Work It

It’s been nearly a month since I started my backpacking journey, and I can say with complete certainty that some days are much easier than others. I’m currently making my way through Spain, which funny enough will probably be the most difficult country I’ll travel in while touring Europe. Not only because it’s one of the first countries I’ve backpacked through, alone, where the common language is not English, but also because I am learning how to get around using only public transportation; something that is seriously lacking where I’m from in South Florida. My last couple weeks in Spain have also made me realize that I think we all have our ideal concept of what traveling will be like, but the reality comes with a lot of the same frustrations as sedentary life.

When I imagine myself roaming country to country, I envision the joy of arriving in new places, the wonder of visiting world heritage sights, the freshness of experiencing new people and the adventure of trying delicious local cuisine. I don’t necessarily imagine walking the same street 4 times looking for a laundry mat or ATM, eating crappy food because it’s cheap, or not being able to sleep for a number of defeating reasons.

It’s in these moments where I feel my weakest that I find strength and push on because, well, I have to. I am challenged at least once a day to overcome a language barrier, inaccurate directions, a change in plans, or some other plan-altering experience. I don’t have the comfort of always being comfortable. I don’t have the security to retreat into myself and shut out the world around me whenever I want. I have to press on, I have to rely on those around me, I have to get over it, and I have to work it.

What I mean by work it is to always play it cool. No matter where I am or what situation I’m in, I always try to play it off like I’m calm, I’m strong and I’m in control, even if I feel mortified or just plain defeated. I may be lost, GPS isn’t working and it’s getting dark, but the quickest way for things to get worse is to start panicking, stare at my phone instead of paying attention to my surroundings, or squinting at every street sign like it’s going to magically sprout an arrow pointing me in the right direction. Body language is the quickest way to make yourself a target. If you look scared, all of a sudden things can get a lot more scary.

For anyone worrying about me being in terrifying situations that I’ve had to figure my way out of, please don’t because I really haven’t. Most people are generally nice and helpful, and pretty much everyone knows enough words in each language to communicate in almost all situations. I honestly have the most trouble at grocery stores because not a lot of tourists seem to shop for their food and the tellers speak extremely fast! Overall, I really haven’t been scared of anything except missing out on something awesome.

I do however make sure that I’m not putting myself in situations where the odds of being targeted are higher. I mainly go out during the day, or I at least try to get back to my BNB/hostel by 11:30pm if the area seems nice enough. If I was traveling with someone else I might be a little more flexible with my self-made curfew, but since I’m currently flying solo I find it best to stick to the daytime scene. If I get familiar enough with an area and it seems lively after dark, I’ll go out for an evening stroll to have a single beer and see how the city lights come to life. Much to my surprise, I have no interest in going out to clubs or bars if there isn’t someone by my side to share it with. I’d rather relax and write, draw or watch Netflix so I can get up early and seize the next day.

Having so much alone time has also allowed me to hear my thoughts and intuition with so much more clarity. I know when something feels off immediately, and I follow that intuition no matter what. I figure it’s never worth finding out if my intuition was right and getting stuck in a bad situation that I could have avoided. When I got on the wrong train last week, I had the feeling that I was making a mistake, but I got on it anyway because it was leaving and I had to make a split second decision. It was also 9:30am and my intuition told me two things: this is either the right train, or I’ll almost surly be able to figure out the way to my next destination with a lot of daylight to spare. Turns out it was the wrong train, but my intuition about the situation was 100% accurate. I made it to my destination within an hour of when I originally expected to, and I had a little side adventure to a village I would have never seen had it not gone down that way.

To some people, getting on the wrong train, losing an hour in transit, getting turned around, or just having to change plans can ruin an entire day. To those people I say, no matter what the situation is you can always try to make the best of it, and this doesn’t just apply to traveling. Sometimes we expect way too much out of our day and it leaves us feeling defeated. Sometimes we want to accomplish so much and miss out on all the awesome little moments in between that we take for granted. If we look at each day as an opportunity to work it by trusting our intuition, taking what the world gives us with open arms and reining in our baser emotions, every moment that we move through the craziness of life unscathed is an accomplishment. It is in those moments that we become the calm, strong and controlled people we are working to be. The “work it” method is doing its magic for me so far, and it’s what keeps me going when the going gets tough.

In Spain they have their own way of expressing this method, “Al mal tiempo, buena cara”. Stay positive, even when faced with bad situations.

Tell It

So, I’ve finally begun my long awaited journey! It’s been exactly 20 days since I left my home, family and friends in South Florida with a one way ticket to London, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

I’ve touched the Druidic stones of Avebury, marveled at the Roman architecture of Bath, kissed the Blarney Stone in Cork, hiked the Cliffs of Moher and Giant’s Causeway, walked the city streets of Belfast, Edinburgh and Stirling, took a trip back in time at the Beatles museum in Liverpool, and saw pretty much every sight you could possibly hope to see in the heart of London. My soul is absolutely teeming with gratitude for everything I’ve experienced so far, and that is really just the tip of the iceberg in my grand European tour.

As I patiently wait for the gate of my budget flight (London – Spain) to be announced, thoughts of all these wonderful places I’ve seen are ringing their joyous songs in my head. I am often brought back however, to the very first person and AirBnb host I encountered in my travels. For sake of this post, I will refer to him as, Rick.

Good old Rick, a very nice man in his 70s, graciously opened his home to a friend (Ian) and I in the very small and quiet town of Dilton Marsh. How small is this town you might be wondering? To put it into perspective, when we arrived by taxi, the streets had no names that we could see, and the houses had no numbers. As we stood outside in the cold, hoping for the slightest bit of service on our cell phones to make a call, there was not another living soul in sight. No shops, no gas stations, no businesses of any kind that we could make out. Thankfully we were able to reach Rick, and as we waited for him on the side of the road, a very nice neighbor came out to ask if we needed help. If our phones hadn’t worked we definitely would have, but I was still thankful for her kind and welcoming presence since I was starting to feel like Ian and I were walking into the plot of a Stephen King novel.

A few moments later, we saw the silhouette of a man hobbling down the sidewalk. As he came into the light we knew it was our host Rick. He apologized for his limp and explained that he had terrible sciatica. Ian and I were immediately swarmed with guilt that he had to grunt his way down the road to find the two lost Americans. It didn’t seem to bother him though, I could tell almost immediately that he had a charming persistence about him.

As we walked just a few houses up, he pointed out a large and beautiful house to our left, explaining that it was his family’s home in which he grew up. He also pointed out that the woman who came out to check on us was related to him in one way or another, his niece possibly. The more he talked about the town, the more we understood how far his roots went within it.

We were shown to our rooms which were exactly as expected. The house smelled of freshly cooked meats and vegetables, and it occurred to me that Ian and I hadn’t eaten much of anything that day. It was pretty late though, and with no grocery stores around I expected that I would just need to deal with the pangs of hunger until tomorrow. Rick wouldn’t have that, he had prepared a wonderful stew just for our arrival, and I got the sense that even if we weren’t hungry, we were to eat.

As he prepared our plates, he fixed us both a cup of tea and we started to chat about our careers and what we were planning to see in England. Rick shared some great stories of his days doing voiceover work, making many popular British jingles, and working with the BBC. He had the honor of interviewing a handful of amazing people, most of which I wouldn’t have know if Ian hadn’t been there to bridge the age gap between us. Either way his stories were fascinating and Ian and I could tell this man was truly something else.

Briefly in passing, he would mention his partner. In these mentions, it always came across as if he was speaking in the past tense, so we assumed his partner had passed away and didn’t press with questions, unsure if it was a touchy subject. Whatever information Rick wanted to give up, we would graciously take in.

Since it was only about 9pm, Rick asked if we would like to talk a walk down to the local pub. I was shocked there even was a pub! Excited at the thought of doing anything in this little town, I was completely up for it. We got ready, and Rick seemed to have endless stories to keep us entertained.

At some point between deciding to go to the bar and actually leaving, he must have gotten comfortable enough around us to explain that his partner of ten years had passed away from cancer, and that he hasn’t been with anyone since and misses Tim (name changed) very much. Things all started to make sense once he told us this. He was so welcoming, so gracious, and yes I’ll admit, a little flamboyant. What made sense though was hosting his home on AirBNB. We figured he was looking for companionship more than anything else since it didn’t seem like he was in any need of money. He genuinely enjoys the company, and I think he especially took a liking to us just as much as we did to him.

Anyway, off to the pub we were! I might have been a little too excited since I had about six pints and way more laughs than expected. His two friends, also partners, came to meet us. They were younger, mid-thirties maybe, and you could tell they cared for Rick whenever necessary. He referred to them as his near and dearest friends, and they were both really wonderful people and drinking buddies for the evening. Rick must have also been excited because I’ve never seen someone drink that many gin and tonics in my entire life! You could tell he was in pain though, physically and maybe a bit mentally.

After hours of wonderful conversation, it was time to start heading back. Ian and I planned to pay the bill since he had been such a joy to be around, but before we knew it he had already paid for us. The cost of that bill was more than we paid for the BNB, we were shocked! We insisted he let us pay him back, but he insisted right back that we would not. Now Rick had trouble walking to the pub due to his sciatica, but add about eight drinks to that and he could barely take one step in the right direction back home. We were so thankful that he paid our bill, we practically carried him most of the way.

That is, until he sprung across the road towards the church, not even glancing for cars. Now, like I said this is a reeeeally small town. We saw maybe 4 cars drive down this road the entire time we were there, so I’m sure even in his drunken stupor he wasn’t too worried about getting hit. We thought he was just obliterated when he told us to follow him towards the church. Hesitantly, we did indeed follow him.

Halfway up to the church, I see tombstones sticking out of the foggy church courtyard and I quickly realize where he is taking us; Tim’s grave. My heart swells and I can feel how important it is that we do this with him. I wonder for a moment how many of his guests have been taken here. Any? All? Either way, I was honored to touch the tombstone of his lost lover, his soulmate with whom he hopes to join in the near future. He admitted to us that he wishes he could die and be with him, that every day without him is left in longing.

As sad as it was, I understood his pain. I could see it in his humor and his strength. His stubborn determination to walk to the pub when he could barely walk at all. He had to be strong to not plummet into despair. He watched his lover die slowly, took care of him to the best of his ability as he withered away. Now when he needs it the most, his lover isn’t there to take care of him, but people like Ian and I were. His friends at the pub were, and I honestly think that is what he survives on.

We almost didn’t want to leave Rick the next day. I woke up hoping that he had another guest on the way to keep him company. Much to my surprise Rick was up and about as if nothing had happened, making us a wonderful breakfast to send us off with and telling us more stories of his past. He sent us off with a smile and wished us all the best in our travels. It’s because of this that I keep circling back to him in my mind. Even someone who has lost the thing that meant the most to them was kind, welcoming and warm. Even in their moment of darkness they expected nothing of the world but to be set free when the time came.

As I travel to places I once only dreamed of, I am carrying with me the strength of all the wonderful people I have met and will meet. It is their stories and experiences that are worth traveling for, worth giving up the comfort of a job and home to hear first hand. It is people like Rick who make the long flights, uncomfortable beds, missed trains and sore feet all worth while.

With that being said, my gate has finally been assigned! Time for the next adventure in Spain, adiós.

Say It

10 Things People Say When You’re Planning A Trip To Europe

Now that I’ve told all my friends, family and coworkers that I am taking off on the adventure of a lifetime to backpack across Europe all by my (not so) lonesome, I’ve noticed a pattern in the things people tell me. Here are the top 10.

1. Be Safe

Now of course everyone wants me to be safe, especially because I will mostly be backpacking alone, however, it feels a little weird to me. It is the #1 thing I hear most when I tell people about my plans. Some say it with genuine concern, and others I can tell are putting themselves into the situation and thinking of how unsafe they might feel.

Honestly, I feel like if I can make it in New York and Miami, Europe will be a breeze. I grew up in big cities, have family in small towns, used to ride buses and take planes by myself as a child for visitation with my dad. Traveling alone, in cities big and small, to places I am unfamiliar with…none of this is new to me.

When people tell me “stay safe”, my initial reaction is…WELL DUH!!! If I try to put myself in their shoes though, I understand they are only saying this because they care about me, and the thought of something happening to me is detrimental. But…of course I want to stay safe. Do I want to be taken advantage of, raped, murdered, etc.? No. No one does. I think it is more of a knee-jerk reaction that people have when they hear about someone (a woman especially) who is planning on traveling for an extended period of time, in a foreign country, alone. I get it, but please do not worry. I find it just as likely that something “bad” will happen to me sitting in my desk chair as it will in train station in Belgium. Deep breaths people.

2. Where are you going? 

I get asked this question so much, and I think people just want to hear “London”, “Paris”, “Milan”, “Santorini” because it satisfies some kind of vicarious bucket list fantasy for them, but honestly, I am backpacking. The whole point is to go where the wind takes me. I plan to know where I am going on average 2.5 days ahead of time, or more if there is a solid reason why. Other than that, I am going wherever I want, but I wont know where that is until I find myself wanting it.

3. So, do you have everything booked? 

This goes hand-in-hand with question #2. Nope. Not everything is booked. Flight there is booked. First couple weeks of BNBs are booked. The next 3.5 months after that? Not booked. I don’t want to lock myself into a plan. How can you really get a sense of adventure if you know every step along the way?

The only reason the first couple weeks are even booked is because a friend is going with me and using all of their paid time off to do it, so they want to maximize their time. Even in that two weeks we have a couple wild card days open to do whatever we feel like. That freedom is necessary to me. I am sure it’s a huge red flag for many people and would send them into an anxiety frenzy knowing things aren’t 100% planned out.

Guess what? I am totally one of those peopleIt has taken me months of reading blog after blog, watching video after video, and reading book after book to convince myself that OVER PLANNING IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. I am a project manager by trade, which means my entire job is based on prudent planning. If there is anyone who struggles with the concept of just winging it…..it’s me.

4. Where are you going first?

I don’t have much to say about this question. It is pretty typical and falls to just about 4th down on the list. The answer is, London!

5. Is anyone going with you? 

This answer usually rockets people into bringing up either #1 or #3. Why? Because the answer, contrary to what most people think it will be, is “no”. I do tell them that my friend is going the first couple weeks, but after that its all me, myself and I for 3.5 months.

Somehow a two week “buffer companion” seems to put so many people at ease about this whole thing. As if the trip is completely defined by that first two weeks, and without the good graces of having someone else there to temporarily “guide” me, I would surly be fucked. The funny part about this…the person going with me is completely technologically inept and really doesn’t have street smarts. If anything, I feel like they wouldn’t do this trip unless I was going with them!

I think there is just a general assumption that as long as I don’t start the trip alone, I should be fine. I don’t get it, but this blog post isn’t here to make sense of things, just list them in chronological order.

6. I could never do that

While I agree that there are a lot of people that just wouldn’t enjoy extended travel and the discomforts it comes with,  I think there are also a lot of people who want to travel and think they “just can’t”. I also thought I couldn’t do this, until I decided I could. The biggest thing stopping me from taking this trip was myself. It has been said a million and one times, but if you set your mind to it, you can make it happen.

7. Aren’t you scared/anxious/worried/nervous?

Of course I am. I’m freaked out about so many things all the time, but should I let that hold me back from my dreams of travel? I could, if I wanted to live with regret wondering why I never took the chance to do something awesome while I could.

I think this question sometimes comes from a fear of the unknown, but also a fear of death. I am not afraid to die, and I am not worried how or when it will happen. I could die anywhere at any time, so why not when I am traveling and doing what I love? At least if I died in the process, I wouldn’t regret never getting to go. I know that might sound crazy to some, but the pros seem to outweigh the cons for me in this case.

Stay alert, stay cautious, be friendly, always trust your instincts. Beyond that, nothing else is in my control, so why worry my head over it?

8. Why?

I get a chuckle out of this question. There are some people who literally can not fathom why I would ever want to do such a thing as backpacking, traveling alone, going to Europe, traveling for an extended period of time, etc.. Why I would want to give up my job, house, car, friends? Why I would want to stay in hostels and sleep on trains?

My answer is, I want the adventure. I want the unpredictability of waking up in a new city with new people and new languages. I want to experience different cultures, hear different view points, explore far-off landscapes and indulge in authentic food. I want to immerse myself in a world that isn’t like where I’m from and where I’ve been. It’s not for everyone, but my heart wants what it wants.

9. I’m jealous.

Sounds like you need to take a trip of you’re own! I know not everyone can just take off to another country for an extended period of time, but know that there has been blood, sweat and many many tears in the process of making this decision. I spent months upon months saving, planning and manipulating my life to make this happen. Great things often take great effort, so be jealous, but know that I have changed every aspect of my life to make this dream a reality. If you really want to do something like this, I promise you can! 

10. Take me with you.

I haven’t even left yet, and I can say with absolute certainty that everyone should try to do something like this at least once in their lifetime. Just the process of getting myself ready for this trip has been positively life changing. If I could take anyone with me, it would be my best friend Sabrina. I’ll be thinking about her as I walk through museums, monasteries, graveyards and forests. I will carry the warmth and positivity of everyone I care about with me on my travels, and starting with this blog, my youtube, and my instagram, I will do my best to share all the intricacies of my journey with those who can not be there.

Other people have asked about what I will be bringing with me, so before I head out I will be doing a complete once-over on everything that is in my pack. Subscribe to my YouTube and Facebook page to get the latest updates!

Sincerely,

The Wandering Moth

Share It

Check out the About Me page and my first ever YouTube vlog!

I am currently on episode 3 of the vlog which discusses the long awaited release of telling my family, friends and job about leaving to travel Europe.

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About Me 

YouTube vlog

Sincerely,

The Wandering Moth

Hide It

Hide it.

It’s been a theme so far that I make one mediocre post on here every other month and then get lost in the craziness of life. This is much less than I hoped for but also more than I expected. Yay?

I want to share a little about my family and the fact that they have no idea I am planning to leave everything behind and jet off to another country in less than 90 days. Am I nervous about telling them? Completely…but it’s just not that time yet for many reasons.

As I write this, it is just after midnight and I only got home from a full day of Christmas-ing a couple hours ago. Instead of laying down to sleep, grateful for everything in my life and feeling the warmth of the holidays, I feel conflicted. So many Christmas presents I won’t be able to take backpacking with me. So many times wanting to share the excitement of my plans. So much guilt about the Amazon wishlist I made (that wasn’t utilized) so my family wouldn’t spend their money on things they will soon realize are going to sit in storage or be sold for travel money. So much disappointment when my new step-dad told me he went across three counties looking for an open shop on Christmas Eve so he could get me nice bowling shoes, not knowing they’ll only be used once or twice before I leave if I’m lucky.

Even though it isn’t the right time to tell them yet, I still feel bad that I need to hide it. I feel like I’m keeping a huge secret that ends with me abandoning everyone in my life who loves me. I know that’s not the case, my closest friends already know I’m leaving and have been incredibly supportive. It’s my little sister and my mom I worry about. I know I am not leaving forever, and I know this trip is going to be good for me, but I can’t put away this fear that something will happen to them, or they will need me and I won’t be there. It’s all part of the game of letting go I guess; something I find myself doing every day, in greater and greater frequency the closer I get to my departure date.

So other than not wanting to drop the “Peace out, I’m going to Europe” conversation with the fam on Christmas Day, there are so many other factors giving me anxiety about when I do need to eventually let the cat out of the bag…

1. I work with my mom so it’s a conflict of interest to tell her before I give my notice at work. I don’t want to make her keep secrets that will affect her job.

2. If something falls through with the trip, I don’t want to tell everyone my plans and then change them. This has to do with my job, but also my personal life.

3. My grandma is not doing well. I’m going to visit her with my parents and siblings in a few weeks, but even that long isn’t a guarantee that she will still be with us by the time we get there. Her farewell is far more important than mine. BTW, FUCK CANCER.

4. My sister (12yo) is battling depression, failing in school, dealing with my parent’s custody battle, and has a brand new step-dad. All of our other siblings live out of state, so right now I am one of the only people she has to confide in. I’m hoping things will settle down soon.

4. My mom’s birthday is also the week we’re going to see my grandma. That’s honestly too much for me to process without telling everyone my plans, let alone my mom handling all this in the first month of the year.

When it comes to this trip, having to hide it is probably the toughest hurdle I’ve had to face so far. Until I am “officially leaving”, meaning I have given my notice at my job, my lips are begrudgingly sealed. It’s my hope that if my family is at all upset about this choice, they will eventually read this blog and have a better understanding of my (crazy) thinking during the process. Only time will tell.

Happy holidays readers. If you’re feeling particularly giving, please help me stock up on backpacking supplies from that unused Amazon Wishlist I made!