Geoffrey doesn't believe in living with regrets, but I have plenty. My single biggest one is not studying abroad my junior year of college. By the end of my sophomore year, my friends and I had collectively decided to all study in different countries around the world. My still-best friend Rachel chose Greece, and I had my heart set on Valparaíso, Chile, where I could practice my Spanish and easily travel around South America. I went so far as to apply, but the moment I found out I'd actually been accepted to my desired program, I froze. Suddenly, the prospect of being so far away from home (I'd never lived more than a day's drive from Northern California) and missing out on a semester's worth of college experiences felt incredibly daunting.
After deliberating for a few days, I decided that while I could travel at any point in my life, I wouldn't be able to replicate my experience at Scripps College. At the time, I was living in my first free-standing dorm room (as opposed to a suite) which was sun-filled, with robin's egg blue shutters, overlooking a rose garden. It was beautiful, but most of all, comfortable. I had such a happy life, where I knew everyone on campus, babysat for professors' kids, and met my friends in the dining hall every night, that I couldn't imagine breaking out of that pattern for a semester to go study abroad. Additionally, it probably didn't help that my then-boyfriend lived a short train ride away in San Diego.
What I failed to realize then is that once you're out in the "real world," you have infinitely more responsibilities, none of which I'd taken into account when I was a nineteen-year-old still supported by my parents. I had a good semester, but the reality is that it was hardly memorable. Instead, it was filled with average classes, typical fights with friends, and a relationship that obviously didn't last. On the flip-side, Rachel talks about her experiences in Greece to this day.
While we're incredibly fortunate to be able to take trips now, I know that the care-free experience I would have had then is impossible to replicate and harness as an adult. I'm not walking around on a daily basis filled with regret, but Chile is definitely where my mind goes when people ask if I could do anything over. However, I learned an important lesson from it: There are some decisions that, if you make the wrong call on, will linger in your mind for the rest of your life. I keep that as a gentle reminder in the back of my head any time I'm faced with a looming decision that feels intimidating. If it scares me and makes me apprehensive about a change to my routine, it's probably a good thing—and I won't make the same mistake twice.
It's already saved me a few times. I almost didn't fly to New York once for a work trip when I was feeling under the weather and anxious, and I can trace so many successes I've had since, directly back to that trip. The fear of leaving Sloan almost kept me from traveling to Paris and then to Japan. It may sound cheesy, but any time you're able to push yourself out of your boundaries, is a time you're able to grow. While I still had a good time at Scripps, I probably would have come back from Chile at least, fluent in Spanish, and at most, a changed person.
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