Up until my recent trip to Australia over winter break, I was pretty much scared of my own shadow. For my whole life, everywhere I traveled whether it was on vacation, or somewhere as simple as picking up take out for dinner I always had to have someone with me because I was scared of being alone. I had always wanted to study abroad, but as a science major it was too hard to fit into my schedule, and deep down I was also scared of being away from my friends and family for an entire semester or even just a few weeks.
About ten years ago when I was on a cruise with my family, I met a girl from Australia named Alexa who ended up becoming my pen pal and life long best friend. We stayed in touch for all of these years, and every winter break Alexa would come to stay with my family for a few weeks, but I was always too scared to sit on a plane for twenty-four hours to go visit her. However, I found out over the summer that Alexa would not becoming to visit me this Christmas, so the only way I could see her was if I visited her in Sydney.
On December 19th I arrived at JFK airport with my four huge suitcases ready to embark on a trip and experience memories and lessons that would last me a life time. I was a nervous wreck the day I was leaving, and I came so close to cancelling my trip. As I said bye to my parents I had to fight back the tears in my eyes, so I could go through security and board my plane. My first flight to Vancouver went smoothly, but when I arrived in Vancouver, I found out my visa never went through so they were not letting me board the plane to Sydney. I felt an overwhelming sense of panic stir in my body and I almost started to cry, but I realized that I had to stay calm and figure this out on my own because I had no family or friends there to help me. It took about four hours, but eventually everything worked out and I was able to board the plane after I had to call the Australian government by my self (reminder up until this point, I got nervous talking to the pizza man over the phone).
The twenty-seven hours of travel and madness that went on at the airport was worth it all. Sydney was the most beautiful city I have ever traveled to in my life. It was really cool to visit Alexa because I was able to step in her shoes and see what she and other people my age do on a daily basis. My first day there, she took me to Sydney Harbor to see the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. I always get annoyed whenever I go to New York City and see tourists stop every 5 seconds to take pictures, but now I finally understand why they do it. It was absolutely amazing to see all of these historical and monumental places I have seen on TV or in movies now up close in person. During my stay there, Alexa’s parents were traveling over seas, so I also had to learn how to cook for my self, clean the house thoroughly (cockroaches love food crumbs), and also manage my own finances and budget because my parents were not there to help me out. Doing all of this was not easy, but I had no choice but to figure it out. One day Alexa had to work, but I didn’t want to sit home all day so I decided to take a train to the city by my self and do some sight seeing. I don’t know what came over me because I have lived in New York all of my life and not once have I ever taken the LIRR by my self or walked around the city. When I got off the train I went to the botanical gardens and walked around there for a bit, and then for lunch I went to a market and tried Thai food for the first time. After lunch I came across this store that sold aboriginal (native Australians) art work and learned a little bit about their culture.
Every day I was there was a new adventure filled with fun and trying new things.
I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to visit Australia. Over the course of my trip I learned a lot about my self. For starters, it is totally unnecessary to pack four massive suitcases for a 4-week trip. More importantly, I learned that I can be happy being independent and alone, how to budget, and a new passion I have for traveling. My advice to anyone reading this is to take every opportunity you can to travel and immerse your self into other peoples’ culture because you will be surprised about how much you can learn about your-self in the process.