When The Paradox Comes Full Circle

When I was away, I missed home. I longed for the routine of my life as it was the way I left it.

And now that I’m home, I don’t know why I ever wanted to come back in the first place.

I don’t have much here. But I guess before I left the dizzying busy-ness of planning my trip and the excitement that came with it distracted me from all that my life lacked.

I miss waking up everyday with a new place to see. With new people to meet and new friends to make. It was easy, there, everyone was alone. It was easy to start up conversation. To identify fellow Americans or other English speakers who were also traveling. You can meet someone anywhere and end up spending the whole day, weekend, or week with them. I miss having different countries at my fingertips each day.

I had to come back… to finish my degree so I can go back again once I’m finished here. I might not have much but I have to appreciate what I have.

The paradox of missing home when you’re away, and missing everywhere else when you’re home… a vicious cycle of constant yearning. I am restless yet exhausted.

Until next time.

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Dolce Far Niente 

Being born and raised in New York/New Jersey, I have always lived a fast paced life. I walk fast, I drive fast, I’m impatient as hell, and I feel as though I have always been in a rush. Moving to Florida definitely slowed down my pace a bit, but I still drive too fast and sometimes struggle with taking things slowly. Enjoying the minutes as they pass. Rushing through life. 

This trip has allowed me to slow myself down. To take time during my meals and to truly enjoy myself. I think in American culture, there is so much pressure to do things quickly, especially in the restaurant business, that you don’t even get time to enjoy yourself. I always found it weird when people would order their appetizers and finish them before ordering their main meal, because I always want my food as fast as possible. Granted, I’m usually kind of a hangry bitch, but still. Now I understand. Now I understand because I have learned to take my time, move at a slower pace and enjoy myself. 

I stretched out dinner for 2.5 hours while gazing at the Eiffel Tower from my AirBnb. I sat in the south of France on the Port of Marseille and sipped wine while enjoying every last bite of cheese and bread offered to me. If I have learned anything, enjoying myself is not sitting in bed and watching Netflix – it is enjoying every minute I have, without thinking about the next day or the past. I learned patience.

On this trip, this 90 day, 15 country, 45 city trip, I have learned about myself and what I am capable of. I have become comfortable with who I am and have only been unapologetically myself. I did not tuck myself away like I do a lot of the time. I let everyone I met see me for me. I have met so many people and I am so thankful for all of them, whether we just sat and talked at a bar or ended up meeting again in our journeys, the people I met made my trip what it was. 

Going home, sitting in Heathrow Airport, it feels surreal but I feel calm and ready. It’s hard to believe I am at the end of my road. No more mental strain on where I am off to next. No more planning. Now I can focus on school, and focus on coming back here, and one day making a life for myself here in Europe. 

That is the plan. 

I’ll be back.


Energized and Exhausted All at Once

Leaving to go home is just as surreal as coming here was, except at home I will at least know what to expect. 

My last days were spent doing relatively nothing. I am not necessarily tired of traveling, but I am tired of being a tourist. Doing touristic things. Surrounded by people who have no self awareness or know how to walk. If/when I do this again, I don’t want to be a tourist in the summer; I want it to be off season – less people, less heat, less money. 

When I got to London on Saturday, I napped and rode the metro around a bit and made my way to see Big Ben. It was right beside me the second I got off the metro. I tried to make my way down the street to Buckingham Palace, but the streets were so packed you could barely walk. It just wasn’t what I was in the mood for, and I don’t regret not taking advantage of my time there. 

I am more excited to go home than I ever imagined I would be. I am looking forward to going back to work and making money. I am looking forward to going back to school. I truly do feel energized. I’m ready. I took my time off and I’m ready to jump back in, full force. It’s going to be an incredibly busy semester, but I have never felt more ready, and I couldn’t be happier about that. 

Doing this… looking back on it… I can’t believe I really did it. I got through it. And it was so easy. It was so much easier than I thought it would be. And I’m so excited to do it again one day, but totally differently. If this experience and life in general have taught me anything it is that I can literally do whatever I want. Whatever I set my mind to. 

I was talking to a girl from back home who is only a year younger than me, who is struggling with where she is in life and has a lot to figure out. I gave her a brief insight into my life and what I’ve overcome. I look back at the worst times in my life, getting into serious trouble, dating the worst people, not caring about myself or my education, and I think back to that person and sometimes I can’t really believe it was me. It’s like speaking in third person. She did this. She did that. She had a bad reputation. But it was all me. I did those things. I had a bad reputation. But I’m not that person anymore. I’ve come so far. And now I’ve seen so much. I’ve been to so many places. I’ve experienced different cultures and have fallen in love with them. And I love my life. 

If you were to tell me this is what I would be doing five years ago, I would have called bullshit. But so much has happened in five years. I thought I had been through it all when I was only 17 but it was only just the beginning. My childhood and adolescence were the worst times of my life but I am so thankful for the experience and the hurdles I have had to jump over. Not a lot has been straight up given to me. I’ve had to earn it all. I am more thankful for my shitty childhood than most people ever would be because I have moved on from it and I have grown from it. I don’t linger in the past. And no matter how much I complain and bitch, I really do love my life and the way that I am living it.

On this journey I have met so many people. So many ages from so many places, traveling for their own reasons. And it has inspired me in so many ways. Some people work in hostels for accommodation, some do other farming jobs or workaways, and I have learned so much from these people and what they do. There are so many ways to travel the world and the world needs more curious people. 

I loved seeing so much in so much time but I am already looking forward to coming back so I can do things so much differently. I didn’t know what I was in for and I didn’t know about the number of opportunities there are out here. I can’t wait to spend more time in fewer places. Return to some places and see even more. But I am definitely ready to go back home for now. I am energized and exhausted all at once. Energized for life but exhausted from constantly moving around. I miss a routine. And one day I will create a routine in a country over here. But until then… school will come first. And I will enjoy my days on the beach. Loving life. As always.

An Ode to My Weight Gain

“You’ll lose so much weight when you’re in Europe” said every single person I told that I was traveling to Europe. 

My response? “Do you know how much I intend on eating?” 

I wasn’t kidding.

Who comes to Europe and doesn’t plan on eating EVERYTHING? Seriously. My budget for food per day was more than my budget for accommodation per night. That isn’t a joke either. I average about $20-$25 per day on accommodation. My budget for food was $30. I know. It’s a little much. But how can you go to Spain and not eat as much ham, olives, manchego, and tapas as you can? How can you go to France and not marvel at the amazing cheeses and breads and pastries? The pasta, meats, cheeses, pastries in Italy? The feta, grape leaves, gyros in Greece? Those little pancakes and stroopwafels in Holland? Pastel de natas in Lisbon? Ugh. I miss it all already. I’m getting sad. 

My plan for my trip was to eat my way through Europe. I succeeded. Without a doubt. If I were graded, I would have gotten an A++. Would have finished with a 5.0GPA. If it had the word “traditional” and was served with Nutella, I bought it. If the waiter recommended it, I bought it. And I finished it. Almost always. At home, I’m spoiled. I know that. I don’t really have to spend that much money on food because I live at home. Dinner and groceries are on my mom’s tab. Spoiled. I know. So when I have to buy my own food, it better be worth it, and you better BELIEVE I’m going to eat every last dollar’s worth. And I did. 

I don’t understand why anyone would come to Europe on a diet. Or would actually follow their whole “gluten free” or paleo shit. I’m sorry, but fuck that noise. You’re in Europe. Eat it all. Get a tummy ache. Shit your brains out. YOU KNOW IT WAS WORTH IT. Do you know how much gelato I ate? Too much for any lactose intolerant person to live through. 

When I’m home, I eat generally pretty healthy (besides the fact that I eat loaded nachos at my job once a week… but they’re really good…) so this vacation was a time for me to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And then it’s back to my American life. Back to my “healthy” eating. Back to boring. 

I’m not kidding when I say I planned my trip in accordance to where had the best food. That’s why I skipped Germany, no offense, but I was already going to Austria, specifically Vienna, so I figured I’d get enough Schnitzel and sausage there to last. I have literally fantasized about eating olives and olive oil in Spain, the pasta and pizza in Italy, the mass amounts of cheese in France, and all of those food porn videos you see on Facebook of specialties from different places around the world. 

I have gained 10lbs. Averages out to only 3.3lbs per month, so when you look at it that way, it’s not that bad. I have probably consumed more wine and beer on this trip than I have in my entire life. I have never had to force myself to finish a cheese plate and then voluntarily order dessert. And it’s all worth it. I regret nothing. Not a single bite. 

The Clock is Ticking… 

It’s really starting to hit me that I’m leaving soon. In less than a week it’s back to my life. Back to reality. Back to school and work. No longer a tired mind from traveling but an exhausted one from the repetition of my days. Back to work. Back to school. 
This is the end of my journey. This is the end of my exploration. For now. I feel like I’m waiting, wasting time to go home, the clock is ticking…. and it feels all the more real now. This is it. These are my final moments. It all started to sink in as I was sitting on the metro in Paris. I’m making the most of it as best as I can. I canceled my hostel accommodation because it was 45 minutes from the Eiffel Tower. I booked an AirBnb last minute with a view of the Eiffel Tower from my window. 7th floor, no elevator, no wifi, no fridge. The view makes up for all that it lacks. All I wanted was to be able to truly feel like I was in Paris while I was in Paris. 
I’ve been living in a dream. A fantasy. Fulfilling what I’ve always wanted. Seeing what I’ve always wanted to see. And it’s flown faster than any bird I’ve ever seen fly. This experience gave me wings. It brought me to life. It gave me life. And it’s made me appreciate the simplicity of my life at home. It’s made me miss shitty filter coffee and laying in bed watching Netflix. Sitting on the beach for hours, reading, smoking, and getting lost in a summer haze. I have learned to appreciate my moments and my time. I have learned to treat myself. To do what I want when I want rather than what anyone else wants. 
I have learned to not have expectations. I have learned that cities are less magical than movies make them out to be. Everywhere you go has its own characteristics. Its own flow of life. And I have fallen in love with some of the cultures I have discovered and the people in different countries.
4 days left… the clock is ticking. 

Old Habits Die Hard // Expectations Ruin Reality 

I went from a tired mind of school and work and school and work to hostels, bars, and sight seeing. Something different everyday but somehow almost the same. I was definitely more social when I first started my trip as opposed to now. I would go on pub crawl after pub crawl. I would try to involve myself as often as I could, as if I weren’t comfortable being alone, but I always was. With a slower pace, I am more alone, and I enjoy it. I don’t feel obligated to do anything or see anything or socialize, because let’s be real, I’m just not the most social person in the world most of the time. Even back home, I hang out with maybe 3 people outside of work and school. I’ll go out every so often but I don’t party until 3 or 4am. I relate closer to a grandma than I do a person my own age. When I first started traveling, I was excited and social, but no matter what, old habits die hard, and I am forever an introvert living in a very social world. I don’t socialize out of obligation at this point on my trip, and I don’t do anything because I feel like I “have to” or would be missing out if I didn’t. A lot of people come to these big cities to party. I came to enjoy myself in food and culture, without necessarily getting hammered every night of the week.
And I’m enjoying myself. I might even be enjoying myself more now than I did when I started my trip. I’ve gotten into a nice groove all by myself. I enjoy planning my days according to myself, my budget, and my energy. I’m comfortable going into a bar by myself and sitting there with a beer and perhaps a journal to jot down some thoughts in. Limited amounts of social energy is a real thing and I find it more than necessary to recharge frequently. If I don’t, I get physically and emotionally tired. Reserved and inattentive. And I’m comfortable doing everything alone. Even sight seeing. I don’t need someone with me and if I want to socialize, then I will. 

Last night I went to a cool, underground bar in Prague. I had asked my walking tour guide for a good place to drink a beer that isn’t loaded with tourists and he recommended it. He said it wasn’t necessarily full of tourists, but not necessarily locals either – a lot of people from all over the place who moved to Prague and work there, or travelers. So I went. When you walk in, there’s a black metal gate door restricting you from walking right downstairs. You get a “chip” bracelet that you put money on and then you order beer or any other drink based off of how much money is on your chip, and if you run out, you just run upstairs and reload it. 
I put 100CZK on my chip, figuring I wouldn’t be there for more than 2 beers (most beers are 35-50CZK) and the guy buzzed me through the gate. I walked through and was met with darkness and stairs. “Downstairs?” I stupidly asked, because there were literally only one set of stairs. He joked and said “no, upstairs” and I made my way down. At the bottom of the first set of stairs was a big Irish wolfhound, laying there, uninterested in me passing by. At the bottom of the second set of stairs were a few old swings, to the right a brightly lit room with foosball tables, and to the left was darkness with some LED lights. I walked down the hall and found a “tea” bar and looked confused. An old man was sitting next to it and I said, “beer?” And he smiled and pointed down the hall. I got my beer and found a seat in the main area; it was early so it was pretty empty. There were two people sitting on stage, one playing guitar, and then a few other people just sitting and chatting. I sat there, sipping my beer, writing. As I finished my first beer and went up for my second, more people were slowly starting to pour in. One of the girls close to me was definitely an American, so when the other two people she was sitting with left, I asked her where she was from. 
We ended up talking for a while, and then more people came over to talk to us, and I ended up reloading my chip for more beer. On the other side of the bar was live music and I didn’t even notice it until the few people I was with all decided to wander around. Oddly enough I ended up meeting more Americans than anything else, but it still wasn’t that touristy. The Czechs talked to each other, and the English speakers talked to each other. Before I knew it, it was midnight, and I think I ended up walking home around 1. The bar was very close to my hostel, so before I headed inside, I grabbed some chips and took a seat outside. A homeless man decided to lay down right next to me before security took him away. 
For a city that I didn’t plan on going out in, on a night that I didn’t plan on staying out, and for desiring my alone time, I had the best time. I think the best things happen when you don’t want them to, or expect them to. 
Everything happens when you least expect it. Expectations always ruin living. 

The Simple Moments 

I have always lived a simple life. And the moments I enjoy the most while traveling are the most simple, living the way the locals live. Sipping on a flat white in Dublin, while eating a mile high lemon meringue tart and writing. Walking in the rain in Killarney National Park and finding myself in the greenest of woods. Eating a monstrous fish n chips in Dingle with a girl I had just met on the bus, overwhelmed at the portion of food in front of me. Sitting in a square full of students, cheap sangria in hand, feeling no different than the people I was surrounded by. Scarfing down a warm pastei de bellum after tearing packets of powdered sugar and cinnamon with my teeth in the middle of the street. Sitting in a bar where the students go in Sevilla, eating cheap appetizers of ham, cheese, and calamari, drinking endless supplies of cold, cheap buckets of beer. Sitting in the street at 4am drunk, talking and laughing with fellow hostel mates. Sipping wine and writing while waiting for my truffle risotto in Rome. Being determined to finish every ounce of cheese on my first cheese plate of France, taking my time while sitting next to the port in Marseille. Standing at the top of Notre Dame after a miserable walk up hill in Marseille to witness a magnificent view, wind blowing, of the entire city and sea. Falling asleep on an outdoor sofa on a vineyard in Brignoles, listening to nothing but the chirping of birds and cicadas under the shade of a tree. Sitting next to the dolphins and watching them swim by in the aquarium in Genoa. Sipping wine and watching the sun melt into the mountains in Kos. Wandering the isles of Naschmarkt in Vienna, tasting the foods that the vendors urge me to try, spending 8euro on nuts without a single regret because they were that damn good. Sitting in the streets of Brno with the cheapest craft beer I’ve ever came into contact with, jumping over language barriers with locals. Sipping even cheaper beer in a bar no tourist would have ever found on a random side street. Nothing but a small sign on the door to even let you know there was a bar there. And now, sitting in a local cafe with Barbora, me writing, her painting, sipping coffee and eating bread with different spreads.

These are the moments I will remember most. The most simple. The ones that require no thought. My entire life is nothing but an accumulation of simple moments of food, drink, nature, and laughter. And the simple moments will always be what I remember most because they are what I miss the most at home. Drinking shock top and eating nachos and wings where I work. Playing board games at my sister’s with my niece and nephew, making inappropriate jokes and watching them get emotional from winning or losing. Sitting for hours and hours on the beach while the sun sets, reading and smoking, and making my mom mad from all of the sand I drag back into the house. Simplicity is all I need in this life. And the simple moments are what I always remember.