Orla Carty tells us why you should believe in the cliché.
We’ve all heard the clichés. Travel and find yourself, blah, blah, blah. We’re all aware that the place we live in is only a tiny portion of the world. I’ve lived in Galway since I was eight. Primary school, secondary school, university… it’s all been in this pocket of the West of Ireland. The same people that came over to play Bratz with me now sit a few rows down while I study for my degree. Last year, after I heard that I was unable to travel abroad with my course as I’d been planning to, I started to feel trapped in this bubble. Apart from tourists, there’s no one I could meet here that doesn’t know my cousin, or my brother, or my neighbour, or the girl who gives me notes when I miss my seminar. I knew I needed an out – even just for a while.
 
I spent almost two months away over summer, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t long really. I frist went to Benicassim festival with my friends, then onto Lisbon, Portugal, by myself to work in a hostel. Still new to being away, I went with crutches, in that I’d already stayed in the exact place I would be working a year before, and I went to Beni first so that I could look forward to that in the lead-up before going.
 
I thought I would feel refreshed from the experience. I would meet new people who knew nothing about me. I’d heard all the regular things; that you meet people who change your life and perception, and I wanted that too – but I don’t think I really expected to get it. Mainly, I just looked forward to some sun.
 
Cutting yourself off from your regular life is the strangest thing. The friends I’d had for years, who I hadn’t realised I’d leaned on so much, suddenly left my back bare. When I was thrust into a new work environment I didn’t have my parents to ask about how I should approach certain situations. When something bad happened I wasn’t able to hide away in my bedroom, reading my books or watching Netflix. Depending on where you travel and who you go with, you may be able to do some of these things - but not in my case. Somehow, I was surrounded by people – working and living with the same ten, meeting almost fifty new tourists a day – but also completely alone. There were days when this overwhelmed me, especially at the start. Everyone seemed so much older than me – funnier, more confident, louder, and more mature. Irish people are so subtle in how we behave. Everything was heightened and intense, and I didn’t know how I would keep up with it.
 
But I didn’t have to. What I realised as time went on was that everyone felt as insecure as I did at first. I found a place amongst the craziness, where I could be the same person I always am, but more confident. I found that I had as loud a voice as any of the others and that I deserved to sit among them. They didn’t care about any of my differences, and I found myself embracing them.
 
In short, I’ve never felt so relaxed as I did in those six weeks. Life as an Irish student can be stressful, full of insecurities and overthinking. There, I was free. 
 
Coming back didn’t get rid of these qualities. The numbing freedom definitely ebbed away, and real life kicked in. But the parts of me that developed abroad haven’t left either. I have more of a backbone than before. I can let drama fly above me without getting involved. I don’t even get FOMO anymore. Sometimes I feel myself fading, going back to the way I was, but when I think about that time I snap right back.
 
Travelling completely changed my way of thinking, and being. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone. I certainly plan on taking proper road-trips and actually going to different continents. I can’t emphasise how important I think it is take the opportunity to do it while you’re young. Not only does it allow you the time to do it, before life gets you settled with a career and a family. It also enables you to capture ways that can uplift you as a person, and carry them through life. I really believe it makes you both happier and wiser.