Hit The Road
Do not come up with excuses to prevent that first trip abroad
Growing up, I always felt I lived in two distinct worlds. One was the world of shave ice at Matsumoto's on Sunday afternoons, annual bon dances and the warm smell of mock orange in the summertime.
The other was the world of my books, my favorite of which told stories about a magical place called England. I escaped to this place whenever I could, but it wasn't until I graduated to adulthood — or semi-adulthood, at least — that I realized I had the opportunity to step into the world of my story books.
It was the spring semester of my sophomore year at the University of Hawaii when my English professor, Laura Lyons, began to encourage me to apply for the study-abroad program that she would be advising in London that fall.
My first instinct was to say no, I couldn't possibly. First of all, I needed to get my degree in four years. Wouldn't that put my credits on hold?
Then there were the questions of money, safety and homesickness. I couldn't even begin to imagine what my parents would think of the idea.
But when I talked to my mom about it, she said, "Well, why not?" and from there, the other issues became easier to solve.
For many students in Hawaii, the idea of traveling seems out of reach for one reason or another. Understandably, students need to spend so much money on tuition, housing and skyrocketing textbook prices that adding on the cost of a plane ticket seems ludicrous.
It is difficult to get past the financial aspect of setting off on a big adventure, but if you have even the slightest desire to travel, doing so can bring tremendous opportunities for growth, and will probably change your life.
SINCE GOING TO London with the study-abroad program, I've been back four times. Each time I go, the trip gets a little bit easier.
From getting the money together, to planning my stay, to enduring the incredibly long plane ride to Europe, I've learned what to expect and how to make best use of the resources that I have. In the process, traveling to other countries and states has also gotten progressively easier. It was a matter of taking that initial plunge into the possibility of doing something this big — for myself — that was the scariest part.
College brings so much pressure and so many expectations from other sources that traveling seems to be a great release, allowing an opportunity for discovering the world as well as what you want for yourself.
Making the decision to travel was the point at which I took control of my education, my career goals and my life. No longer are Hawaii and England my two distinct worlds, one real and one fictitious.
Instead, they are my two homes, equally within reach.
Next month: Safety on the road
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward young and beginning travelers appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.