Each new year comes with a new sense of uncertainty. The drop of a glittery ball ushers in a wave of exciting yet overwhelming possibilities and suddenly, your mind fills with the pressure to seek change. Will this be the year you feel confident in a career path? The year you finally limit your ice-cream eating habits? The year you meet the one?
It just so happens that this year, my feelings of uncertainty will manifest into an inevitable and drastic lifestyle change: I will be studying abroad in Spain for five months. Study abroad forces you to follow through with the classic New Year’s resolutions of meeting new people, altering diets, being more independent…and there’s no turning back.
Yes, it’s only five months, but I feel a sense of permanency as I get ready to leave this country and make my home in a new one. The process of getting a student visa was enough to make me feel like I was signing my entire life away…and walking into to my room every day to see the empty suitcase on my floor isn’t helping to assuage my anxieties either (I should really start packing).
So if this trip is really as life-altering as it seems on paper, I want to be prepared. As the type of person who likes to be in control, a person who makes lists of their lists, it’s no surprise that I’ve spent countless hours scouring the internet for study abroad resources. I have read every packing list on Pinterest, memorized every safety tip for female travelers, and analyzed every European bucket list. You might call me a Google Chrome tab hoarder. The thing is, I still don’t feel like I’ve done enough.
The hardest part of prepping to embark on this new adventure is teaching myself to be okay with not knowing all the answers. I’ve taken the history courses, I’ve studied the language, but I just won’t know how I will fit into the culture until I actually get there and begin to immerse myself. As I get ready for a journey that many tell me will change my life, I am trying to navigate various dichotomies: I want to be prepared but spontaneous, I want to be safe but live on the edge, I want to know all the answers but learn a million new ideas.
As go-getters, we want to be ready for even the smallest of changes. We embrace change, just as long as it’s on our own terms. But I’m learning that often times, the moments we don’t plan, the mistakes that we make, the events we didn’t see coming, can have the biggest impact on making us better people.
Forget the fear.
There’s a fine line between planning every last detail and planning nothing at all, and I’m doing my best to find that balance this year. 2017 begs me to be fearless. There is not a single list on Pinterest that describes what the air will smell like when I step off the plane, how warm the hug of my host mom will be, how hard I will cry when I’m missing my actual mom, or just how many churros I will consume on a weekly basis.
At this point, just days before departure, all I can do is feel grateful for this opportunity that lies ahead, and open up my mind to new ideas, cultures, and adventures. I’m also going to keep hugging my dogs a lot before I go, but that’s besides the point. With so much social pressure to be the smartest, the fastest, the greatest, it can be truly rewarding to stop worrying about where you’re heading, and just enjoy the ride.