“Apply to Harvard’s School of Education for your Master’s,” she said, “You can get in.” Words of Encouragement from Strangers, 2017

Last summer, before my flight from Dublin, Ireland, to Porto, Portugal, I met a woman who encouraged me more than most people whom I’ve known for years. I completely forgot about this post, and that I had written it immediately after the encounter, while on the plane. I wanted to share it:

 

May 24, 2017

As I was standing in the priority boarding line for my very first RyanAir flight, a lady asked which line it was and then asked whether I was American. I told her I was; she was too, and we got to talking. From the way she talked, she clearly led an extravagant life, as she mentioned having have lived in multiple places around the world, with houses in not only different states in America, but also all over Europe. Yet, she was taking a RyanAir flight, suggesting that she didn’t need insane luxury. It was impressive.

 

I told her my plan for the future and the fact that I, unlike my siblings, have not accumulated any debt for college and that I am lucky to be able to do what I’m doing right now. As I plan to teach, she encouraged me. “Apply to Harvard’s School of Education for your master’s” she said, “You can get in.” She seemed confident in this and I believed her. “You’re traveling alone in Europe and you’re clearly adventurous. When people are interviewed for jobs or for schools, they don’t want to hear about how you interned for whatever banking company for whoever is important because everyone knows you were just getting coffee. Their program is a year-long or something like that, and you don’t get just a degree – you get a passport.” She basically meant that with that kind of education, I could do whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted. And she was right. And I had never really thought about it. “Put your itinerary on your resume,” she urged.

 

She told me that she had asked a friend who was some high up at some financial company or something of the sort whether or not he would hire someone if they didn’t go to an Ivy League school. The man told her that if they had made it as far as an interview, he would almost rather not hire someone from an Ivy League school. I never heard that perspective before. While nearly everyone else that I know has gone to school in 4 years, racked up debt or had their parents pay, and then carried onto their masters or internships or whatever else, that was never the path for me. I never imagined myself living the traditional 4-year college experience, in part because I didn’t want to live in a dorm but also because I didn’t want to enter the work force with five or six figures of debt. Even the woman’s kids all went to Ivy League schools and she saw the benefit of my living life differently. Of course, Ivy League schools offer their own advantages. But she still had confidence that I could do anything – and I want to do so much. This trip is only 3 months out of my life… and in a year and a half I’ll be done with school. And then I have the entire world at my disposal.

 

She encouraged me. A random woman who knew what I was doing and what I wanted to do and not even my name encouraged me to go farther than anyone else has encouraged me to go before. “If I see you tomorrow in town, come say hi, I’ll buy you a drink, or lunch, or whatever.”

 

And as I’m sitting here, on a 2 hour flight to Porto, Portugal, I realize how strangely comfortable it feels. I thought I would feel so… out of place everywhere I went. I thought I would feel nervous, scared, but I’m not. I feel right in place. Like this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I feel normal. I feel more like myself than I ever really could.

 

Being in Ireland, and introducing myself to so many different people, and letting them get to know me slowly yet all at once was so refreshing. There was no pressure. I didn’t feel confined to be any certain person. I guess that’s what it’s like when someone goes to college and meets all new people. I didn’t feel like who I am is too much or too little, or that I had to conceal any part of myself, or explain my past. I never felt judged. I think that had a lot to do with the company I was with, because I met some really amazing people. I am right where I need to be. I feel so lucky and I have never felt like the lucky one in my entire life. I always felt like I was at a disadvantage, always going through too much at one time, always having to overcome something, digging myself into deeper holes. But everything I have been through, the good and the bad, has made me who I am. It has prepared me for this. It has put me right here. And I am lucky. I am grateful. I am content.

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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.


1 week left in a 3 month journey 

Being in places you’ve only ever seen pictures of is surreal. Being on a different continent for 3 months and living in hostels has been surreal. I already miss the places that I visited 2 months ago. I miss the places I visited a week ago. And in a week, I’ll be missing it all. 

3 months has flown by. I have learned more about the world and myself in three months than I could have in a lifetime. I have learned to depend on only myself. I have learned to trust my instincts. I have learned that people in this world are generally kind and willing to help you. I have learned a lot about patience. I have learned a lot about pace. Moving at the right one. Giving myself time to enjoy and take in my environments. I have learned to value myself.

If I can make any promise to myself, it is to not let myself become distracted or to distract myself in unhealthy ways. I want to live for myself and improve myself. I want to create strong bonds built on realistic expectations rather than weak promises by people who just don’t care. 

I think I know exactly what I want from my life. It’s hard to not let people, their beliefs, and their opinions get in the way of what I know I want. It’s hard not to let the meager prospect of love or a relationship blind me and erase my dreams. Everything that is meant to happen will happen and one day I will find exactly what I’m looking for.

When I graduate from university in December of 2018, I want to move to the south of Spain and teach English as a foreign language for at least a year. I want to do that for myself. To learn Spanish. To be where I want to be in a country that I know I loved. I want to live in a beautiful place without living out of a backpack with packing cubes and dirty clothes. 

Traveling has made me realize how big this world is and how much there is to do in it. It’s overwhelming. How many opportunities there are and how much I can do. I love where I live but why stay in one place? 

I think the reason I miss home so much is because it is what it is – home. I know its quirks. I know where to go for empty beaches. I know the traffic times to avoid. It’s home. But I can make a home anywhere. I have moved from where I’ve grown up thinking I would never be able to start over. But I started over in New York. I started over in Florida. And in those moments, that was the best thing for me. The only way to see how far you can go is to go somewhere. Test yourself. Don’t let anything get in your way.

The Simplicity of Home

I love where I live. That’s no secret. The beach is where I spend a lot of my time, waiting for the sun to set. I spend hours and hours sitting on the seashore. Sometimes reading. Sometimes doing absolutely nothing. I figured while I traveled I would get my fix of beaches elsewhere. The coasts of Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Greece were all beautiful in their own ways. I enjoyed being there and appreciated their beauties. But it isn’t the same.

The beauty of being home is knowing where to go to escape the crowds. But here I am a tourist. In some places my time has been limited. I haven’t been able to truly appreciate my solitude along the shore. Nowhere has managed to give me the same feeling I get when I am back home, sitting on my blanket, watching the waves crash, with no one around me as day turns to night. Sun setting, moon rising.

I miss and love the powder, white sand. The small crabs that pop out of their holes, watching me intently. The birds that fly by and stare at the sea the same way I do. Living in Florida for the last three years has changed me. I never imagined such a positive impact. To have such a relationship with nature. I love the shore more than anything. And no matter where I am, or how beautiful it is, nowhere gives me the same feeling I get when I am back home. Because that is where I became who I am. That’s what I miss the most. The calm feeling, the simplicity of home.