Leaving the country you were born and raised in is terrifying. If you’re anything like me and are not inherently the bravest person, it’s easy to question everything you’re doing, even if you know it’s the right thing to do. Don’t let yourself fall victim to these thoughts and be held back. If you’re scared of moving to a new place, whether it be for school, a job or anything in between, don’t be. Brush off the cloud of insecurity and hold your head up high, you’ll be surprised by what you find on the other side, and what you’ll find in yourself.
My experience began with an exchange program over a year ago, and again this summer for a permanent leap of faith. Fresh off the boat and despite the many signs and people guiding me, I wasn’t sure if I was on the right bus, headed to the right address, with the right bags. Moving to the US from the U.A.E was the scariest thing I’ve ever done but, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I’ve made. Washington, D.C. is one of those cities which is begging for you to fall in love with it. It doesn’t have the glitz and glamor of Dubai, or the luxurious feel of being waited on, but it is beautiful, historic, modern and exciting all in one. I very quickly learnt that my home town was in a bubble of its own, and I had been sheltered from experiencing the full spectrum of life.
I always mocked people telling me getting up and travelling changes you. Location can’t have that big of an impact on who you are as a person, when it’s wound in with our DNA. I didn’t realize it at first, but Washington, D.C. was altering me inside out, bleeding into my bones subtly, until one day, it hit me – the old me was long gone. I was brand new. New perspectives, new ambitions, and it was liberating in ways I didn’t even know I wanted.
The journey 13,000 km across the world gave me an independence I didn’t have or desire before, a clarity and certainty about what I didn’t want my life to be, and a chance to grow into my own skin, becoming the person I am, not who my hometown told me I should be. I experienced both good and bad things; the beauty of understanding a culture I knew very little about in actuality (despite what movies told me), and the gut-wrenching fear of being hopelessly lost.
In Dubai, I had never experienced what it was like to get on a bus and travel hours across a country with bus transits, dealing with new territory and new situations that left me endlessly confused and unsure. In Dubai, I never got to forget about my fear and get lost in the excitement of discovering new favorite spots in a city hours away with people I never thought I’d connect with. In Dubai, I never experienced thinking, “wow, what’s out there? I should go further”, even with $50 in my pocket – welcome to my trip to NYC.
In no way do I mean the U.A.E is not amazing; Dubai will forever be my home, but what you can learn sitting in the comfort of your own bubble is limited. Growing as a person requires taking chances, gritting your teeth and running into the storm. Leave your hometown. You can always come back to it later. Your hometown cannot teach you about the rest of the world (beyond articles on the internet), the unique opportunities in every town and city – it can’t tell you about the many places and faces you will fall in love with either. It may not always be enjoyable, you may find yourself frustrated and pining for the comfort of similar surroundings, but you’ll find once you return to it, you ache to leave again.
Travelling – and I mean beyond a family vacation – opens your heart and mind, teaches you things about yourself you didn’t even know, and motivates you to keep going. Once you find a place you fall in love with, it’s hard to go back to old ways, and you’ll always want to see more. And I encourage everyone to go for it. Pick up your bags and move, the change it brings to you will surprise you, and you’ll be delighted.