew behind to go live in another country, and what they might be able to do to make it happen for themselves.

So for all of those people, here you go: my list of things I would tell my pre-traveled self. Depending on your situation, they might be things I would tell you too.

1) You're going to see amazing things

Well that's mighty obvious.Isn't that half the reason people travel anyway? Come on, it must be at least half. You've talked about 'seeing the world', after all.

You want to see all those places where they film great movies, where they set your favorite books. And you will. You won't see all of them, but you've still got breath in you, so you might yet one day.

Oh, and bring a good camera. Geez. One day you're going to blog (yes, you), you will be looking for pictures, and you'll be embarrassed you didn't take more photos with your iPod because it was drastically superior to the little green water-proof, shock-proof, drop-proof, good-picture-proof digital thing you bought. BUT ANYWAY.

2) You're going to meet incredible people

Living in the student housing when you move to London will be the best decision you make after deciding to move there in the first place. You will meet people who will challenge you, show you the kind of person you really are without any of the people back home to keep you accountable, and make you into the person you always really wanted to be. If you choose them wisely. See point three. You will meet people who think Americans are awesome and people who think Americans are idiots, and you will actually find yourself siding mostly with the latter on a lot of points which is rather embarrassing but there you go.

3) New people will break you

Without the comfort zone of being around family and friends that have known you for years, you will throw your irons in some new fires, and you will get burned. You will be betrayed by several people you trusted, even ones you were told not to trust but did anyway because you're a learn-from-your-own-mistakes kind of girl. That is your path, and it will put you in a crying ball on the floor more than once. It will also lead to some hella depressing writing--the kind of stuff that would make Poe say, whoa lighten up a little. How you respond to this shattering of trust is what will make you who you are.

If you never let anyone in, you will never get hurt. If you never let anyone in, you will never be loved. You will learn both those things when you move away from everyone you've ever known. Some things get stronger after they've been broken and learned how to reassemble. You are one of them.

4) The way you have always done things isn't the right way

That is to say, it's not the only right way. Here's the thing about living in a completely new culture: you can't be stubborn. If you want to get along with people and really immerse yourself in a new place, you need to be flexible. Learn to bend. Not everyone grew up in conservative small-town Minnesota. You did. When people look at you like something from outer space when you tell them that people back home get married at 18 and actually make it work, just laugh. And when they tell you that most 18-year-olds are taking a year off to travel around the world and you ask them how they could possibly afford that, they'll laugh too.

Speaking of money...

5) You will be financially unstable--and that's okay

You have been working since you were ten years old (before anyone retroactively calls child services, note that this was just in a paper route until I was 15). You worked 40-50 hours a week to pay off your undergraduate degree so you could go to England and do your Master's. You saved up every penny you could. It still won't be enough. But that's okay. You will make ends meet in miraculous, impossible ways. You will work two jobs while doing two degrees and still write half a novel because humans are capable of doing crazy things when they have to. You may live for a few weeks at a time on instant noodles and instant coffee. And you may actually kind of like it. Be wary of 80-pence boxes of donuts: they will not fulfill you.

6) Traveling will become a drug you can't get enough of

You will set aside some of the cash you hoarded while others went out to get slammed at the club to take cheap cramped flights and sleep in spare rooms, run-down hostels, and even once in a fancy villa with friends. And you will crave more whenever you're back 'home' which is a pretty awesome place in itself.

7) You will meet the most important person you will ever meet

And no, it won't be the Queen. Much better actually. He'll be Australian and you'll live an hour and a half apart by public transport even though you're technically in the same city, but that commute will feel like nothing once you live a nine-hour flight away and then a 24-hour flight after that. But you'll make it through the distance and the drama and all that rubbish until you finally get hitched and travel yet again to a new country: only this time, you won't be going it alone.

8) You will have so many more words than you thought

You will go to London to see if you can really write. You will come away knowing you can, and feeling empowered to write about so many more things than you ever thought possible. The only thing is, you will struggle to find all the words you're looking for. Keep trying, though. They'll come. Until you find the right words for others, focus on finding the right words for yourself. Who knows? They may be right for someone else too.

What did you learn when you traveled?