This girl is on fire

I’m not even sure where to start. I haven’t thought of a title that does the past two and a half months justice as I write this. We’ll see where I’m at by the end.

I guess I could start by naming a few of my favorite moments. I swear, if everyone asks me, “How was Europe?” when I get back, I’ll go crazy. It was wonderful. It was fantastic. It was stressful. It was enlightening. It was life-changing.
Over eleven months ago, I downloaded some stupid ticket-booking app, went crazy momentarily, and bought the cheapest ticket I could find. A ten-week period of nothing, and yet, everything, had suddenly presented itself. What can you do in ten weeks? What can you really do, with no substantial sum of money and no travel experience?
The moment I landed in Dublin on September 3, I knew I was right where I needed to be. The world was terrifying still, I had never really used an underground public transportation system before, and the only real experience I had had with foreign people was with exchange students, but something about being there filled me with an entirely new spirit; ready for adventure and ready to take on everything the world could possibly throw at me with borderline idiotic gusto.
My whirlwind romance with Andy was a great way to ease into traveling. It was liberating to meet someone completely able to let go about worrying what other people think. First lesson learned.
My Brazilian host, Thiago, even though I didn’t party with him, taught me exactly how crazy a party can get. I picked up how to properly drink whiskey and had my first draft of genuine Guiness. Not really my thing.
But how about getting lost on that mountain in Tralee and having to knock on house doors for help? That night, I learned the true meaning of the kindness of strangers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I lost the hat I was given to ward off the cold I hadn’t anticipated.
My first time hitch-hiking, with the help of an amazing traveler woman extraordinaire, Kata. She saved my skin at least three separate times, and I only hung out with her for like two days. I can get myself into some real trouble.

 

Singing Kann ist wirklich liebe sein with these two girls from Germany was definitely a highlight. I’m sad I couldn’t go to Germany to visit them.
Seeing the Cliffs of Moher with Tom and Valerie, whom I’ll probably never see again due to losing their contact info. Bless them for putting up with me, missing the last bus to Galway and flipping shit for hours.

 

Turning into a vegetable and slowly learning to make basic sentences in Italian with Paolo, to whom I am eternally grateful.
Meeting Tom, Thomas, and Gabriel, going to the beach Cap Ferrat, going to the festival in Nice with them and failing at dancing, seeing them off on their epic bike journey to Lisbon. Meeting the former French-U.S. Ambassador, who propositioned me for sex (no, no, a thousand times no).
My first real REAL hitchhike, from Nice all the way to Lyon, with one of the coolest people I think I will ever meet. Luckily, I still have his business card.

See that baguette laying on the ground to the left of us? I forgot it there.

Thinking I was going to make it out of Lyon that same night, but instead being taken to a place within the city, but loving the driver who picked me up anyway because she was sweet (albeit super crazy). People come in all different varieties. Appreciate it!

 

Oh, Paris. Someone stealing my backpack taught me how to watch my stuff better, and Camille taught me to appreciate super long mealtime, French greeting customs, and now to eat snails. She was there for me at the lowest point in my trip, and for that I will always be indebted to her.

 

Riding with Sarah to Foix, and being invited to stay with her super anti-republican parents up in their farmhouse, celebrate Sarah’s mom’s birthday, and being treated to an amazing traditional French farmhouse dinner, complete with figs from the tree outside.
Having my first hitch-hiking buddy Sofia, whom I wish all the luck in the world switching from nursing to doing music in the states. 🙂

 

Learning about life in a solar-powered mountain cabin, showering in rainwater from a hose, getting caught in the rain on top of a mountain and learning to appreciate that there are some relationships that just work despite a world of distance.
Hitchhiking straight from France to Barcelona through Andorra, and picking these fools up in the process; my first real Spanish meal, being treated like a king for no reason in particular.

 

Meeting one of the strongest women alive, being drugged at a picnic in Barcelona, and spending a morning high off my ass sipping daiquiris at the beach with her. She taught me that, no matter your background, you can always come out on top through hard work, and life is what you make it. And that your life isn’t over just because you ingested enough THC to make you high for 24 whole stinking hours.

 

My friend Jeremías from Venezuela, who toured the City of Arts and Sciences with me in Valencia and didn’t make fun of me for being a kid again.

 

Lucía and her roommate Sandra, for giving me the BEST possible experience in Elche, exposing me to jamón serrano, sobremesa, and singing La Quinta Estación with me! Holy crap I love those girls (and of course everyone else too 🙂 ).
Teresa: you are so wonderful. She out up with me for nearly three weeks, smelling like a hobo, staying up for three days in a row together, learning how to speak enough Greek not to die, and being a good sport about my incessant need to explore everything and comment on the incredibly attractive men of Greece, not to mention the fact that she was happy as a clam even when we couldn’t find a place to party for her birthday. Getting lost in the middle of Naxos and climbing on people’s houses is going to be one of the highlights of my life. And OF COURSE meeting Yuuki and Kyouko, and failing at trying to speak Japanese with them 🙂

 

Overtaking the highest point in the Cyclades islands, I learned when to call it quits to avoid being stabbed repeatedly by killer plants. I learned not to take risks on slippery rock slopes and to respect the utter ease with which nature can kill or mame you. I also overcame my fear of dark places by forcing myself to explore a cave with a very tiny light source, and not run away when a bat flew at me several times.

Meeting Christina, a 19 year old couchsurfer who taught us where to look for ζερζελο, also known as “the happenin’ places,” and her introducing us to the owner of this bar whose birthday it was, so he gave us all free shots of homemade raiki. Also, Christina gives the most wonderful wiggly hugs.
These guys made Sevilla awesome by teaching me about all the locales and inviting me to hang out with them all day. They made me feel good about myself and boosted my confidence 🙂

 

Meeting Oscar, who showed me around Las Palmas like a boss and provided me with all the info I needed to be happy during my stay there.

 

Meeting the COOLEST guys, renting a car, mountain climbing, and learning to surf. Quite possibly the best part of my trip overall. I was incredibly fortunate to meet them; I learned there’s always more points of view to an issue than you think, and that there are people who are mature beyond their years.
Seeing Heather again, reliving old memories and making new ones, discussing boy problems and exploring London. Lots of hot chocolate, a fireworks show, cider, and going to the British museum to check “See the Rosetta Stone” off my bucket list.

 

Seeing Tom again, joining the protest against the Commonwealth’s mistreatment of LGBT citizens, and feeling like part of something bigger than me, making the news, learning that people have had it far worse than me and rekindling my desire to change the world.

 

Taking a day by myself to appreciate nature and soak in the happiness that Ireland drips from every corner of its stupid, beautiful, fake-looking scenery.

 

Yep, this trip has been pretty unbelievable.
In summation, just get out there and do it. It doesn’t have to be traveling. But you have a dream, and it’s your duty to yourself to seek it out and make it a reality. And it’s not even necessarily about the goal, or about accomplishing anything. At least for me, as you can tell, I put up pictures of the people I met and it was them who affected me and taught me about myself and others. Landscapes are nice, but, for me, life is all about the people in it. Life is an adventure. Go out and find what it’s got in store for you; you never know what you’ll learn.

3 thoughts on “This girl is on fire

  • What a great trip! So glad you were able to put it into your schedule and let the experiences soak you like rain. Traveling is very important to understand how big and complicated and different our world is, and yet how similar people are wherever you go. Congratulations on the trip you will always remember and should always let change your life.

  • So wonderful. Made me want to cry from your happy story. And I remembered each event like it was last week, especially the lost night/kindness of strangers/and the hat.
    You are brave and adventurous – inspiring and a great writer/photographer. Oh and terrific blogger!

  • Thanks for going on this journey with me 🙂 I really appreciate the kind words AND that you can stand to read my writing! I’m really going to miss having a reason to write 🙁

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