In “The Social Dilemma” I talked about having social anxiety and my fears- and hopes- of traveling and learning how better to deal with it. Since landing in Australia four weeks ago I’ve made an effort to put myself out there and try new things, no matter how uncomfortable they may be. I can’t count how many times I sat at this very laptop and read account after account of other travelers with social phobias or introversion state how the more and more they traveled the more and more comfortable they became talking to strangers. I literally fantasized about being able to sit in a cafe and just say, “hello” to someone without thinking twice about it… actually I still fantasize about that, but it’s baby steps!
My first self-imposed challenge was a week after I arrived. There’s a fantastic group on LinkedIn called, “The Rugby Business Network” that connects anyone with a love for rugby with an aim to help business. The Sydney chapter have networking events roughly once a month, and coincidentally held their June event just as I arrived. I decided to sign up and give it a go with the mind set of the worst case scenario I would walk into a room of old businessmen drinking scotch on the rocks reminiscing about the glory days of their youth. The event was held at The Rugby Club, a laid back bar/lounge tucked in a side street near Circular Quay in the CBD. (Side note: if you want relaxed atmosphere with great memorbilia decor to watch a match or grab a pint check this place out.)
As quickly as I entered the room I was spotted as a foreigner… where’s my table to hide under?! At this point I was still confident but it was quickly fleeting. Luckily, the spotter was Adrian Skeggs, a former Wallaby and the coordinator of the event. He quickly introduced himself and sorted me at a table where I was introduced to a man who works in advertising and a man who coaches rugby. We were quickly joined by two lovely women who work at a lawfirm and were there promoting a charity function they were putting together. The evening went on with a talk from former Wallaby, Phil Waugh and everyone was laughing and having a good time. The outcome was a good night out and a few new contacts. Baby step number one ended with me not falling flat on my rump.
Step two: Travelers unite!
Never underestimate the bond between travelers. I’ve experience an overwhelming kindness from Australians, but it’s hard to articulate just how amazing the other travelers have been. Simply enough, I’m sure it’s because they know exactly what I’m going through of turning up to a new country not knowing anyone and not sure of anything.
YTravelBlog Caz and Craig organized a meet up for fellow travelers and travel writers (I’m pretending to be one of them) the beginning of June. I rocked up to the event unsure as to what to expect and anticipating the conversation going something like this:
Them-“Hello, where have you traveled?”
Me-“Nowhere really, this year in Australia is my first time out of the states.”
Them-“You’re not one of us! Be gone!!!”
Yeah, I have a hyperactive imagination coupled with anxiety and sometimes it gets a bit out of hand. Nonetheless, that was my full on expectation of the initial interaction. Thankfully that couldn’t have been farther from the actual situation.
Upon meeting Caz and Craig the other travel-writers/bloggers trickled in. In addition to a few other Australians, there were four other Americans. We pretty much took over (Amurica!), but it was also great because these Ex-Pats helped make me feel even more welcomed and realize that no matter where I land, there will be a support group if I just look for it.
Be sure and check out my new friends’ sites:
Brooke- Her Packing List
Caz & Craig- YTravelBlog