When I went to college (university for you non-Americans), many of my friends studied abroad for a semester. They came back glowing from life-changing experiences, telling stories of new friends, spontaneous trips to exotic locations, foreign beauties, weird food, and life lessons learned. Their tales made it sound like they lived a movie. I always thought of doing it myself. Being in a foreign country, learning a new language, reinventing yourself, meeting girls (not to mention being able to legally drink. – for a college student, it sounded like the perfect opportunity.
But I never studied abroad.
Semester after semester, I let the opportunities slip by.
Because I was always too afraid. I wasn’t afraid of what would happen, but afraid of what I would miss back home. What if I miss “something”? Studying abroad meant missing what happened at home.
What changes would happen with my friends? What parties would I miss? What gossip? What if there was some big event at school and I wasn’t there? What inside jokes would I not be a part of? What if the President came? What if this? What if that?
I didn’t want to miss something even I didn’t know what that “something” was. I didn’t want to hear stories from my friends about things they did while I was away — I wanted to be a part of those experiences. In my mind, I knew I would have created my own stories abroad but I was too afraid about what stories I would miss if I left.
So I stayed at home.
And I regret that decision to this day.
I let fear rule my life. I went with the devil I knew because it was easier. I allowed me to stay in my comfort zone and never really test myself. I could always have the dream of “what might have been” without actually having to do it.
I put off a great experience because I was afraid of what the future mighthave happened.
If I let fear hold me back from travel like it did in college, I never would gone to see the world in 2005. I would have never have quit my job. I would never have started this blog. There would be no “Nomadic Matt.”
I would still be in a cubicle wishing I was somewhere else.
It was a hard lesson to learn but missing out on studying abroad showed me that you can’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 still be held back by fear.
The Dutch have a saying: “He who is outside his door already has the hardest part of his journey behind him.”
If you talk to any traveler, they will all tell you the same thing: nothing changes back home. People might get a new job or a new girlfriend. Maybe they will move. Someone might get married. A restaurant might close. A bar might no longer be cool. But the day to day life will be the same and when you know that, you’ll thank yourself for not giving into fear.
Life never gives you the same chance twice. You’ll never get another chance. Doors don’t reopen. Once they shut, they are shut for good. It’s a lot easier to travel than you think. Once you take that first step out the door, anything is possible. Whether it’s a two week trip to Bali, a year long trip around the world, or finally taking the family to Disney, get going now because you are missing a big world out there.
I regret never leaving to study abroad. I am glad I never made that mistake twice.
I can’t take back my decision but I can make sure I am never afraid to step out the door again.
I might not know what’s out there, but I’ll never know unless I take the plunge. You never know where the day might take you!
Because, in the end, what will you regret not going more than you’ll regret going.