I don’t read like the ideal version of someone who goes on a 3 month adventure abroad. I’m a 35 year-0ld, overweight, pregnant, sometimes depressed, mom of 3. My previous international experience includes trips across the Canadian border from my native Washington. I have embarked on two long-distance US family road trips, one with a 2 month-old breastfeeding baby as a companion. 3 months visiting 2 foreign countries, however, is a whole new level of adventure for me.
I’d resisted study and internships abroad in the past; my limitations too glaring, the “what-ifs” ringing in my head. It’s hard to pin point exactly what changed over the past year, but I grew tired of giving my pessimistic inner voice such influence over my choices. I wanted to see what would happen if I turned my “what ifs” on their heads, and gave the optimist in me a chance. This voice asked, “What if I take a risk? – What if I see amazing sites? – What if it’s difficult sometimes? – What if it tests my limits? – What if I discover new things about myself? – What if I expand my worldview? – What if I’m up to the challenge? – What if I love it?”
So, I took a leap and said “Yes” to a 4 week study abroad in France, loans and all. Then “Yes” to 10 weeks in England for an internship opportunity. I won’t lie and say I never felt fear or trepidation, that I didn’t doubt myself, that packing felt surreal and insane. But it also felt freeing and exciting. I don’t always acknowledge it, but I’ve looked fear and pessimism in the face many times in my life, conquering both through risk-taking moves, leaps of faith, and rising to the challenge. I’d been preparing for this trip for a lifetime; I just didn’t know it.
These three months have tested my resilience, patience, physical health, emotional health, relationships, comfort levels, and problem-solving skills more than any other experience in my life. And I am certainly not the ideal candidate for this kind of adventure – for many reasons within my own control. Surprisingly, however, this adventure is the ideal experience for a person like me.
Many – if not most – of my what-ifs have occurred, on both sides of the spectrum- leaving out extremes of kidnapping and receiving honorary knighthood. I’ve been pushed to my limits and realized that I could keep going and continue trying. I have literally faced a steep hill, pushing a stroller, and wondered if I could make it the rest of the way to our flat. I pushed on, one step at a time, until I reached our door. I’ve been ready to give up on a day out with poorly behaved kids, only to recognize the walk, train ride, or amazing sites required me to find something more within myself. And I did.
My wit’s end, my body’s limitations, and my emotional capacity are all up to greater challenges then I imagined. Some days, the challenges have conquered me, especially in the beginning. Sometimes I’m grumpy. I withdraw. I complain. I give my husband a hard time. I grimace in pain. I scold myself for choosing pregnancy and this adventure simultaneously. I get frustrated with homesick kids. I wonder if I have more time in me.
But I never regret.
I walk farther than I ever have, feeling the strength in my legs. I drink more water to feel hydrated, feeling it cleanse me. I travel to unknown places, three kids in tow, trusting Google Maps and the kindness of strangers. I’ve watched my kids experience the world in new ways, witnessing awe alight their faces. I’ve held my husband’s hand in wondrous places and felt my baby kick in lands oceans away from home. I’ve been embarrassed by language barriers and made tremendous friends.
I’ve learned that sometimes, when things don’t turn out the way I imagined, they’re even better. And, when they are harder, things are what I make of them – and I am up to the challenge.
I’ve found myself worrying less and doing more. I try. I see. I experiment. I take the day as it comes.
You see, I am Strong. Bold. Resilient. Capable. Adventurous. I am a Conqueror of what-ifs. I Can. I Will. I Am.