What’s always drawn me to the ocean is its mystery, and how with its beauty accompanies the notion of no end in sight. It was initially my overly romanticized vision of the great blue sea that solidified my decision to choose Sydney for my study abroad semester, and while I thought the ocean would provide me with relaxation and some cool Instagram picture, this week it helped me gain so much more.
I basically thought my middle school swim team experience and childhood growing up on the coast of Charleston, South Carolina left me well prepared for Australian summer days spent floating smack dab in the middle of the Pacific, but I was quite mistaken. As a sophomore broadcast journalism student at NYU I definitely feel like unfortunately the city has softened me when it comes to interacting with nature. Sure my skills have heightened in dealing with subway personalities or calculating the perfect time to call my UberPool, but in terms of my ability to summon my inner outdoorsman, my South Carolina discipline has been slowly shed over the past 2 years. When it finally came time for me to reconnect with the earth’s elements after settling in for my semester in Sydney this week, I found my relationship with nature, specifically the ocean, wasn’t as seamless as I remembered.
My relaxing, exotic ocean fantasy of me immersed in the Pacific was cute until I found myself powerlessly stuck embarrassingly not too far from the beach shore due to a mix of panic and a lack of upper body strength. My roommates and I had decided to swim to a nearby rock formation rather than walk, and my childhood memories of me swimming in the deep sea unsupervised convinced me I was more than prepared for the task. Once my feet could no longer feel sand however, it was like I lost control of my body. The rock formation looked so far and I became so unsure of my ability to make it there. Somehow thankfully, through heavy breathing and the reassurance of my companions I did make it, disheveled and all.
Although a bit embarrassing, I felt nothing more than accomplished as I flopped onto the the rocks on the other end of our journey. My Bondi Beach experience was a little less glamorous than I pictured my days in Sydney, but for me it represented the type of challenge that people encounter on their travels that help them to grow. What I’ve been yearning for the most on my semester abroad is the chance to clear new, unique hurdles and come out with a stronger sense of self on the other side. As Pico Iyer says in ‘Why We Travel’ “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves.” As dramatic as it sounds I was pretty sure I’d lost myself that day on Bondi. Not only because I was prepared to die, (no joke) but because it felt like I had lost touch with the fearless little girl I once was who could venture off into the deep end without second guessing herself. As I made it to the other side and proceeded to jump back into the water after a well deserved break, it felt like I’s untapped an inner strength. As much as we love to relax and have a good time on our travels, when we challenge ourselves in new environment we gain so much more than we would sticking to our comfort zones. This semester I look forward to more experiences like the one I had this week that push me emotionally and physically, because I believe that a little discomfort can often lead to some great rewards.