Travelling is a life changing experience. Anyone would agree. Sometimes, I like to pinpoint the exact moment that changed my life. The one moment that completely changes how I view the world or alters the person I am as a whole. One of these life changing moments happened when I got lost in Austria.
Let’s take a trip back in time to Spring 2009. I was an 18-year-old exchange student in Germany touring Europe with my fellow Rotary International Exchange students. One of the stops on our Europe Tour was Vienna. The tours with Rotary usually followed a formula: an actual guided tour of all the things you would want to see in the city, followed by free time in groups, then meeting back at the hostel to go for dinner and whatever other night activity they came up with. It was a solid system for a pack of 16 to 18 year olds from all over the world.
Two friends and I went off to do some souvenir shopping for our free time and generally just enjoy Vienna. Though it was a little difficult this time. Mother Nature decided to unleash a torrential downpour on us right as our free was starting and most of the souvenir shops were closed. We managed to find what we wanted dodging as much of the rain as we could and it was time to head back to the hostel. Sounds like an easy enough task but we ended up lost and couldn’t find anyone to point us in the right direction.
As someone who worries and stresses to the point of physical illness (starting way back in elementary school), this is a situation I would dread. But something amazing happened that day, instead of worrying, I started laughing. Soaked to the point where I resembled more of a wet dog than a human and having not the faintest idea of how to get where I’m suppose to be, I actually started to laugh. That’s when I realized for the first time in my life, I was living in the moment. I wasn’t stressed about the future or the recent past, but just enjoying the present. I also realized that running through the rain in a foreign city completely clueless is more fun than anything I had ever experienced. So, in that moment, I made a promise to myself to remember to try to relax, enjoy where I am, and not sweat the small stuff (or even the big stuff for that matter). Of course, this promise has also caused me to try to ignore the urge to throw my iPhone out the window and take off to places unknown with confidence that everything will be fine, despite having no plan.
This new found acceptance of current situations and learning to laugh when things go wrong has changed my life. Not only do I no longer stress about details beyond my control, I’ve learned to take things as they come. This has helped me many times throughout my travels. When I miss the bus or when I’m lost, I take a deep breath and just figure out what to do next instead of freaking out about it like the teenaged vision of myself would. If there is one thing I tell new travellers, it’s to realize that part of the journey is getting lost and having things go wrong. Enjoy getting lost in the rain – it’s not going to kill you.
What are some of you life changing travel moments? What changed about you?
P.S. I actually used this story for a school project when I was in my first year of University, part of which involved a short video. Check it: