“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.

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.

Experiencing True Luxury While Traveling

Luxury is not 5-star hotels and all inclusive resorts. Luxury is taking your time. Luxury is not rushing, or having to cram an entire city into a day. There’s no way to see it all, or to appreciate what you’re seeing when you’re always in a rush. Instead, all you think about is where you have to go, and what you have to see next, rather than just being in the moment of where you are. I think my small bouts of home sickness are less of a desire to be home and more of a desire to simply stay put. Real luxury and relaxation is being able to unpack my things for a few nights and not be on the move again in just a night or two. When you’re always on the move, hopping from city to city at such a fast pace, you almost miss out on more just because it’s nearly impossible to keep your energy up long enough to see all that there is to see. And without that energy, it becomes harder to appreciate when every move you make is trying to make sure you’re not missing out on anything. 
I have learned to take my time. I am finally at a slower pace, with only 26 days left in my trip, and only 7 cities left. I am on my fourth day here in Vienna, while the first was spent mainly settling in and napping. I have become familiar with the city. I have spent my time browsing Naschmarkt each day, walking back and forth from the city centre, making meals at my hostel, and simply just taking my time.
Luxury is not setting an alarm nor feeling obligated to be a tourist for 12 hours of the day. Luxury is not exhausting yourself to feel fulfilled. Luxury is sitting in a booth of red velvet in the oldest cafe in Vienna, drinking coffee, eating a plum strudel, and writing. As long as you buy at least a drink in any coffee shop in Vienna, you can sit and stay for as long as you want. This cafe, Cafe Frauenhuber, is the oldest in Vienna. Mozart and Beethoven both once performed here. I feel as though I am a guest in someone’s home, as there is no music playing, and very few people for what you would think would be a very touristic location. 
Luxury is not five star hotels. Luxury is not even a resort with luxury in the name. Luxury is taking your time. This is what I have learned. I have no regrets regarding the way that I planned my trip. I have seen and enjoyed 11 countries and 31 cities in the two months that have flown by. I had to do what I did in order to see what I wanted to see in the amount of time I had. Now I know where I will want to come back to. I still have so much to see but I will be moving at a slower pace. I get a few nights in Brno, Czech, before I move onto Prague for 4 nights, and then I am in Denmark for over a week. There is no summer long enough that would ever allow me to explore all that I want to explore, but so much of the beauty of travel is staying in a place long enough to really know where you are. I know I will be back… but not nearly soon enough. 

Love, Compassion, Contentment 

July 4 Poem
I came for the sea and the sunsets
And here I found peace and 
Paradise 
An appreciation for all that I have in this life 
And this world 
I am thankful for my mind 
And how its set is perfectly changing 
Like the sun’s 

July 6 
I have never lived in the face of luxury on my way terms 
Or at my own cost
It’s always been a gift 
Or an invite
There is nothing more powerful than doing things for yourself
By yourself 

July 6

Nine to five
Nine to five
Move beyond the nine to five
The worker’s life 
When was the last time you did something for yourself
By yourself
Can you even be alone?
Are you in control?
What is it all for… if not for yourself?

July 6 
Never let a man define your worth
Never let a man define your happiness
Be your own person and love your own life 
Create it to suit your own peace
Love exists 
The most amount of love you should have for anyone 
Is yourself
From there, compassion will flow like a flooded river
Love, compassion, contentment 

July 6
Get out of your head
Pay attention 

An Overly Emotional Woman Leaving Greece

The dangers of being a woman. I for one, am controlled by my hormones every month – I’m not currently on birth control, meaning nothing is really regulated, and my PMS and emotions are in full force sometimes. It’s a powerful thing, to be controlled by a cycle… the things that wouldn’t typically bother me push me to limits I’m not comfortable with. The things that I can easily brush off and remind myself not to worry about are things that I start to worry about. But only for a few days until the storm passes. I have to remind myself it’s just that time. But it isn’t easy. Feeling the need to cry all the time. I know I’m stronger than that. I know I’m stronger than how my mind makes me believe. Especially when you’re crying for no reason at all, it’s hard to make it stop when you don’t even know how to comfort yourself. 
Anyway. Now that that’s off my mind…. 
Greece was heaven. The sunsets were the most astounding, stunning sunsets I’ve come to witness. So clear. Not blinding. The full sun in all of its glory melting into the mountains. Blink and you might miss it. She disappears before you can catch her. We are the same in that sense. 
Taking the time out of the day to watch the sunset is the most romantic way to interact with the Earth. It is so stunning it hurts and it’s the one thing I miss most about being back home besides the beach. If I’m being honest, no where I have been has beaches even remotely comparable to back home. Between the sea, the sand, and the sun at home… I am spoiled by nature and I am even more in love with back home than I was before I left. And seriously, I spent almost every free evening at the beach watching the sunset. But Greece won in that sense. The beach was a little too rocky for my liking, but that’s just because I’m accustomed to soft white powder from home. 
I stayed at two resorts for two nights each. The first was of lesser “quality” says online and now says me. I’m not picky, but the AC in my room did not work, making it difficult to sleep because opening the doors resulted in being eaten alive by mosquitos. The staff at Aeolos, my first resort, was spectacular. They were all so kind and helpful to me with my little blue all-inclusive bracelet. I was taken to my bungalow by a woman who barely spoke English and waiting for me was a bottle of wine and fruit in a gift basket, along with a beautiful view of the sea from my door. Many of the employees were surprised at the fact that I was completely alone. The first night at dinner, no one said anything, because it was their first sight of me being alone. The next day, a man at lunch asked if I were alone. I said I was, and he asked where I came from. “Ah, the US! So far from home. Why are you here?” I explained I have been traveling and that this was a short, cheap flight from Bologna. 
There was always a good amount of food and a good amount of beach chairs, even though it was too windy to really sit outside and enjoy the beach my full day there. You could see another Greek island and Turkey right from where I was. I’m upset that I didn’t make it out to Turkey, but I spent a long afternoon in Kos Town instead. I walked around, I bought a dress, and I took my time seeing all that I could see. I have a problem with my impatience and rushing so I’m really trying to learn how to take things slowly. 
They had little events going on for kids and water aerobics, tennis, and ping pong for adults. At night, they had other small events happenings that I didn’t really participate in, but I definitely took advantage of the endless supply of wine, beer, and local spirits. By the time the night was over, I was sufficiently drunk and went straight to bed.
 I unfortunately barely slept because of the lack of air conditioning. It was too hot, so I woke up before the sun and relaxed in the main part of the hotel while I waited for breakfast. I was checked out and ready to go before 11am and took a bus into town, and then caught a taxi from there and to my next resort. Suddenly, a hangover hit – and I honestly thought I was going to throw up in the cab. It was bad. I got to my hotel, checked in, and I was two hours early technically so my room was not ready but I was given my bracelet, and was told that I could relax by the pool, get drinks, or go to lunch. So I wandered around for a bit before heading upstairs to eat. The dining room was…. insane and had an outside eating area as well. There was a wall of bread. A wall. Of. Bread. And more food than you could ever fathom. The dessert section alone was almost as big as the entire buffet of my previous resort. 
I went back for check-in and was brought to my room with a welcome drink. The man who brought me had to walk me out of the building and into a separate part of the hotel for those prime sea views. I had a double bed all to myself, rather than two twins pushed together like in the last resort. And the air conditioning worked!!!!!! So I napped, took advantage of the gym, had dinner and then went up to the roof top bar. IT wasn’t apart of the all inclusive so I just got a beer and got a prime spot for the sunset. The sun set over the mountains and I watched it melt. Like I said. The sunsets here were pretty incomparable to anywhere else I’ve ever been. After sunset, I went back to my room for a little while. When I came back to the main hotel, there were traditional Greek dancers by the bar and I took a seat to watch and drink. I asked for the all inclusive menu and it had everything you would ever want in the world – the good liquors, the fancy mixed drinks, everything – I was in heaven. I ordered a pina colada and then started chatting with the bartender. I got a mojito, and he gave me another before I was even finished with my first. Then shots for me and the other all inclusives I was sitting near. And then he made me a rainbow drink that was even too sweeet for me to totally enjoy – and I was already pretty drunk. I went upstairs for the “late night snack” option which was basically just dinner leftovers, ate to soak up the alcohol, and went to bed. 
The next day I hung out by the pool, had a few drinks, ate more than I want to admit, and then I had a massage that I never wanted to end. I don’t know if it’s just Europe, but she touched me basically everywhere. She even rubbed my belly. And she couldn’t have been much older than me! 
After that, I went to dinner, went up to the roof to bar, had a glass of wine for another spectacular sunset before going to the bar for the evening. It was more of the same… lots of drinks, just no greek dancing. 
This morning I checked out at 1140 and was basically expecting the woman at reception to cut off my bracelet and say see ya later, peasant! But instead, she asked me what time my flight was, and I told her it wasn’t until 9 pm. I asked her if I was able to have lunch still while I waited, and she said, “Well you would have to -” and then I held up my wrist with my all inclusive bracelet and she said, “Oh, you are all inclusive. Go to the pool, go to the bar, eat some lunch, have dinner too, then we will get you a cab to the airport.” It made me feel a lot better knowing that I could relax all day and not have to worry too much about getting around. It sucks having to pay for so much transportation but the next month I intend to live easily and cheaply. 
The next month I am traveling at a slower pace and I am really looking forward to it. A few nights in Rome, then I fly out to Vienna – from Vienna, I am taking a bus to Brno, then Prague. From Prague, I fly to Denmark!!! To finally see one of my best friends who has been living and studying in Denmark/Sweden for years. I haven’t seen her since the end of 2013 so I am really looking forward to spending a relaxed week with her. We will travel to Amsterdam together by plane, then I will fly to Paris for five nights before flying to London. From London, I will go home. I can’t believe my trip is already 2/3 over. It has flown by so far. But I have to say.. I am really looking forward to going home. I didn’t think I would actually miss it as much as I do. I appreciate my life so much more than I ever have. I think for that reason alone, this trip is beyond worth it.