As a first time independent traveler, I learned a lot from my study abroad trip to Tallinn, Estonia.

I spent three crazy weeks in Estonia, studying Russian language. I was able to visit Finland, Russia and Lithuania too. My initial memories are filled with color and the sights and sounds of a land very different from my own. But very near the surface of those memories are the ones filled with struggle and grey undertones. My trip was fun, and difficult. Exciting but exhausting. Adventurous yet stressful.

I was 21 years old and it was my first time ever traveling on my own to another country. Favorite part? Meandering around Old Town Tallinn, at my own pace and window shopping while laughing at tourists eating at a TGI Fridays! I could not believe there was one there! Least favorite? Um… where do I begin? My problems weren’t with the destinations, but with my personal experience while there.

Tallinn Market

Tallinn Market

The Basics: Why did I have such a hard time again? I struggled because I barely had any money and I only wanted to use it for travel experiences. So I neglected buying things like food or cab fare. For three weeks I barley ate, I walked everywhere to avoid paying for a taxi; anything I could do to save money for another trip.

My constant stress over spending too much stripped me of my enthusiasm and general happiness. What’s more, I don’t know if any of you know this but, by not eating anything, you become really weak and tired! I just never had any energy. This combination of problems led to an overall lull in my trip. That’s why I had such a hard time.

Tallinn Estonia

Tallinn Estonia

What did I learn?

  • I learned that I will sacrifice everything for the sake of adventure. I would rather save money for a bus ride than buy something to eat.
  • I learned that my pride and refusal to ask for help can cause me a lot of grief.
  • I learned that I have two competing parts of my personality. One, the guy who drinks and stays out late to fit in, and two, the guy who desperately needs to stop partying and find time to himself. (A recurring theme that would cling to me despite my best efforts for years to come)
  • I learned that financial woes can cause me pretty severe depression.

I had such a hard time during this period of my life. I knew I was supposed to be having fun. I mean, it was my dream to travel. And yet, I oddly didn’t feel like I was having fun at all. In fact most of the time it was more like a chore because I was too worried about spending money to enjoy myself.

cool ship on Neva River, St. Petersburg, Russia

cool ship on Neva River, St. Petersburg, Russia

At the time, it didn’t even occur to me to try and learn from what I’d been through. In coming home, it was expected of me to paint this beautiful picture to my friends and family about all the cool things I got to see and do. However, I left out all the struggle and heartache; desperately wanting to talk about it but fearing no one would understand. So in not knowing what to do, I forgot about it; discreetly sweeping any negative aspects of my trip with my confused and bewildered emotions under the rug, hoping they would go away. But with bigger and better trips on the horizon, my frazzled brain and the struggle to understand my emotions would only get more interesting!

Only now in my life am I able to think and communicate this clearly. At the time, I knew I felt poorly, but had no idea how to articulate this. So glad I can do this now!!

Seurassari open air museum, Helsinki FInland

Seurassari open air museum, Helsinki FInland

Thinking out loud

I wrote 4 blogs on my study abroad trip. Reading them now, the tone tends to get kind of sad and negative doesn’t it? Well, I’m trying something new with my story telling. I want to try and capture the spirit and emotion of my trips because A), I want people to know that travel isn’t all fun in the sun, it can be hard, and B), it’s a kind of therapy for me. It feels good to finally have my story out there, regardless if anybody reads this.

I have so many ideas for this blog, my writing and what direction to take my website. I keep trying to be perfect at everything and I’m waiting till that day to really start my blog. But in waiting, I’m not getting any work done! I think the best thing to do is just practice right? I mean, in just writing and working on my blog, my own voice and style with develop naturally. I need to remind myself of this.

Stay tuned! I have many, *many* more stories to come.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve come to learn about yourself from travel? Comment below!!

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