My plane from the windows of Hartsfield-Jackson airport in July 2014.

Posted by Julie

Five hundred and forty-four days. That, my friends, is the equivalent of 11,712 hours, or 4.7 × 107 seconds. (A third of which I’ve probably spent sleeping, as painful as that thought is.) It is also the length of time since I last embarked on a journey that has left my stomach this tightly in knots. I can feel my chest tightening, where the stress epicenter builds just beneath my rib cage a few inches below by collarbone. My arms also somehow seems nonexistent, almost as if the nerves have quit sending their neuropathic messages to my brain – or my brain has stopped listening.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am lucky enough to be able to say that I have been abroad before; in fact, I was just settling into my designated seating area for the next nine hours of my flight into Charles de Gaulle, the international airport in Paris, France just 488 days ago. That happened to mark the start of my first international flight, let alone my first trip outside the United States ever, and I was taking that journey alone. Just for the record, I was definitely not scared out of my wits.

(Except I was.)

Before the parental hugs, removing my shoes for security, the terrific little rolls on the plane, and touching down in a city that was much colder than I ever imagined could be in the middle of July, I had never spent more than a week away from my family, and those weeks were always spent at camp, so the independence was still limited. I was a doe-eyed high school graduate who only knew she wanted to travel the world, and had managed to convince her parents of the benefits of this foreign exchange program. So, I had reasons to be terrified then, but I had to ponder a bit more as to why I’m terrified now.

I have always been a firm believer that sometimes being thrown in the deep end is the best option you’ve got. Life has a funny way of taking you places you never imagined, but that trip put me in a better place than I had been previously. Rewind to January 5th, 2014: my acceptance to the Georgia Institute of Technology arrived. Fast-forward a bit to late April the same year: my college plans were set in stone (or at least printed on the deposit receipt to Tech), and while I was happy that I even had the opportunity to go to college, I was worried about my happiness both on campus and beyond in my career. Was this really what I wanted to do with my life? I was so drenched with worry even a raincoat wouldn’t help, but as I was boarding that plane, steadily the experience took over until my brain was so lost in the present and so entirely detached from the worry that I was able to think clearly – logically even – about my future.

Now, after changing my major and other major life events, I have some more questions to ponder while I live in a foreign country 4,523 miles away from my home (in a place that doesn’t even use miles as a unit of measurement), so let’s just say I’m more stressed out than a cat on a surfboard in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane. But I’m all right with that. Everything is A-OK with me, because my toes are on the edge of the diving board, and I just might even discover something new during my swim.

Care to join me?