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I wasn’t worried or nervous about travel, my independent project, or living on the opposite side of the globe for two months until about 30 hours into my 40-hour travel day.

I had traveled solo internationally one time before my independent project to Vietnam. My previous travel had been as a high school student, so now as an older, wiser version of myself, I was not worried in the slightest to get on a plane and leave the Western World behind. Plus, I actually had a project partner traveling with me, Daniel. This was going to be a piece of cake. I was right … about the first half. I boarded a plane at 8PM on Saturday night, departing from RDU. From there I flew to JFK, had a five-hour layover, during which we were stuck outside of our terminal because our airline had not quite arrived. From JFK, Daniel and I boarded a 15 hour flight to Taiwan. The last fight we that we took departed from Taiwan at 8AM on Monday morning. Up until this point everything had been simple. All the signs had had an English translation, and the accommodations had been lovely — smooth sailing.

My nerves finally started tingling with worry while sitting at a bus station in Hanio, which was supposed to take us to our project site. It was not quite clear what bus to board and not a word of English was spoken to us for the three hours that we waited there. However, Daniel’s calm presence kept me grounded. We had a plan, and we were going to stick to it; if we failed to find the site, at least we would fail together.

We ended up traveling to Cuc Phuong, our project site, fairly seamlessly but with a fair share of confusion. I ended up crying at the end of our day when we were finally in the room that we would be staying in for the next two months, mostly of exhaustion and relief. Daniel and I debriefed from the day, he gave me a hug, and I was off to bed.

The travel day, although we hadn’t even started our project, taught me a few life lessons and insights about myself. It taught me how grateful I was to have a partner in this adventure, and one as level headed as Daniel. It taught me to be cautious of approaching a situation over confidently, and the following morning, when I woke up to the project site of my dreams with seven lovely volunteers from all over the world, over forty rescued pangolins, and a forest of opportunities, it taught me that a long and worrisome day of travel, was all worth it.