In 2013, I quit my job, ended my lease, drove all of my worldly possessions across the country for storage at my parents’ house, and traveled the world.
Except, that was really just the beginning.
It’s funny to think back to the first half of this year, when I was drenched in anxiety and sadness, clutching desperately to the people and the place and the love that kept me grounded in the familiar. I don’t know if I would recognize that girl anymore.
Because then I let go…
I gave up my ensuite bathroom and my car and my cell phone service. I gave up routine and convenience and privacy. I gave up Family Dinners and financial security and crispy bacon (seriously, this is quite possibly the only food I miss).
Instead, I learned how to hand wash clothes, how to curse in German, how strong my body is, and how far a positive attitude can take you. I learned how to spot an American accent, how I’m not cut out for small town life (though I kind of love it), how to bypass language barriers, and how hard you can really miss someone. I learned that it’s better to leave people behind and have my own adventures than to become a footnote in someone else’s story.
And I hiked over the Pyrenees, sledded down the Alps, rode a camel in the Sahara, watched sunrises and sunsets on three different continents, swam in the Atlantic and Pacific and Mediterranean. I walked 500 miles, danced on the beach, kissed under the full moon, took too many shots of Spanish lemon liqueur, got scrubbed clean by a Moroccan lady, sang for an entire Thai high school, slept in 50 person dorm rooms, cohabited with lizards and massive spiders, and fell in love with cities and strangers and so many foods.
I lost every pair of long pants I had, two headbands, two and a half hairbrushes, and the tread on my trail runners. I lost my self-consciousness, my need to impress people, my habit of shampooing my hair daily, and my desire for anything I can’t carry on my back. I lost being home for the holidays, easy phone calls that don’t cross the international dateline, and the spare key that allowed me unlimited and unscheduled quality time with my closest friends. And I lost the boy who I thought knew me better than anyone else.
But I found independence and courage and trust and patience. I found time and kindness and breathtaking views and beautiful people. I found history and street food and all-night parties and international heart-to-hearts. I found excitement and joy and new possibilities.
And for all the heartbreak that I went through before I left—and even my more recent occasional bouts of loneliness—I don’t think I’ve cried once since I got on that first plane.
Jevhon told me that her trip has made the world feel smaller, like it’s all only a plane ride away and she can go anywhere.
I think this trip has made me feel the opposite: that the world is so incredibly massive that someone is always mentioning another amazing destination, that I could travel for the rest of my life and still not make it to every place I’m dying to experience. But at the same time, it also makes me question why I have put a plane ride between myself and all the people I love.
I’m not exactly sure what this means for my 2014 yet. This trip is more than I ever imagined, but it’s also shown me that I’m not one of those people who can do this forever. I do want to settle down and have a home and maybe actually get a real job again, but not yet. Not even close.
So I guess for now, all I’ve got is this: In 2014, I will continue following my heart… and I can’t wait to see where it takes me this year.