It has been an incredible summer filled with travel, laughter, new friends, and a lot of firsts.
I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life to do a great many things, but this summer was the first time I traveled to the west coast, the first time I traveled to a different country, and the first time I traveled to a different continent.
But, this summer was also the first time that I actually stopped caring what people thought of me.
Let me set the scene: I’m on a tour group with 40 other people I’ve never met before. I’m a fairly confident person in that I know who I am and I’m mostly okay with it. However, I suffer from a decent case of caring a little too much of what people think of me. It comes from growing up as a WASP. As such, I was taught to live my life by disturbing as few people as possible in the process. It means that I generally don’t make a fuss or try to be the center of attention (two behaviors that are becoming less important as I get older).
I arrived a day late to the tour due to unforeseen plane delays, so I arrived to Edinburgh, Scotland alone. That’s right; I was alone and in a foreign country for the first time in my life. I had to find my own way to the hostel where we were staying and then had to navigate my way through the city (sans cell phone data) to try to meet up with them. So many things could have gone wrong, but fortunately, my cab driver was awesome and navigating the city wasn’t too difficult. I found the group, introduced myself, and thought that was it. But, when I said, “Hi, I’m Alyssa” all I received was blank stares in return.
This is my nightmare.
I knew that I was going to have to find some common ground with at least one person on this tour if I was going to make it through two weeks. Fortunately, as our tour guide led us through the city, it was easy to pick up conversations as we walked. The people, though intimidating at first, turned out to be pretty nice. Thankfully.
At this point, I was beyond exhausted, having not slept much in the two days prior to arriving in Scotland. I was running on fumes and I wasn’t necessarily acting like I normally would. On our tour, I walked up to two girls in my group, and I basically told them I was going to tag along with them for the day. The day turned into the night. The night turned into the whole two weeks. We got along well, and I had an amazing time.
It was at this point that I realized caring what people thought of me has kept me from so many things.
So, I did many things on this trip I never thought I would: I danced with a room full of strangers, I talked to people randomly and often about anything and everything, I opened up to people more than I normally do, and I followed three random guys down the road to a bar…okay, that last part needs a little context. They were the hosts of a pub crawl (they even had official t-shirts) and the offered free drinks. What’s a girl to do?
In doing all of these things, in acting “out of character”, I discovered many new things about myself. I learned that I love to dance and meet new people. I learned that crazy and incredible things can happen if I just let them happen.
When I was younger, and even now to a certain degree, I felt like I needed to constantly be in control…of EVERYTHING. I chose to drive so I didn’t have to rely on others to drive me. I didn’t get drunk in case something bad happened and I needed to be sober. I loved from afar, never up close. I kept myself closed off because it was easier than the alternative –no, not “easier,” perhaps safer.
This summer, all of this changed. I saw other things to prioritize. I am inspired to change.