I’ve started my final week of work. I’ve been in the Air Force reserves for almost six years and this vital chapter of my life is about to come to a close.

Joining the military was one of the hardest things that I had ever done. Basic training felt long, repetitive, and, to this day, is the largest mental weight I have ever carried in my entire life. Many people have joined prior to me and completed it but, I didn’t exactly have much faith in myself when I took my oath. I considered myself sheltered, coddled, childish. I was 19 years old and was caught up in this endless routine that I absolutely knew needed to change. Joining the military seemed like a full proof way to make it happen.

It doesn’t exactly matter what I think about the military itself. The military is a character builder. It won’t change a bad person into a good person but, it can change a lazy person and give them a little bit of a work ethic. It can give someone a new view on life, especially someone who feels that there is not path for them. I believe the military did that for me and more. It helped develop my social skills. Being surrounded by the same people you went to high school does nothing for you. I’ve met people and established a relationship with people all over the United States. As I moved up in the ranks and earned more responsibility, I learned to communicate with people of different status. Now, I haven’t perfected these new skills by any means but, I feel it in myself that I have come a long way.

When I first decided I wanted to do go to New Zealand for a year, I looked at it as another way to force myself out of my comfort zone. I will be over a thousand miles away from home so it won’t be easy to just turn back. I will have removed the easy connection to the comfort of my friends and family back home. I will be in a different culture than back home, surrounded by people who are doing the same thing as I am. It will be a learning experience. Not just to further strengthen my social skills but it will be a chance to hear the ideas and thoughts of people who live outside my home country. New Zealand is a popular backpacking country. People from all over the world come to enjoy the visual master piece which is New Zealand. It’s small and easy to get across so many of the travelers also happen to be novices to the trade.

This is what I look forward to. My views as an American may conflict with those around the world. American values are not the same New Zealand values, European values, or Asian values. At this point, I believe I have views that will never be changed but I am open to them being challenged. That scares me, but it also excites me. I plan to record every bit of it.