Passing through the dark

Study abroad and travel fears

I was terrified of everything as a child. Jumping from the monkey bars would surely end in broken bones; the McDonald’s play gym was most definitely going to collapse while I anxiously scampered through its tunnels; and the boogie man, big bad wolf and several poltergeists all lived in my closet.

Don't look under the Bed

Photo attributed to Hannah

I like to think my fears have become more rational as an adult, but now that I’m throwing myself into a completely foreign environment, I’ve been trying to sort out which concerns are legitimate and which are akin to the monsters in my childhood closet.

Here are the five fears that are currently on my mind.

#5. Safety: Wait, so everyone isn’t just a nice person that wants to help me and has no evil agenda?

Let’s face it: I have it pretty good. I have a nice family, in a nice house, in a very nice  town where I know a sizable chunk of the population. I’m a smart girl, but living in such a sterile environment has made me predisposed to think people have good intentions. This means that I will have to balance a sense of goodwill and adventure with being guarded and skeptical enough to tell friends from foes. Is there an app for that?

#4. Dollars and sense

I have these competing interests. On one hand, I  want to make the most out of my experience and do all that I can while abroad. On the other hand, I know my bank account is not not a Marry Popinns bag of wealth where I can magically reach in and pull out all the funds I need.

I also know that I can think up the most stringent, shoe-string budget but I can’t say that when I’ve been backpacking for three weeks l will be down for another night at a dingy hostel and a cheap meal.

#3. Not being tough enough

This is going to be a really challenging trip. Just the act of carrying my belongings on my back is more intense than what I’m used to. There will be long train rides, days when I get lost, language barriers and times when everything possible seems to go wrong. It is going to take so much mental, physical and emotional stamina. Ready or not I will have to get through it – which, in its own right, makes me tough- but we will all just have to wait and see how gracefully I’m able to pull it off.

#2. Changing

Travel changes people. It takes the truths you used to know, twists them, changes them and adds to them. I will walk away with this set of experiences that no one back home will have. I will be different. One of my fears about changing is what if I come back and can’t stand everything here? What if I decide that I just want to be a full time wayfarer  that never settles down and forgoes the bundled husband/picket fence/2.5 kids/dog package? Oh ‘what if?’ game; you will drive me mad.

#1. The reality that awaits me: graduating, rent and picking a path in life

This trip is somewhat of a distraction from the rest of my life. When I get back I will be moving out with one of my best friends (yay!), which means big girl bills, deciding if I want to graduate a semester early, picking an internship and a whole lot of other life decisions. Each of these choices points me in a different direction and starts to transform what my life will be like. It’s not that I can’t make changes down the road, but I know that the farther down the line I get the more I sculpt my life into something solid and less pliable.

As we become adults, our youthful fears are replaced with new ones but they still line up against the same backdrop. We are afraid of the dark that stands between us and the things we want, be it travel, choosing a career or the jump from the monkey bars.

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