It’s hard to believe that the first time I travelled internationally, I was moving away from home! I joined an Au-pair program when I was 24, and left South Africa to spend a year in the United States of America shortly after.
I told my family and friends I was going to live in America only three months before I left, and that was still not enough time, since they brought the waterworks to the airport the day I left – Indian style (almost everyone cried!). My nerves of steel got me through the airport security check before I shed a tear, I would only be seeing these characters after a year. I would miss the get-togethers, family functions, weddings and parties; but I had something to prove.
I was told that I could never make it, living on my own, since I was the youngest and never lived away from my family before. My sister spent a year as an au-pair in Amsterdam and it inspired me to follow in her footsteps.
So I left South Africa. I would spend a week in New York City before traveling to Chapel Hill, North Carolina – my home for the next year, or two years as it eventually was. My research on Chapel Hill and surrounding cities, things to do, places to see, festivals and shows and restaurants was done!
I was exhilarated! It was high that I did not want to come down from and I still feel it every time I travel. I was doing it, I was going out into the world, my luggage in hand and a smile on my face. I wanted everything to be in slow motion, with my playlist (I have a weird taste in music) in the background, and a slice of pizza in my hand. Yet, everything seem to happen at supersonic speed.
During my first year of living in Chapel Hill, I was in awe of almost everything – the locals and foreigners, the city, the universities (Chapel Hill is a college/university town), the food, and the lifestyle! I did not accomplish as much travel as I wanted to within the first year, it made me feel somewhat unfinished in my experience, so when the option came for me to stay another year, it was all to easy for me to seize the opportunity.
There was no home sickness, until it was actually time for me to go home. I made many good friends, friends who became my family and support system while living abroad. Friends who I will gladly open my doors for if ever they needed and whose doors I know stay open for me.
This experience for me was one of those once-in-a-lifetime/ life changing experiences. I willed myself to do things out of my comfort zone, and which I would have never done living at home, like going to the movies by myself, eating at a restaurant by myself, taking a vacation by myself and taking a train by myself, among other things. I have no qualms doing these things by myself now that I am back home.
There are much more tales to tell about my travels and experiences while living in the United States of America. I hope these stories will encourage and excite you as much as it inspired me.