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Published: June 16th 2015
I remember sitting on the rooftop of my hostel in Santorini overlooking the Mediterranean in Greece one evening writing in my first travel journal that is now full, worn, nearly ruined by a jar of melted coconut oil and was once lost about when I "found myself." This was a measly two weeks into my travels... Did I know at that time that my travels would go on for nine months? No, not at all. I would never have imagined such a timeline. I never had a clear answer for that question as people would ask all the time throughout my travels. I didn't realize that "I don't know" was such an abnormal answer. But, anyway, now I find myself here in Malta, on the hard rocks feet from the salty, warm waters of the Mediterranean with two weeks left in my travels, bringing it full circle and writing about this again, this time it actually makes sense that I finally "found myself."
In those first two weeks I was on a high; a trip. I didn't know then, but I was simply just getting in a groove of finding that for the first time, at the age of 29 (sad, I know) that I could survive on my own. I could deal with just (what accumulated to become) a 28 lb bag of what I had. Those five shirts, the two pairs of jeans, 10 pairs of underwear, a swimsuit and way too many socks. I COULD maneuver in foreign land without Google Maps, my phone was on airplane mode for nine months, never once getting a country SIM card. (If I wanted or needed wi-fi, I better find a Starbucks...) It was the high that I COULD do it. I hadn't yet found myself, I had simply just found the first couple pieces of a huge puzzle.
The first three months were a challenge, but the most amazing. It was the language barriers, the shock of the completely different cultures, it was simply the challenge of pulling my big girl pants and realizing that I had no choice but to get my stuff together. Have I ever taken a train ride? No way. Ask a Hungarian taxi driver to take me somewhere and then try to figure out how to pay him 6000 Forint with their money? No. I was all alone. I didn't yet know the ins and outs of making friends, how to do that. Contrary to popular belief... There aren't THAT many solo travelers. I was used to having a tight knit crew of family and friends back home, branching out wasn't my thing, but staying in my room and watching Netflix sure was. But here you've got to ask, put yourself out there. If there is one thing I learned about myself, it's that I've got to smile more. Because "Resting Lilly Face" has proven to get me nowhere. Just yesterday I was asked "Why are you so angry?" when in reality, I was having a wonderful day. I had to become well versed in the Euro, Forint, Pound, ISK, and CHK. I still come across a penny in my wallet every now and then for some reason. (But Iceland's money is by far the coolest.) I had to learn little and trivial things, and I had to learn much bigger things. To be aware of each culture as to not offend, to learn a little of their language as to not be rude, but when you travel from country to country each week, it became exhausting, yet thrilling. Becoming immersed in it all became a wonderful feeling.
Without a doubt, my life had changed immensely in the past 9 months. I may be 30, I may be a VERY "late bloomer" (as no traveller is this old), but had I not taken this trip, I am not sure of and personally would rather not like to know where, who or what I would have been. It wasn't all fun and games like it may have looked. That is just what you saw, that is just what I posted. I had many hardships; scary moments and nights I cried myself to sleep. It wasn't easy in the beginning, it wasn't easy in the middle and I find that it is still proving to not be easy as the end approaches.
To "find yourself" sounds so cliche but with the past 12 years of my life; mom and dad passing and the rest, I was never able to really get to know who I am. I never got to find that I can do such trivial things on my own. Such little feats, but such huge ones as well. To just pack it all up and leave, that takes guts. Along the road I've heard, "That's pretty brave of you to do such a thing," and I've always written it off but I suppose I would absolutely call someone the same if they were to share that. I will never truly "find myself," as none of us will, however these nine months have been a jump off and other pieces of the puzzle have started to fit together.
So I end this journey back where I started, looking at the same sea. The same blue waters, just much more tan. But this time with a clearer understanding of who I've come to be and how these nine months have enriched my life. I am so much happier, I am more excited about life and I'm much more inclined to live it like I want to. It's a great one.
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