The time has arrived. In three more sleeps I will leave my home, children (they’re 18 and 20 so don’t stress), friends and career to start my journey from the Sunshine Coast to the great world of Aarhus University in Denmark, as part of the USC Study Overseas program.
My mind is full of excitement – my imagination is carried away with visions of sights, sounds, tastes, new connections and dreams of great adventures. Fear of the unknown – how will I manage to share a kitchen with 14 others and what bus do I catch again? Sadness – how am I ever going to live without the endless horizons of white sand and blue seas and without those who are closest to me, who make me laugh and make me cry? And STRESS … will my visa ever arrive? Yes … three more sleeps until I leave the Sunshine Coast and I still don’t have my visa! I have 5kg of excess luggage and even if I were willing to pay for it, US$800 is a bit steep (not kidding) AND … my car has not sold and I have no idea of what else I have forgotten to do! What a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions.
The following are examples of my jumbled thoughts and strategies to help me stay sane:
A never-ending to-do list – It seems that one of the symptoms of great adventures is a wild untameable mind and the innate ability to second guess all decisions. I now live with a notebook and pen beside my bed so that at 2 a.m. I can write down all of the exotic places I want to see, adventures I want to have and all I have forgotten to do. I can then try to sleep and get busy researching, planning and preparing in the morning.
Never enough luggage – this has been really tricky for me, how can you choose which shoes to take and which to leave behind? It’s funny how difficult these seemingly simple decisions are to make. I have chosen to leave no possessions behind (thank you to Gumtree and my numerous early morning rendezvous as a market stall holder – another adventure in its entirety) and I am searching for that feeling of total freedom, of endings and beginnings, of self-discovery. Who am I without all of this stuff?
It’s been fascinating to uncover my attachments to different possessions, like my old Lego that I played with as a girl. What joyful memories these little blocks provoked – time with my family both as a child and then as a mother and I always dreamt of building great Lego castles with my grandchildren in the far, far distant future. Being unable or unwilling to sell or give these items away I have gifted my Lego to those I know will also create great memories with them. To remain connected with my studies without being weighed down with the 4.1kg my precious psych books bring with them, I have scanned pages and inserted them into hidden pockets in my luggage, like forbidden love notes. I’m also become an aficionado at squishing things into my suitcase.
Becoming connected and immersed in the pending adventure/culture – As a Psych student, I have a real hankering for connecting with people who have walked many different paths but also learning from those students before me who have travelled across the great blue seas. I have been delighted with mouthfuls of knowledge and experience, the dos and don’ts. I’ve joined groups of interest, researched cultural differences and worried about how I would handle the exchange rate. But the amazing part of it all is finding like-minded people in all continents; there are people like me, who worry about which undies to pack and what shoes to leave behind! Through these new online connections I may have even landed myself a job!
Attempt to tame that wild untameable mind – Wow am I good at over thinking? I have decided there is not much I can do about that, but what I can do is try to focus my thoughts on the adventure, on what I can control, on what I will learn, see, do, touch, taste and smell. Not what I will be leaving behind.
And then … Hold my breath and JUMP – it will all work out and what a ride it is going to be!
By Paula Bessems