Why, hello my friends! Welcome to another “Monday Musings” post – read on to find out more about how I’ve gained confidence over the last year while living abroad and why I stopped giving a f*dge!
I’ve always been “too nice”… Afraid to speak up, in fear of offending or upsetting someone. I always put others before myself. But somewhere between traveling between Kyoto and Hiroshima last week, I stopped caring.
I stopped caring about what others thought of me
I stopped being afraid of speaking up
I stopped constantly putting others before me (sometimes complete strangers) and started putting myself first.
Now, before I continue, you could mistake this for crazy “me me me” talk… Maybe I’ve turned into a self-involved prat who now only cares about themselves? But you see my friends, MG-before-Boston was so far on the other end of the scale when it came to self-care it was a little insane.
Sometimes in restaurants, I would be too afraid to ask for things because I didn’t want to bother the waitress. Or sometimes if some kid was kicking the back of my seat on a plane, I wouldn’t say anything.
I like to think of it as a combination of “feeling guilty for being too much trouble” and the “easy-going-nature” of growing up in Australia.
One of the first things I noticed living in the US, was how vocal everyone was. You want to order a mixture of lemonade and ice tea at a restaurant? Sure thing! If I ever tried this in Australia, I can’t tell if the person would smile and nod or whether they would just stare at me and think “the audacity!”
I started asking for things in restaurants – no cream on my pancakes, hollandaise on the side. Oh, can I have my sandwich without onions?
My new found confidence then turned into asking questions when shopping – anything that popped into my head that I wanted to know about a product, I would ask the shop assistants.
I then started talking to strangers in lines. In the toilet queue, when lining up for food, the line to board the plane. You name the line; I’ve probably spoken to someone in it. The old me would have stood quietly, not wanting to bother anyone.
(Side note: I’ve slowly discovered the difference between when someone wants to be bothered and when they don’t – usually when you get one worded answers, it’s time to stop yammering 😉 )
This has been continuing for the last couple of months, without me realizing until I was on an overnight bus, from Kyoto to Hiroshima.
The buses have announcements at the start of the trip – in Japanese, English, Mandarin, and Korean. One of the announcements involves telling passengers they need to ask for permission from the person behind them before reclining their seat.
I’ve taken the highway bus countless of times in Japan. Usually, people ask for permission, or they only recline their seat slightly that you hardly even notice it’s down.
That is until I got onto this bus. The tourist in front of me reclined their seat STRAIGHT down. It was so far down her hair was in my face. Not even exaggerating. These seats go down lowww.
I didn’t even pause to think about what I was doing, and before I knew it, I was saying “excuse me” and asking her if she could move her seat up a bit. I also advised her that she needed to ask permission on Japanese highway buses before reclining her seat.
The old me would be PETRIFIED of this lady saying “no” and then on purpose leaving the seat reclined in my face.
She apologized, moved her seat up a bit more and that was that.
The world didn’t end, the lady didn’t hate me (or at least, if she did, I didn’t know about it) and I had a really comfortable bus ride. I didn’t have to suffer in silence; I didn’t have an uncomfortable night because I was too afraid to say something.
Of course, she could have been nasty; she could have just said no and continued on her merry way. But so what if she had?? Would that have been the end of the world??
In the brief moment after this encounter, I genuinely was shocked with myself. Where had my meek, quiet self, gone?
The change in my confidence was so gradual, I hardly noticed it until that very moment. Before leaving Melbourne, I knew a year away was going to change me. I thought I was going to learn new things, experience different cultures and understand a bit more about the world beyond my little Melbourne bubble.
And while all these things are true, I never thought I would gain the confidence that I have built to be able to say what I wanted, to speak up and be unafraid to ask for things.
What has been your #1 learning from traveling? Have you gained confidence when traveling? I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment and let me know!