May 27th, 2024, and I’m less than a week out from a trip that I know will transform my life. On June 2nd, I’ll board a plane at the Birmingham airport, take a short respite in Atlanta, and continue to Madrid, Spain. Both time and I will fly to an unfamiliar place, and I can barely contain my excitement at the thought of looking out of my window as the Atlantic fades into the distance and Spain blooms into view. I chose to study in Madrid to immerse myself in my Spanish language courses, to propel myself out of my comfort zone, and to kick off what will hopefully be a steady dedication to traversing the globe. Before making the decision to travel abroad; however, I did have to consider what classes I would be taking, how I would finance the trip, and, frankly, if I was ready to take this leap into maturity. As someone who has never previously traveled abroad, let alone navigated an airport by herself, the experiences and the advice from others in my personal life and online have become my greatest companions. I’ve thrown myself into research and checklists, learning all about Madrid, traveling abroad, and doing housekeeping tasks like obtaining a passport. I’ve equipped myself with some necessary talismans as well: my passport holder, my Spanish grammar textbook, some packing cubes, and several other miscellaneous items. As I peer down at the various items strewn across my floor, price tags still attached by a thin plastic thread, I am filled with an anticipation that grows stronger by the day. I know that it won’t “hit me,” as they say, until I’m on the plane whirring away from my family and friends for four weeks, but the reality sinks in a little deeper each day. Expectation-wise, I feel like a completely blank slate. I’m going in with minimal expectations, recognizing that what I will experience in Madrid will be nothing like what I’ve experienced in the States. I am so open to learning, avoiding building cages of expectation around myself that may hinder my ability to absorb this experience completely. The day of departure looms like a sunrise, tinged with the knowledge that my trip will be an experience that changes my life.