My First Overseas Trip: Thoughts

A photo I took during my time in Porto, Portugal. This miradouro (viewpoint) gives you amazing views of the city.

Have you read my previous blog post about taking a leap of faith and starting a new chapter of traveling? Or what about the one that listed the 10 things I wanted to do when I visited Porto, Portugal? Basically, both of those posts involved me preparing for my first European trip.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel abroad before. But always on “this side” of the world. Before going to Portugal, I’ve been to Mexico, the Bahamas and Canada. Those places were lovely and I want to explore them more, along with Latin America and more of the U.S. However, traveling far has always intrigued me.

So, I stopped dreaming about going to Europe… and I went.

I have several posts planned relating to my experience in Portugal. However, I wanted to just decompress and let out my general feelings about how I feel and what I learned. If you’re preparing for your first big trip or are simply curious, keep reading.

Was I nervous? Yeah, but maybe not about what you think.

When my sister was driving me to the airport, the closer we got to JFK, the more nervous I felt. But weirdly enough it wasn’t the thought of flying or be away from people I knew that was causing the uneasiness in my stomach. Instead, I was just nervous about everything going smoothly at the airport. For some reason I had a huge fear that I wouldn’t be able to find my gate, I’d miss my flight or that something would be wrong with my ticket or passport.

Luckily, everything went surprisingly smoothly. I watched so many videos and read many blog posts/articles about preparing for security, checking in online beforehand, etc. And the airport wasn’t crowded, I got through everything within a matter of minutes. At first I couldn’t find where to check my bags and the first worker I saw brushed me off and shooed me to a line I knew wasn’t it. But I found my way and everything was fine.

This video came so in handy to calm my nerves. I watched it so many times, including right before leaving for the airport. She goes through a lot of what happens at the airport for an international/overseas trip.

In Europe for the first time…

My view from the window of my Airbnb. I spent the first two nights in a beautiful little apartment in the heart of Porto.

I’ll talk more in-depth about my flight/airport experience in another post. This post kind of just discusses my feelings. And boy did I have a lot of them. When I first arrived I was tired but tried doing a little exploring to combat jet lag a tiny bit. I didn’t go into a hostel until day 3 and it was then that I had a mini-freakout. I was nervous about sharing a room with other people, I was scared that this experience wasn’t going to be like what I hoped.

That was a recurring fear. I mean, I hyped up traveling the world to myself for years. What if I didn’t enjoy it as much as I imagined? I was instantly tested to put my Portuguese skills to the test. And was quickly reminded that I need to stop slacking with my language learning. My confidence with Portuguese was low, the weather in Porto was cold and dreary. I hadn’t connected with my roommates. I saw the main attraction in the city and wasn’t too impressed…

Me on a cold, rainy day in Porto. Took a “free” walking tour (you’re always expected to give a tip for these tours. So basically they’re not free, but you choose what to pay). Rain or shine, these tours usually still go on! This was from the upper level of the Dom Luis Bridge.

But I was so grateful and happy to be in Europe?

This is what was weird. I don’t know if the weather was affecting my mood. But I had such a weird feeling. I would walk outside everyday and was so grateful and in disbelief that I was in freaking EUROPE. A different continent. I was so happy I made it happen and that I was there. So I also felt weird by having evenings that I felt like curling up in my hostel bed more than exploring the nightlife.

But through reflection (and journaling) I realized that it’s okay to have feelings, positive and negative. It doesn’t mean you’re not appreciative of where you are. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Porto. But the day-trips and going to Lisbon were for sure the highlights. Perhaps I just didn’t connect with Porto as much. And that’s okay. Traveling isn’t about finding a city you’d move to.

I had to cut myself some slack.

The photo from the walking tour I was on. Met nice people from a range of places. I was the lone American. There were also two South African women, a Kiwi guy and two Spanish guys.

Besides being in a new country with a language I don’t (but am trying to!) speak, in a hostel shared with five others is scary. Change is scary. Being out of your comfort zone is scary. I learned it’s important to give yourself the space to process these changes and not beat yourself up for feeling them in the first place. Which I think I did a good job with as time went on. By the third day in the hostel it didn’t feel as scary.

Not understanding people around me or being able to communicate with some easily wasn’t as scary. Awkward? Yeah, a bit. But I handled it. That’s the overriding theme of my trip. I handled things. I figured it out. Here I am, back in New York writing this blog post. No challenge or uncomfortable situation ruined me. It made me trust myself even just a little bit more.

And you know what else? I’d do it all again.

All in all, I still can’t believe I was there. That I did it. Perhaps for those who travel a lot it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But for me to embark in Europe for nearly two weeks by myself… I still can’ believe I did it. What I talked about for so long is actually starting to happen. And I hope the excitement never goes away for me.

Check out my vlog of the day I left for Portugal! I flew from JFK, had a layover in Amsterdam and then… PORTO.

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