I’m writing this article on my last day of class as an undergraduate student. To be honest, it was really bittersweet to sit in a plastic chair with an obscenely small desk for the last time (for at least a while, we’ll see).
I’m also writing this article as I wait to attend my last field trip! Serendipitously, my final class on my final day of being an undergraduate is my senior seminar. Focused on Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, my classmates and fellow graduates are meeting at the whale skeleton at the Seymour Center to read out our favorite passages by the water.
Where I dreaded having to lug myself through the notoriously difficult-to-follow narrative of Moby-Dick, I actually found a classic novel that I will forever hold dear to my heart. Part of this is because in the narrator, Ishmael, I can see myself.
Ignoring the fact that he is completely unreliable as a narrator (although I do tend to be dramatic), his insatiable need to change his surroundings to pull him out of a depressive episode hits home for me.
Mental health has always been a challenge for me from depressive episodes during quiet summers when I dive into devouring a book a day to anxiety-filled school years when I can’t sleep for weeks on end. For Ishmael, the solution is shipping himself around the world, chasing whales, and floating across the wide, glittering ocean with intimate friendship.
For me, it’s a plane ticket.
I’ve always wanted to travel; my 2014 Pinterest account was mostly travel tips and locations (and Harry Potter memes, but ignore that). I nearly applied to international universities and I absolutely did apply to out-of-state ones that I ultimately decided not to go to. When I was considering graduate school I looked exclusively in the UK.
My travel bucket list started many years ago and has become quite a long list. After many conversations with my mom over several years and one essential conversation with a cousin who understands me in a unique way, I’m finally ready.
So ready, in fact, that I’ve already purchased said ticket.
My mom offered her opinions of feeling glad that she backpacked through Europe. She spent considerable time walking, training, bussing alone through strange countries all the while learning more about herself as she crossed each border. She fulfilled a dream of hers and loved it.
I already mentioned my anxiety and that is precisely why it took so much convincing. My mom laid down the groundwork for years, but my cousin threw down the gauntlet when she told me the closest thing she has to a regret is not traveling more while she was young.
She gets it—she felt the anxiety I’m feeling now when she was my age.
And that’s all I needed to hear before taking the plunge. I don’t want to live my life catering towards the men that make the world feel unsafe for young women. What good does it do to let them run wild while I hide in my secure bubble? It’s not fair for me to miss out on life experiences that I yearn for.
Therefore, I bought my one-way ticket to London leaving in the Fall.
Literally! I bought my ticket on the same day as my stern talking-to about how I need to travel. Probably the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done, but I felt no anxiety as I did it. No shaking, no overthinking, no heart palpitations. Just happiness.
I want to live life. I want to experience cultures and histories and stories other than my own. I want to learn through meeting new people.
Traveling will fulfill a dream of mine that I’ve always had and check off many boxes off of my bucket-list. I will taste new food and learn more about what life has to offer. I will understand myself more and further understand what I want my life to look like.
My friends all seem to have a shared lofty dream of me returning to the US, but only to celebrate Christmas and go right back across the pond to a flat, job, and foreign boyfriend in London. While I think it’s a cute daydream, I’ll be happy with whatever I decide to do after having the European tour of fourteen-year-old Alexa’s Pinterest board dreams.
Even if that means living with my parents and sisters for just a little longer.
And so, with that, I leave you all (literally lmao) with the following advice: do not bow down to what the world has to say; you are the ruler of your life and you decide how you’re going to get where you want to be. Sometimes, all you need is a little traveling. Take it from me and Ishmael.