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The Wanderer Returns

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One year ago, I boarded a plane to Spain to begin a long-term round-the-world adventure.

My plane thundered down the runway and swung into the air: No turning back. My hands were sweaty, my throat dry, and a pang of fear coursed through me. I was suddenly sure I was about to make the worst mistake of my life. I was a wallflower, an introvert. I didn't do these kinds of things.

I shut my eyes and tried to remember all of my reasons for doing this. Because I wanted to see the world. Because life is so short and precious. Because I was healthy. Because my knees still worked. Because it was possible.

I'd become convinced this crazy idea was actually possible after a quick trip months earlier. On a warm day in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, I had lunch with a worldly old Australian man called Mike. Mike led the kind of adventurous life I'd only dreamed of. When I wished aloud that I could travel like he has, he simply looked me in the eye, shrugged and said, "Then do it. It's not that hard."

Somehow, I believed him. And here I was, about to live my dreams - while nearly having a panic attack.


But, during the year that followed, this amazing planet slowly worked its magic on me.

I hiked mountains in Vietnam and my fears turned into exhilaration. I learned to navigate the chaos of massive cities like Delhi, Marrakesh and Cairo - and my worries morphed into confidence. With each bustling hostel or group tour among strangers, my shyness became boldness.

Recently, I rode the last airplane of my journey home to San Francisco, and felt only deep tranquility. I returned with less baggage-in every sense-than I'd left with.

As a lifelong wallflower, I would've never guessed how much a whirlwind of five continents, 24 countries, and countless planes, trains, taxis, buses, boats, motorcycles, rickshaws, hot air balloons, plus the occasional camel - could be the best decision of my life.

I'll never look back.

With a Perspective, I'm Kirsten Smith.

Kirsten Smith is a marketing writer, travel blogger and former wallflower living in San Francisco.

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