Today’s post is for Real Talk Tuesdays. I actually thought I had come up with this but turns out it’s already a thing. Oops!
This is part Travel Memoire, part motivational or inspiring, perhaps, and hopefully helpful in some way for those who have, are, or wish to travel the world on their own.
Here it goes.
You read right. Travel didn’t change me. It didn’t give me all these perfectly beautiful memories with a new and improved life to come after. I am not BFFs with everyone I shared travel with. It wasn’t the best time of my life and I wouldn’t do it like that again. Sounds crappy eh? Well, it’s not. Please keep reading… 😉
Some background, sorry!
During my university years, as some of you may know, I was self employed and had an inclusive and individualised counselling and education business. I had my own car, my own place, and was completing my undergrad. Winning at life etc. right? Well not so much. I wanted more. Wanted something different. Wanted to break free. Wanted to just dive into an endless sea of possibilities where I could make sense of my first 23 years of life and plan for the future. I also wanted to do all the things I felt I should have done. So I worked my little butt off and saved as much money as I could. I got the clients, worked the hours, and felt super confident in my goal. Also, a part of a gift from my late grandfather allowed me to turn my 2 year plan into a 1 year plan. I could leave earlier, which is what I wanted anyway. I had some extra credits I was taking so I completed those on the road, which was awesome because I got to do that studying abroad thing I had not been able to do in Uni. I may sound like a sell out now but trust me, money is just that: money. But there was a whole road ahead of me that money had nothing to do with. So I modified my plan. I had spent half my budget for my trip 6 months before I left because I had basically booked everything and/or put deposits down. The whole thing was planned perfectly. The other half would be for whilst I was travelling and any extra would go toward tuition, my move to England, and toward maintaining a solid savings account. So far so perfect.
Well, on day 1 of my trip I missed my flight to Portugal. Long story short, the total modifications were not cheap but the experience is one I would not change. The places I got to see and the feelings I experienced almost made me cry of either joy or relief or both I couldn’t tell you haha. I went from having a panic in front of London Victoria Coach Station to flying to Madrid one magical week later ready to continue this trip of a lifetime. Once I arrived, all of us on the plane would not see our luggage that night. I would not see mine until I flew to Barcelona one week later. At which point coordinating with airport staff to get my luggage back would force me to miss my flight and have to book a new one for the following hour. Yup! Barcelona was flawless. To be fair, it all still seems amazing in hindsight. Some of the friends I made are people I am still in touch with today. One of them has even become my best friend. My next stop was Marseille. That was a nice, chill time. I met a cool girl there that I would otherwise never have befriended (nor would I be her ideal choice to be honest) but we got on. Oddly enough. I still think of her from time to time and love seeing her posts on Instagram. I then drove to Nice. That beautiful Friday at dusk, arriving to what would end up being one of my favourite places in the world. I stayed on the beach that night just looking out to the horizon for hours. After a few days in lovely Nice, and a splendid day in Monaco, I got my passport, wallet, cards, and cash stolen. Yay! Once again, an expensive game change was in order. So I did that again, all the while remaining extremely calm and trying to take in this week’s life lesson. You can read about my experience on My Affairs in France… and with France.
After my train to Paris, I went to the Canadian Embassy and got everything sorted whilst, obviously, exploring one of my favourite cities! Though it could have completely discouraged me, the courage and strength I felt in persevering and getting my situation under control and taken care of made me feel so safe and reassured. I found a new level of trust in myself. That as long as I have myself, I would be fine. I would always take care of myself. I know it may seem cheesy, but knowing you have your back is one of the most precious feelings that exist.
After Paris was Geneva. Just taking a nice break in the adorable and charming Geneva. I did get beaked by a swan at the Bain des Pâquis. I was just doing my own thing trying to get a nice Insta worthy photo until BOOM. Or PECK. Or wtv. Right in my forehead. Just imagine the beak strength of a duck or maybe even a flamingo, combined with the neck strength of a giraffe. That’s a swan, mate. But I laughed. At first I sort of felt some hostility from the swan but then I thought “hey, maybe it’s congratulating me for being a tough badass and not backing out of my dreams and goals.” Either way, whether it was just a mean swan or a wise one, I chose to laugh and be like “yeah, I may deserve that, but I’ll take it, lighten up, and keep on going”.
Next came Lyon, which originally was not part of the plan, but I did not have time to visit the rest of Switzerland as planned, and since I had already been I thought it better to try something new instead of rushing through the beautiful country. So off to Lyon I went, which is so close to Geneva btw! Aside from being breathtaking and homely, Lyon was a great couple of days to look back at the miles, the emotions, the hours in planes and buses I had already travelled and experienced. The over night travel, the commuting to save money and use it as a chance to explore the city more on my own. The weekly budget I set and survival essential I had in my bags. I already felt like a boho travelling warrior. I know, I know, I’m super lame. Just let me on Real Talk Tuesdays!
Along came Belgium, where it rained loads in Brussels which was so therapeutic and washed away anything negative in my soul, as I always allow rainy days to do. Then came Bruges where I met with someone from my Madrid crew. The one who became one of my best friends and still is. I was also a bit down and out in love at the time with a romance from travels passed. I write about him, and intertwine it with Bruges to create a light prose in Travel tries to teach me to let go…
I then travelled to Amsterdam where I had some much needed down time to myself and a couple days to recover from being a bit emotional after Bruges for several reasons. When that was all said and done, the quaint and classic Amsterdam lead to me to Berlin. A city that did not make my list of favourites but where I did meet some lovely people and visited alternative hoods of the city and did a lot of writing, which is always a plus!
I made my way to Prague where I had an absolute blast. The friends I made for those few days were some of the best of the entire trip. Still in touch and love seeing the exciting lives they lead now, equally eager for a reunion somewhere in the world one day. Not to mention that Prague became one of my favourite places of all time. It was like a dream.
The next destination was Munich where a friend from back home in Montreal came to visit me to camp out and attend Oktoberfest with me. It was probably one of the best times of my life. Not to mention that this friend and I have been through quite a bit and have travelled Colombia, California, Iceland, and now Germany together. Of course, we have had many a great times in Montreal as well. She is a true gem.
I said goodbye to my friend and headed to Ljubljana. Right, so I know this next sentence may have less value now that I have used it quite a bit but this adorable, lovely, and charming town also remains one of my favourite places. I walked around, treated myself, caught up with myself, did some school work, wrote a lot, meditated, cured a small case of the sniffles, and touched base with my travel plans and budget being nearly half way through my travels at that point. It was a serene time. You can read a bit about it in Greetings from Ljubljana.
Next was Vienna. Aside from visiting one of the places I had dreamed of since I was a child watching Princess Sissi, Vienna was beautiful. It was like a painting. I wouldn’t say, in my opinion that it was particularly dynamic or buzzing, but it was classy, elegant, noble looking; it was a live painting. It actually surpassed my expectations!
The destinations to follow were Bratislava, Budapest, and Bucharest. The 3 Bs were quite an adventure, and not necessarily in the best way. At this point my sniffles had become an irritating head cold, Bratislava was grey and rainy, I ended up coming down with a bad fever and after one day of exploring Budapest which, though I felt was slightly overrated, was nevertheless majestic, rich, and contained an impressive amount of diversity and artistic eclecticism. It was here that I finally received my Debit card that I had my bank mail to my parents back home so they could fast-track it to me in Budapest because the bank had messed up the mailing process twice since I had it stolen with everything else in Nice. So that was good. After this, I ended up in Bucharest where I unfortunately did not explore much. In fact, I did more staying in, with people I had met in my hostel. Though I did not stay in touch with any of these people, in the moment, it was my reality. As odd as it may seem now, it was comfortable then. Mostly because at this point I had learned to be more comfortable with myself than I had ever been before. The reason is that I had learned how to do so in a crowd that essentially was chosen for me and still feel at ease. Which is not as simple or easy as it seems! At least not for me… It was even Canadian Thanksgiving at the time and that was a homy feeling I created for myself by chatting to my family and friends loads and creating that warm cozy vibe where I was. Which also made me feel proud of myself and strong on my own.
The last part of the European leg of my tour was Greece. I will not get into how absolutely fabulous Greece was but let me just tell you, I have yet to come up with the words to even understand, let alone define, all the feelings of harmony and happiness I felt in Athens and the rest of Greece, or that I experience when I recall those two weeks. Santorini was my favourite part of the trip in that it was purely amazing on every level. The friends I made and still have, the breathtaking beauty of the place, the sense of peace and joy I felt there, the whole entire vibe, and how it still feels so alive in my heart when I think of it.
I took a quick break in England before going to Asia. I had yet another mishap at the end my two weeks in Greece. Without going into detail the cheapest alternative was still going to be costly. So I spent a little more but went to visit a friend in Birmingham and had a couple meltdowns. Bless her heart for being so patient and good to me during that time. But yes, unfortunately, it was a bitter-sweet few days. The drop from my level of happiness to yet another bout of misfortune and feeling of discouragement was hard on me. I finally looked within myself and came to terms with certain truths. I had to use this week to really ground myself again. I was also disappointed in not having anticipated the situation and the whole thing really got to me. Not to mention that it meant I had to spend more money AGAIN, that I would otherwise not have had to spend. Not fun. I realised that as fun as it had all been and as much as I was to be the warrior, sometimes it takes more strength to realise that there are things we need more than the things we want. That accepting change and even making changes is not giving up; it’s being true to yourself and caring for yourself. It’s part of growing up and putting your priorities in order. It’s understanding that you cannot plan everything because the course of life has its plan too and adjusting and adapting is not something you plan; it’s something you do on the fly. It’s what challenges you the most and makes you the strongest. Now, no matter how not so comforting that was to read because we all want everything we dream of, it does not need to mean that you cannot fulfil your dreams! It means that some dreams matter more. Some feelings matter more. You may just not know it yet. But if you follow your heart you will get there and all the other dreams will fall into place around that in the most perfectly fitting way. I promise.
Conclusion? I decided to cut out a big part of Asia travels. I basically eliminated from my itinerary all the places I had already visited and skipped directly to the South Pacific. Of course, I spent 10 days in the Philippines before that! I spent more money than I had on so far and purchased and whole new set of flights and accommodation. And no… It didn’t stop there…
I had a long layover in Singapore and booked a swanky room at the airport and took the world’s longest shower, completed thorough skin treatment, and slept in a comfy bed, alone, in a quality room for enough hours to get a solid count of beauty sleep! My time in the Philippines was… special. I was with a local family. Looking back I regret not enjoying it more. I regret closing my heart just a little too much. I did have a bit of a stomach bug there that sort of lingered and made me feel a bit nauseous every day which did not help. That mixed with the intense heat was not the best for my mood, in my defence. It was incredibly hot and I just felt unwell for several days. Nevertheless, the people I was with were so kind and lovely. If anything did open my heart during those days, it was them. Their spirit, their generosity, their happiness, and joy… I worked on my writing there too. We went out, took motorbike rides, went to beaches, explored… It was actually really nice. I did not get to all the islands I wanted due to several schedule changes that happened last minute and because at the end I was eager to just rest up and head to Australia. One day, I will go back when I visit some other must-see countries in Asia and I have a better plan for that time! That will come in due time. My last night in the Philippines I had a problem with my Australian visa because I had a new passport and I could not get into my flight. I had requested an updated one and got it to have them send it to the airline so it could all be sorted but it was delayed and did not work. I missed ANOTHER flight. This time I had to book the cheapest flight to Australia. It costs a pretty penny let me tell you. The cheapest flight required me to spend 12 more hours in the airport, sleep on a love seat inside Starbucks, then fly to Malaysia, stay there for several hours, then finally to Melbourne. Yeah I called my Kiwi friend that I spent several unforgettable nights with in Santorini and had my 3rd little cry of the trip haha! All was well in the end though. Once again, if I have myself, I will be ok. I will take care of me. I am a little travel badass!:)
Once I got to Melbs, I felt at ease. What a dream come true to be in Australia. I worked on my writing, went to Starbucks a bit too much, walked around, met with a friend, and enjoyed the sparkling city before taking an overnight bus to Sydney. In Sydney I met with a friend that I had made in China the previous Summer. That was really cool actually! He took me to Bondi and we walked the coast and went by the beach. The sunset and colours around us were sensational. I fell in love with Bondi; and it was real. I then flew to Brisbane. That was an interesting time and with interesting people. Most of all, I loved Brisbane even more than Sydney. Just when I thought Australia could not get better; it did. Sadly, I was not there nearly as long as I would have wanted to be. However, Brisbane was a last minute add-on and I do not regret it at all! Worth every minute. I will definitely be going back soon! After Australia I flew to Auckland. This was a bitter-sweet time as well. It was actually a slightly painful time between me and my parents. On the other hand, it was a crucial moment in our relationship where so many things came out and were worked through and after watching a Christmas movie at the cinema that had to do with families working through their imperfections and finding that love does conquer all, I booked my flight to Montreal for the holidays. I worked on my writing a lot in Auckland as well. School work was coming to an end too so I worked many hours on that. I met up with some mates that I had met and travelled South East Asia with the summer before. That was nice. It was also time spent looking at my plan for the new year, my move to England, my finances and so on. I’ll be honest, the mishaps had definitely added up and I was stressed. I’ll admit it. I had a lot less savings by that point than I had planned on. It was bitter-sweet, like I said. Equally it was the most therapeutic time for me. From somehow creating a new beginning with my parents, to looking back at my months of adventure, and adapting to a whole new reality that was a result of my travels, my set backs, my successes, my independence, my strength, my pains, my joys, my memories, and my skills developed. I think those moments in time are always bitter-sweet. They are always imperfect. But they are always necessary and empowering and important. I went to Waiheke Island and had I would say, the most well rounded and fulfilling day of my trip. I left a larger fraction of my heart in New Zealand, for sure.
Lastly, I flew to Fiji. This was my last destination and also the place I used to see on world maps and think “wow. What is that far away place? Imagine the people there. Imagine I can just fly there one day. I’m going to do that.” It was an amazing week and a bit in Fiji. I drove from Nadi to Suva (the capital) riding the Coral Coast and listening to my favourite tunes whilst the friends I made slept in the car. It was my moment. One that I had not planned or expected. One where everything came together and one that would never have been so meaningful and flawless if every day before had not gone down the way they did. We arrived in Suva and I found a toe ring to replace the ones I had thrown in the Ocean in Waiheke to signify my letting go of everything and only taking with me the good, pure, and strong; adding to my personal story everything I will create and find on my path from here on out. We drove back to Nadi that evening, stopping at this cute, dazzling, and sparkling waterfall in the heart of Fiji’s natural forest. We then caught the sunset on a small bridge at Pacific Harbour. We arrived back in Nadi at night listening to road trip classics and slept very tight that night. My last day in Fiji was spent on private resort Islands. I spent most of my day on South Sea island where I took a submarine ride, went snorkelling, riding the tide and following the ocean friends I made that afternoon. I was one with the ocean that day. Cradled in her nurturing, warm, safe, and sometimes misbehaving grandeur and splendour. I worked on my tan and was quite toasted by the end 😉 I finally took a boat to the main land and flew out that evening. I flew to Los Angeles and then to London completing my trip around the world. I spent a week in London completing my extra credit courses, locking down potential jobs, and flew to my family and friends in Montreal, Canada for the holidays.
Once I was there I also had to get a new visa because my passport had been stolen in Nice, remember? Yeah so I got that sorted too. Celebrating a most joyous and healthy Christmas and flew back to London on December 28th. I landed my job, confirmed it, and moved to Wimbledon on January 5th. I have been here for 6 months now. That is one month more than I travelled for. I have made friends here, found love, planted my roots, created my own world, reached some more goals, planned for new ones, had bad days and good days, and have been living my best life. Not THE best life. Just MY best life. As always just doing my best. Taking care of myself, providing for myself, having my own back, and feeling enormous love for myself and those that I hold dear.
So yeah. Travel did not change me. I do not have only perfection and the sweet delight of escapism to look back on. I have not stayed friends with everyone. I did not like everyone. Not everyone has liked me. By this, I am referring to people and cities! 😉
What do I have? Who am I now? What did travel do? Will I travel again?
I have myself. I have my loved ones. I have what I have worked for and earned. I also have what life has ever so generously blessed me with. I also have what I have been through. I have what I have lost. I have memories, yes. I have memories of glorious sadness that then was incapacitating but that now has made me resilient. I have memories of exquisite happiness that has propelled me through thick and thin. Travel did not change me. It made me realise who I am and what I have. There is no telling what this moment will be later. But right now, it is my moment. It resides in a neutral place, with no wrong or right. It just is. And yes, I will travel again. Just not the same way. I will not challenge myself the same way. In other words, I will surrender to life a bit more each day and let life deal with teaching me lessons and providing me with what I need to grow. It’s not my job to control everything or create everything. My only job is to write my story. Life will give me the tools, the colours, the words, and the everything it does so that I can create my art, my book, my world, my place as a little human on this earth, everywhere I go.
I don’t know what would have happened if I had waiting another year to do all this. To be honest I don’t even want to know because it has worked out magically. Everything I learned, developed, how I grew both by messing up and nailing it, was all my doing. Everything about this trip, everywhere I went, was MY doing. Not anything or anyone else.
So travelling was not what I thought it would be. It was everything and everywhere more. I am not who I thought I was. That’s part of the everything I learned and more than the different places in the world I explored and became acquainted with, are the different places in my mind, heart, and soul.
Thank you very much for reading through all this!