By Dannie Elizabeth
In response to Haley’s article (So You Say You’re Not Brave Enough), I agree. You don’t need to be this wild adventurous person to live the expat life. Not all of us pack a backpack without a plan, board the next flight out and wing it. We don’t live an incredibly glamorous life…We may eat different and exotic food, but we still go grocery shopping. We may travel to beautiful places on the weekends, but we still have jobs.
I don’t consider myself very adventurous, I just think I’m determined. Friends before I left and currently express their envy of my life but come up with excuses as to why they can’t travel. We have all excuse. I just took the leap of faith hoping that things would work out in the end. I left my job, my security, my home and my friends not knowing what would be on the other side.
But traveling puts you into these positions of “five hour friendships” and you’re forced to break out of your shell if you’re going to survive in this new strange land. But after friendships are formed, your room is decorated and you know where to buy food… What happens?
Fun. More risks and in some cases a bucket list! So now you’re in this new and beautiful place. You’ve abandoned everything and everyone you’ve ever known. Risk over. Well, yes it could be. But look at where you are! Those mountains, that water! It’s unlike anything you’re ever been surrounded by and now it’s your new backyard! Realistically who knows when or if you’ll ever get back here so do it all. Yes, yes eat the food and befriend the locals, but go do something crazy as well! Something that will pull you further out of your comfort zone. You might love it.
While living in Italy I was fortunate enough to work for a great travel company which in turn allowed me to travel extensively through Europe. One weekend I found myself in Interlaken, Switzerland, the extreme sports capital of the world. Bungee jumping, cliff diving and, of course, sky diving. It had to be done. My friend and I psyched each other up and proceeded to quickly book our sky diving adventure before we changed our minds and chickened out!
There was no instruction course before you plunge to your death, no video to watch, just your new best friend; the person you will be strapped to for the next half hour whose hands you are putting your life into. This person quickly goes over body position, hand signals and explains what the equipment does. Good. Got it? Let’s dive!
After surpassing the tops of the Swiss alps my friend asked how high we would be going. Oh, 15,000 feet? Sure, no problem. As I watched her jump, or rather disappear from the helicopter rungs, my stomach flipped. Up until now this had been a beautiful ride around the alps sitting on some random man’s lap. Time to leave that all behind and jump out into the great unknown.
Looking down I saw nothing but white clouds. I couldn’t even make out the mountains anymore let alone the life below. We took off and I didn’t even realize we had moved until I saw the helicopter high above me. Not so bad I thought, no stomach flipp–oh God. I can’t breathe! There’s no air. I’m suffocating. This is how I’ll die. Forget the chute not opening, I’ll be blue by then. What’s happening? Damnnit, my mother was right!
Ohhh, you have to breathe through your nose, way to go you mouth breather…(this would finally come in handy years later when I first tried scuba diving, but that’s a different story).
When we came out of freefall it was like nothing I had ever done. The white snow on the tips of the mountains reflected the light beautifully and faded into the clouds above me. Below me, small houses and tiny cars drove around a city blanketed in snow. Everything was quiet and still and cold. Man, was it cold. When my instructor let me steer the chute I was finally in control again. I had just taken the biggest risk of my life. I had literally risked my life and trusted a piece of fabric and a man I had met not more than 30 minutes ago to get me safely to the ground and it had all worked out. The adrenaline pumped and I was soaring (both literally and figuratively). I didn’t want it to end but then my feet hit the cold snow and I was back from my adventure. There haven’t been many moments in my life when I’ve been speechless but this was one of them and the camera was there to prove it.
So even if you’re not willing to pick up your life and start over somewhere new then at least go out and explore what surrounds you. Take a risk and try something new!
Dannie got on her first plane to Canada at the tender age of nine months and since then she hasn’t stopped. She currently lives in Thailand where she works as an ESL teacher and gets her travel fix on the weekends. Her most recent escapades can be found on her blog, Eat Well, Travel Often. Dannie also contributes monthly to the popular NYC fashion blog, Merci New York.