In a few days I will embark on the Spring 2015 Semester at Sea voyage. Of course I am excited. Of course I am grateful. Of course I have been impatiently waiting for the voyage to begin. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not calm. I’m quite the opposite. I’m a mix of nerves, anticipation, joy, and anxiety, and I’m reflective and nostalgic about all that I’m leaving behind. You wouldn’t think I would be nervous. Since August of 2012 I have traveled to Canada, Ireland, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Canary Islands, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Dominica, Vietnam, Guatemala, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Iceland, and Northern Ireland. I’m familiar with the Semester at Sea program and I’ve thought about the transformative benefits of international education ever since the Fall 2012 voyage. Yet my emotions are heightened, I’m nervous, reflective, and even a bit sad. I somewhat understand the cycle of my emotions. I know in four months I will be in tears because I don’t want the voyage to end. Yet right now, I’m on the verge of tears as I think about the life I am leaving behind for four months. Stepping out of your comfort zone is not easy, and the uncomfortable feeling of being pulled away from your safety net, facing the unknown, and taking a risk, is probably why many people avoid stepping out of their comfort zones. Although in four months I might question them, right now, I understand and empathize. I’m living on a ship for four months, not knowing anyone on the ship, and traveling across the Pacific Ocean to 15 cities and 12 countries, mostly countries I have never traveled to before. Of course this is exciting, of course I am crazy fortunate, and of course this will be a highlight of my life, yet I feel pulled away from the safety of family and a routine. Stepping out of my comfort zone doesn’t come naturally to me. Some people might think I’ve become an adventurous world traveler, but this is not my natural state. I enjoy routines as much as anyone else, but I also live in a state of wanderlust, which is a confusing and emotional dichotomy. When I’m in a routine, I want to shake things up and experience something new. I know life is short and the world is big. I have a curiosity about other cultures and I feel truly alive when traveling. However, when I act upon that risk, at first I am uncomfortable and sad about what I’m leaving behind, but when I experience something new I am renewed and grateful, feeling silly for the prior hesitations. This is the cycle of stepping out of your comfort zone; it’s always uncomfortable at first, filled with hesitations, but is always rewarding and fulfilling, filled with the thrilling joy of discovery, allowing you to experience life in a way you never have before, opening up your eyes, your mind, your heart, and your soul, and changing and enhancing your life forever. I know this. I remember when I traveled to Vietnam I was full of hesitations at the airport. I felt overwhelmed and nervous. I was arriving in Vietnam on my own, having never been to Asia before. I was standing on a cliff looking down at the water, afraid to jump in, like a child afraid to go down a slide, and like the thrill of having let go, experiencing life, ready to go back up and do it again, so was I after a couple days in Vietnam. I learned phrases and was able to talk to locals. I was crossing the street, dodging motorbikes and cars, with a confidence as if I lived there. I was in tears at not wanting to leave after two weeks. I came home and immediately bought a Vespa. How opposite the emotions can be when you step out of your comfort zone, from hesitation to commitment, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy. Right now I am nervous and hesitant, sad to leave everyone behind as I think about all the love, support, and encouragement I have received. Right now I am in the comfort of home. However, I know how important stepping out of your comfort zone truly is, in order to take risks, to experience something new, to embrace other cultures and other people, to learn and grow, to live this short and fragile life as a gift and have a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty in this world, to be a part of a shipboard community where hundreds of people experience a meaningful highlight of their lives, growing close in a way few experiences allow. In a few days I will have no choice but to summon the courage to lose sight of the shore, because I am ready to cross the ocean.