“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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The Slowest Hourglass

I haven’t been the same since I returned from my first and only backpacking trip last year. A sense of uneasiness rests beneath my skin as I live out the mundane days of life at home in Florida. I feel tense, agitated, and often depressed thinking about the world that exists beyond the confines of where I live. Each day I feel more disconnected from who I was and from the people around me.

 

I remember being ready to return home. After all, 3 months by myself in over 40 cities in 90 days is exhausting. I yearned for the comfort of my own bed and the security of having a car, home, and family close by. But after being home for only 16 hours, I remember thinking to myself, “now what?”

 

I find myself still asking that question. I have to finish my degree. That’s the only thing actually keeping me here. I have one semester left, but that doesn’t start until the end of August. I’m living in a daze and not even the beach can cure the way I feel. Stagnant, stuck, unmovable, sinking, drowning, suffocating; all of these feel the same.

 

I’m not the same person when I travel. At home I am distant. I’m introverted. I’m focused on completing my journey in this place. I lack the desire to build connections. When I travel, I am the opposite of each of these. I keep to myself but not nearly as often. I’m social, interested in the people and world around me, and naturally build connections with all of the likeminded people I cross paths with. Nothing has made me question who I really am more than being “home”.

 

Next time will be different. Next time will start in Vietnam. I will move at a slower pace. I can make any city my home for as long as I want. I will be in no rush to move on, no schedule to abide by, and no one to listen to but myself. I will miss home but not in the same way as I did the first time. I will not yearn for a room to myself because if I want one, I will get one and stay there for as long as I want.

 

I am grateful for the life I live here, but I am ready to move beyond it. I feel as though I’m waiting for the sand in an hourglass, each grain falling slowly with each day that passes as I stare off into the sea, immobile and impassive, waiting for my life to start.

I’m ready.

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.

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.