Traveling alone is a giant leap into an adventure- no matter where you go or even if you’re visiting the same place again. No two travel experiences are exactly alike- and each time that I travel, I learn a new lesson. One of the biggest lessons I learned during a trip was when I traveled on my own to study abroad in Australia. Just reminiscing about it now (2 years later), those short four months went by in a flash and completely changed who I am today.
Australia had always been a country I was fascinated with- starting with my obsession over Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin (R.I.P.) and love for the movie “Kangaroo Jack.” I’d always loved the idea of a country so incredibly far away and literally “down under,” but with incredible wildlife, wonderful people, and a stunningly beautiful country. Fast-forward to 2015- I finally decided to make the huge trek over there during my last semester at UCSC. Upon getting accepted by the University of Sydney, I was overjoyed but also unprepared for the journey ahead of me. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, but even at 21 years old I had no idea how significant this experience would be in shaping my life today.
The first step was getting on that 15 hour flight from LAX to Sydney. I arrived at the gate for Qantas (the only airline I considered for that lengthy flight)- thrilled and incredibly nervous for the journey ahead of me. Despite the long flight ahead and my crippling anxiety, a little bit of booze and a whole lot of food helped me get through it. After arriving, I finally got out of the plane and attempted to find my ride to the hostel. I’d never even stayed in a hostel before, but this was one of the best I could find and I needed a cheap place to crash for a few weeks until the start of the semester.
Wake Up! Sydney was definitely one of the coolest (and craziest) places to stay. If you’re young and looking to meet other young travelers, it’s the perfect way to enjoy Sydney and party any night of the week. Since I definitely couldn’t live in a hostel while studying at the Uni, I finally had to get my head on straight and look for an apartment (I used Flatmates.com). After searching far and wide with my friends from the hostel, I finally found an amazing apartment in Glebe- just outside of all the craziness of downtown Sydney and only five minutes from my university.
The months flew by after moving in, and I was so excited once I made friends from my classes and started to finally form a social life. My flatmates were amazing and I had such a phenomenal time even when I explored the city on my own. There’s something great about just going out on your own and experiencing a city without anyone or anything holding you back.
I hopped on a bus one time (after moping for most of the week about my lack of a social life and desire to see more of the city) and I went all the way to the Opera House on my own. Everything seemed to slow down after the first month of living abroad- my friends from the hostel had all gone home, I was still adjusting to my new apartment, and I had a whole new university (and city) to navigate. I remember breaking down a few times on the phone with my dad. I felt like it was too long of a wait before going home, too long of a flight to get home, and just too much for me to handle in general. Little did I know that simply waiting a little while longer and taking some steps to branch out would make all the difference in the world.
I managed to make some new friends in my classes, opened up about my anxiety and really worked on pushing my comfort zone while traveling and living abroad. I visited new places and took several plane rides to see the best of Australia. My travels took me to Cairns, Ayers Rock, Melbourne, and of course all around beautiful Sydney. I learned to be more independent, manage my money, cook and clean for myself, budget my time wisely, and especially believe in myself more than ever before. Without this experience, I can’t say I’d be where I am today or even feel the way I do about myself today.
Whether you’re studying abroad or just traveling alone for the first time- remember that you’re never alone. People in other countries are often friendlier than you think- so long as you communicate yourself appropriately and respect their culture. Next time you’re unsure about traveling alone, just think of the freedom you’ll have to work on yourself and embrace making new memories and socializing with interesting people. Don’t be shy to speak to the person next to you, even on your flight there! I actually ended up running into the guy next to me on the plane because he was a professor at the university! Remember, people all over the world are often excited to meet foreigners and hear about their life experiences.
So- are you thinking about traveling alone or studying abroad someday? If you’ve ever traveled alone, comment below with your experience and any of your tips for people who haven’t gone yet! Until next time- thanks for reading “From My Perspective.”