Five Months in Western Australia
I felt as though I was forgetting something. One last time I took everything out of my carry on and mentally checked off the contents. My passport, wallet, laptop and phone were all accounted for, just as they had been ten minutes ago. What was I forgetting?
As I stepped onto the plane, I had a flashback of my younger self uncontrollably crying. My family had embarked on a camping trip and in the hustle and bustle I left my stuffed elephant behind. At this point in my life this was catastrophic, the worst possible thing that could ever happen. My elephant made me feel safe. Without “Elly” I was left alone to defend myself against the monsters that would undoubtedly emerge from under the bed as soon as the lights went out. In this moment I felt like I was five years old, far from home and without my elephant. As it turns out I wasn’t forgetting anything tangible. The nagging feeling of forgetting something was a result of me leaving my comfort zone behind.
Somewhere between Vancouver and Australia reality caught up with me, I was flying away from my comfort zone at 870 km/hour. A deep sense of existential dread washed over me. With it came a mental picture of me ripping open the cabin doors and parachuting back down to my comfort zone, like something out of a James bond movie. At the same time mixed in with the dread and worry I had a growing sense of freedom. I felt liberated and incredibly vulnerable. The pilots voice through the static of the speakers mentally brought me back to the cabin. Jarringly he announced that we were experiencing some turbulence and that it may be a bumpy ride. At this moment in time the pilots words felt like an ominous statement predicting what I was about to experience for the next few months.
Admittedly, my first few days in Perth were turbulent but as the days turned into weeks Perth became my home. Yet, despite my growing comfort in Australia I woke up everyday feeling as though I was living outside of my comfort zone. Every morning for 5 months I woke up and made a conscious decision to embrace the unknown and make the most of my time in Australia. I made an effort to not retreat back behind my walls, to be open to new experiences and new people. My newfound openness allowed me to make strong connections with the people around me. These connections shaped my semester abroad into something beautiful. The experience left me with memories that leave me grinning ear to ear. Some may be surprised to learn that my favorite memories from Perth are not the ones of exploring the Australian outback, snorkelling on the Coral Coast, watching the sun dip behind the ocean at Scarborough beach or roaming the Fremantle markets. My favorite memories are a collection of small moments, so small that you hardly notice them at the time. When I think about Perth I think about laughing in the kitchen with my flatmates, being able to walk across the hall and knock on my best friends door to talk about my day, late night pancakes, Harry potter marathons and endless banter.
My new friends and the memories we made are my souvenirs from Perth. Given the chance I would have packed them up into my suitcase and brought them home with me. Although, physically we are worlds apart we are still connected. These lifelong friendships that have withstood the test of distance wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t embrace being uncomfortable, nervous and unsure. All things that happen when you leave your comfort zone behind. So, perhaps in a bigger sense I brought home one more souvenir from Australia, the willingness to be open and vulnerable and the understanding that amazing things happen when you take the chance to step outside of your comfort zone.