It’s time for our monthly segment of ‘Breakthrough Besties’ and March features someone who is very close to my heart. I met Courtney 2 years ago while my boyfriend and I were travelling through Honduras. We only spent a week together, but in that time we grew so close that even the distance between Sydney and California couldn’t keep us apart after our trip.
Since meeting, Courtney has embarked on a journey which involved taking a leap of faith and buying a one way ticket to travel Europe solo for 12 months. In this month’s article, she shares with us how travel has helped her find her self confidence, overcome her anxiety and conquer her fear of failure.
At the end of 2015, I took off to Europe with a backpack and a one way ticket. I traveled around with different friends for a few months, but it wasn’t until I got off the bus in Milan, Italy, that it fully sunk in that I was now traveling alone. While I’ve taken trips, both domestic and international by myself before, I’ve always been greeted and hosted by friends at my destination. Those trips had a set deadline and I had a safety net of knowing at least one native.
This time, this trip had no end date and no welcoming friend. I was by myself. I’ve never been to Italy before. I don’t know the language. The public transportation was unfamiliar to me. I was couch surfing to save money, but I couldn’t reach my host’s flat until the end of the workday.
I found a cafe after walking a bit from the station, sat down to work, but found I couldn’t concentrate. I walked back in the direction of the station when I stopped being able to breathe properly.
My breath quickened and became constricted; I had no awareness of my surroundings, my eyes blurred with invading tears and my brain couldn’t seem to function properly.
My mind started filling with doubts, insecurities and sabotaging thoughts. Who did I think I was, traveling alone? There was no way I was good enough or strong enough or had the courage to go on alone. I’ve always said I could do it, but now that I was, it was entirely impossible.
I didn’t know what to do. I started texting my best friend in the hopes she could calm me down. I started telling her all my doubts about traveling solo: I couldn’t do it; I wasn’t ready; I feared for my safety; I didn’t know what I was doing. I even told her I was going to come home the next month, once I had fulfilled an obligation in Switzerland.
I couldn’t stop walking. Tears were threatening to streak down my face and I was unaware of where my feet were taking me. I had failed. I had completely, utterly failed. What was I thinking? How could I possibly have thought I could do this?
A few years ago, I was driving home just south of Los Angeles through some worse-than-normal traffic. For us native to Southern California, traffic is the norm, but that doesn’t make it any easier or more tolerable. This particular day, the traffic frustrated me to no end. I was beside myself with anger, blaming everyone around me for daring to drive at the same time as me. While I didn’t portray these frustrations externally (I may have let an expletive or two escape), they filled me with so much negativity and hopelessness that I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t want to sit through hours of traffic when I could be doing something useful or even FUN.
It seemed to come from out of nowhere, but all at once, a calmness forced its way through the madness and said, “You will get through this.”
I realize this was an odd epiphany. It was a completely ordinary day, doing ordinary things, in an ordinary situation that didn’t seem to require more than an attitude check. But as I was walking through the streets of Milan, alone, afraid and vulnerable, the memory of that moment in the car flooded into my mind, and once again a calmness forced its way through the madness and said, “You will get through this.” I remember finally stopping and taking a breath. I thought “I CAN do this.” And I did. I found a new strength and confidence I didn’t know was in me, and I continued to travel solo for the rest of the year until I had to return home for one of my best friend’s wedding.