Pursuing the Life of an International Journalist
Five years ago, the decision to go to college 1,000 miles away from home and everyone I knew was a little scary, but I was excited. Then, two years ago, I chose to go 10,000 miles away to Australia for five months to study abroad, and I was nervous. It wasn’t the nervousness most people would imagine of long flights, cultural differences, and missing friends and family. I was nervous about these things, too, but mainly, I worried, what if I didn’t love travel as much as I wanted to?
Journalism has been my envisioned golden ticket into a sustainable life of international travel. I’ve always loved flipping through travel shows and magazines, and reading about amazing or heartbreaking human, animal and environmental stories coupled with images saturated in vibrant colors.
Mainly, I worried, what if I didn’t love travel as much as I wanted to?
When every middle school girl was reading the Gossip Girl series, I was always pulled towards non-fiction from different pockets of the world. “Another depressing book for Chelsea!” friends would tease, but it never bothered me. I would lose myself reading about the lives of individuals, families and adversity in places I had never known existed.
But it was never enough just to learn about these places. While growing up and then while in college, when someone asked me what I want to do with my life, I’d think of those books and images. My legs would bounce anxiously and my tongue would twist over itself into a stuttered response as I tried to explain what I so desperately wanted to do: travel to tell stories.
Simple and idealistic, it’s the job that millions want yet few end up taking the risks needed to make it a reality. I’ve worked as an unpaid intern and low-paid waitress every summer so that I can graduate and get a job. Now it’s application time and I still can’t shake my fairytale fantasy career of writing stories, shooting photos and creating videos that capture the lives and history of the places and people I’ve only ever imagined.
Journalist or not, immersing yourself in a culture different from your own with genuine interest and without a judgmental attitude is rewarded when others let down their walls and share their lives with you.
Backpacking and storytelling innately mesh when prejudice is pushed aside. A narrative seemingly writes itself when your mind is open to new experiences around you and enables you to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity.
Journalist or not, immersing yourself in a culture different from your own with genuine interest and without a judgmental attitude is rewarded when others let down their walls and share their lives with you. Camera, pen, paper and differences are forgotten and a story is told. It’s how an unexpected, educational narrative finds its way onto a kitchen countertop or TV screen. And it’s from those experiences, either personal or published, that the world and people in it find that their similarities more often outweigh all of their differences.
Australia cemented my love for long-term, nonstop, hostel-living, budget travel. I was introduced to the world of waking up without knowing what I would do, where I would go, whom I would meet, or what I would see!
One day the accent and slang stopped sounding foreign, transportation wasn’t a complicated web of streets and stops anymore, and it didn’t take me more than a minute to figure out how to pay for everything.
Going anywhere new, particularly on your own, will undoubtedly be met with both the highest of highs along with the lowest of lows. Accepting both–biting the bullet and going–is often the hardest part.
Every concern I started out with about finding happiness in a busy, indeterminate lifestyle was gone, and in its place, I found my center, as well as a sense of self-confidence I hadn’t known existed.
To this day, my happiest place on earth is Port Douglas, Australia. Because of all the rain, I had been to the zoo three times out of boredom. During one particular moment, I was packed in around a picnic bench with a dozen people from around the world. The rain finally cleared, revealing a starry night sky and we laughed in a blissful haze of too many drinks from the bar while trying to communicate with one another through broken English and hand gestures. Each of our travel companions had long gone to sleep, and we were an odd collection of the last standing soldiers of the night. I can’t remember what we talked about, but we talked for hours–a randomly, naturally banded together group of international strangers.
For five months, I lived a life entirely different from the one I had lived before. I found lasting friendship in new faces and accents, learned independence, felt lonely, fell in love, and was so ill for a weekend in the Outback, where unfortunately, the guide warned me the only way to a hospital was via a $100,000 helicopter ride. In the end, there isn’t a moment or experience I would ever change.
Travel can be uncomfortable, uncertain, and physically and emotionally taxing. Going anywhere new, particularly on your own, will undoubtedly be met with both the highest of highs along with the lowest of lows. Accepting both–biting the bullet and going–is often the hardest part.
Even with one big travel experience under my belt, somehow this next adventure feels like I’m leaving the shallow end of the pool and diving from the high rise.
In less than two months, I’ll be a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and on a flight to Medellin, Colombia for six months of traveling through South America on my own. It has been a long year of hard work, saving up and research to turn what still feels like a distant dream into my reality. Even with one big travel experience under my belt, somehow this next adventure feels like I’m leaving the shallow end of the pool and diving from the high rise.
Pursuing the Life of an International Journalist photo by Chelsea Stuart.