I was standing in my bathroom brushing my teeth, preparing myself for the day. My mind was wandering to the moment my friend pointed out the patch of grey hair on the side of my head, saying, “I’m sorry to tell you but you have grey hair!” I’m 23 and I’ve had that spot of grey hair since the day I was born. However, ten years ago if this had happened, I would have been mortified. Heck, even 5 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to say, “Yeah, I know. Isn’t it cool?”
I know you are probably thinking, ‘Emily, what does grey hair have to do with travel and why should I care?’ So, let’s go back to this morning while I stood in front of the mirror, brushing my teeth and letting my mind wander. I thought of that small thing and began to wonder what changed to bring me from being mortified to owning it. That’s when it hit me. Travel.
The first time I left home to travel solo, I can remember crying… a lot. I cried many times while packing, I cried at the airport and I cried the first few hours I was alone in the hotel in London, thinking of my family eating dinner at home. It was a bit of a pathetic thing to cry over, but it was the first time we’d been in a different time zone and I felt overwhelmed by that thought. The next day I was so intimidated by how big London was, that I barely made it down the block by myself before I turned back.
To be completely honest, I don’t know when it all changed. There wasn’t a day I woke up and wasn’t afraid of big cities and being on my own. It was a process that took some time. The first time I was in Sydney, Australia, I had a tourist map and made it four blocks around my hostel before returning and going to eat an orange on the terrace. I had the intention of finding the harbor but hadn’t realized I was a train stop away and certainly didn’t envy the idea of getting lost in Sydney. I was only 18 after all. However, little by little my independence grew. I ended up in Perth and began to take trains and walk for miles just to explore. I’d end up at different beaches and find new parks. I’d get hopelessly lost in unrecognizable suburbs yet still managed to return home by nightfall. Then, I did the same in Cairns. All of a sudden the world seemed smaller.
The world of travel is humbling. It takes realizing what a small part of earth you occupy and what a vast existence of culture there is to forget about your small insecurities. Like I said, it didn’t happen all at once, but city by city and new friend by new friend, I found new importance in my life. There is something to be said about meeting hundreds of new people from around the world and actually getting to choose which ones you like and which ones like you. It isn’t like high school where you are forced to know only the same few people with the same class interests, who all grew up in the same area as you. It isn’t like work where the only thing you have in common with your coworkers is the fact that you all like Fridays a lot more than Mondays. For the first time in my life I was able to find people who I could share an “ah-ha!” moment with; that moment when you realize you want to be friends based on your interests rather than your circumstances.
When you realize how many people there are in this world, and how many new cities you can be a stranger in, the little things such as grey hair no longer matter the same. It becomes cool to be unique and knowing that there are people out there who embrace your uniqueness – your confidence starts to soar. Travel has given me a great number of things from memories to experiences to friends and adventures, however, the most unexpected and beautiful of all is the confidence to be able to not take things so seriously; to be able to just laugh it off.
Emily Meyer is still relatively new to the wonderful city of Medicine Hat, having moved here in May 2016. She was born and raised in Ontario and lived in Australia for a year and a half. Emily has visited 33 countries and will share some of her experiences and advice for globetrotters of all ages.