“Your current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers.” ~Unknown
It was a few months into my semester abroad during my sophomore year in college when I realized how special the experience had become.
On the way to class, I strolled past the Pantheon and snacked on homemade gelato.
Preparing dinner consisted of purchasing fresh-picked produce and a fresh-cooked baguette. As my homemade pasta sauce slowly came to a pleasant boil, my roommates and I would sip the finest Chianti 5 euros could buy while eating salami and formaggio (cheese) so delicious it makes your mouth water just thinking about it.
The five months I spent abroad in Europe molded me into the individual I have become today. I learned more about myself than I had in the previous 20 years of my life.
I learned to laugh at jokes in more than one language, cry when parting with the city I had grown to know and love, and develop lasting friendships that bring a smile to my face every time I see the person’s name on my caller ID.
My experience abroad taught me how to live a life free of second guessing and regret. Here’s how.
Rule #1: It Will Never Be (Today’s Date) Ever Again
Looking back and saying, “I should have done …” or “I wish I had the guts to say …” will haunt you forever.
Avoid this by using the “It will never be (today’s date) ever again” rule.
A great example of this rule happened while I was traveling through Spain. During the flight, I befriended a group of Canadian travelers who I was going to go out with that evening.
Unfortunately, we were staying at separate hostels and lost each other as soon as we touched down in Madrid. I even tracked down the location of their hostel and went to ask for them there; they were nowhere to be found.
Instead of sulking by myself, I thought to myself, “I will never in Madrid, Spain, on May 28, 2008 ever again,” and went in search of english-speaking travelers.
In a crowded plaza, I beelined to the first group of english speakers I heard and ended up spending the evening drinking, eating authentic Spanish tapas, and touring the city at night with a brand new group of friends.
Never waste a single second of your life, as you will never get that second back.
Rule #2: Guard Your Time With Your Life
Time is something that you can never recuperate –once it has past, it is gone forever.
One of the most common phrases I hear when I recount my travels to friends and family is, “Wow! I would love to do something like that. I just wish I had the time.”
Everybody has time, they just choose to spend it in different ways.
When people say they don’t have time, it’s no more than an excuse to put off traveling for things that they deem more important at that point in their lives. They usually follow it with, “I want to accomplish (X,Y, or Z) and then I’ll make time to travel when I’m older.”
Hate to break it to you: It doesn’t matter if you’re 26 or 76, every single day you become that much older. In retrospect, how would you feel if you never mustered up the courage to take that big trip you dreamed about all your life?
Don’t hold onto your time . It’s not like roll-over minutes. Take advantage of the time you’ve been given right now.
Rule #3: Be Brave
Imagine the rush of adrenaline that you feel when you take on a new challenge: That’s the feeling I experienced every single time I spoke Italian to native speakers.
At first, literally all I could say was, “Hello” and “Thanks a Million!”
But by being brave and going out of my way to surround myself with the language, my learning curve accelerated to the point that I was learning more on the streets than in the classroom.
It didn’t matter if I was asking for directions to the store from a grandmotherly Italian woman on the street or blurting out “Ciao bella!” at a cute young Italian girl on the underground. Every single time I spoke Italian I felt completely energized, as if my entire body was tingling and I was floating on air.
As my language skills improved, the feeling continued to grow. Suddenly, “Ciao bella” (and accompanying wink) to the cute young girl on the underground wasn’t enough anymore.
I had to say more. I had summon the courage to speak Italian all the time, even if that meant risking sounding like an idiot (which of course, I did sometimes).
But the feeling was addicting. And every time I succeeded in holding a conversation, my confidence grew, and I wanted to become braver and take on more complex conversations.
It was all because I was brave enough to meet the challenge head on from the get go.
Brave actions will be rewarded. Acting bravely ensures you won’t look back and regret being too scared to try.
Photo by kudumomo