April 2016. Picton, New Zealand. I am standing on the shores of the Marlborough Sounds with travelers from France and Germany. It’s nine at night and freezing, but here we are, feet and hands in the water. As we move around, tiny sparks of light flicker at the bottom of the sand. They spread into the ocean as far as the eye can see, creating an underwater fireworks show that only we are privileged to witness.
I ask my German friend for the source of this phenomena. Her name is Anna. She’s eighteen, and speaks English better than I do.
“Phytoplankton!” she yells happily. You can see the bioluminescent glow in the lens of her glasses.
My time backpacking in New Zealand and Australia is filled with moments like this. The most memorable are those spontaneous trips with other world-seekers, to hidden surfing spots and tropical hideaways that are beautiful enough to be on the front of postcards. Although I’m a natural introvert, I’ve always been a secret wanderlust at heart. When the opportunity arose to go abroad, I jumped at the chance. I knew it would be challenging, but I was on a mission to experience life and engage in cultural exchange.
Two into my trip to Arthur’s Pass, I find myself at a stargazing spot only known to the locals. As I stood enthralled by nebulas and constellations that can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere, I could feel my careerist approach to life give away to a fresh perspective. Those stars made me think of new possibilities for my life. I could do absolutely anything.
One year later, I’m in Brisbane, Australia and I’m no longer the girl that was too scared to ask for directions after missing my train in Auckland. I’ve done and seen incredible things, I’ve followed a sea turtle along the ocean floor of the Great Barrier Reef with divers from Thailand, and I’ve made fantastic friendships with travelers from Latvia, England, Germany, Japan, and France. As I’m paying for my coffiee the charming barista in the city’s bustling coffee shop, asks why I’m so far away from home. I tell him that my resolve to know more about the world around me and the people in it has helped me overcome my shyness, transcend cultural barriers, and explore some of the most beautiful and remote locations of two different countries.
“I’ve lived in Brisbane my whole life, and have never been outside of Australia.” the barista exclaims. “I think you are very brave!”
Brave? I think. I’m not sure if that would be the word I’d use to describe myself.
Whether I’m brave or not is for others to say. But after leaving my suburban existence behind for unforgettable adventures in Australia and New Zealand, I’ve learned that wanderlust can take you farther than you’d ever imagined. A hunger for travel has transformed this Californian suburban kid into a student of the world.
About the author:
Dana Silverman credits her passion for travel to Girl Scouts, which provided her with amazing opportunities to attend summer camps throughout the United States during her childhood. She’s lived in Australia and New Zealand, and she’s planning a trip to Japan around her appreciation for the country’s cuisine and temples.