As I sit here in this unlit room, I am stuck between the feeling of hope and the realism of expectation. The overcast sky outside reflects my mood today— calm and steady, yet a storm may be brewing. Life has taught me that the outcome is rarely what we dream it to be. More often than not, high hopes lead to disappointment and what appears to be a grand adventure on the outside was actually a bloody fight to the death, a fight between who you were and who you are now. Do I sound dramatic? I can think of three times in my life where putting myself in a foreign country has made me feel this way. Fortunately, the new version of myself always wins and is always stronger than the one I used to be. Every single time.
With a new adventure on the horizon, I hesitate to feel hopeful about it, although my excitement can’t be contained. I think this is important to discuss because for many travelers, it is normal to feel a sense of underwhelm in the midst of an adventure. The experience is not coming into fruition the way you imagined. Maybe the logistics have been difficult, maybe you aren’t hitting it off with as people as you’d like, maybe you fell ill and have been bedridden for a week. I have been there, and it feels isolating. This isn’t about vacation. Vacation is traveling but in a different sense. Vacations tend to be relaxing, laying on the beach, nice hotel room, you know, typical well-deserved time off. Traveling, on the other hand, at least what I think of when I hear the word traveling, means to feel discomfort for maybe 20-60% of the time (let’s be real, sometimes it’s 100%, depending on the day). It’s not always easy and if you’re introverted like me it is really a mental challenge, but one that I always look forward to and one that I am proud of at the end of it all.
I am proud at the end of it all. That’s the key here. As I sink into this internal dilemma of hope versus expectation, it’s worthwhile to cut to the end, because in the end I will be proud no matter what. Allowing myself to feel excited is more important than trying to be realistic, although thinking realistically is paramount to mental fortitude once on the journey. Without the excitement, I’m not being fair to myself. If I’m excited I want to FEEL excited! I struggle to allow myself to immerse fully into this emotion sometimes because I don’t want to be disappointed. But whether we armor up for it or not, what is disappointing is going to feel, you guessed it, disappointing. That is why a balance must be found in recognizing that things will not go completely the way we want them to but still feeling enlivened at the thought of what’s to come. I’ve realized that I try to separate the two feelings when really I should be allowing them to intertwine.
As I write this, the rain has begun to fall outside. How amazing that the clouds were so full of life that they wanted to spread it across the Earth. That is the metaphor that I choose to live by today. I want to show my joy and let it rain on others around me. Just like in life, we can’t control everything when we decide to venture into the unknown, but our experiences start and end with what we make them and our attitude towards these highs and lows. The highs are always great, they are what made the lows worthwhile. But the lows are our teachers and they help mold us into better humans. It’s the one thing I know for sure and the hardest, simplest, biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past ten years.
So, I am excited for what’s to come, and I’m realistic. Today I will give into my hopes. I hope with all of my hopes that it is great, all the while knowing that it will not always seem great. What looks gloomy and gray is sometimes just what we need to create beauty and color… kind of like an overcast sky that allows the rain to fall.