University was always a daunting concept. I always felt I had in some ways “missed the boat”. I didn’t know what or how I wanted to be, no idea, no fathomable direction I wanted to go in. I left school; my friends at the time had all started university, knowing what profession they were passionately pursuing. I didn’t. This was clear to my parents who encouraged me to wait, offering me advice on a life I had not lived, explaining that I had more than one choice in terms of what I should do. I had lived, in a way, school wasn’t easy for me, and I had to learn certain lessons outside of the classroom. I was insightful, but arrogant about the fact, and I had what most people fear: an opinion. With this in mind, I had no real life experience, however, my parents had encouraged my siblings and I to get odd jobs while still in high school. I was lucky enough to get an even more permanent employment in the last year of school and so found no reason to not continue once I had graduated. It took some time, some back and forth arguments with myself, but I felt that because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted from life, it would be a waste of my time to start studying something I didn’t really see myself benefiting from.
There were days, when I woke up, unhappy with the fact that I was in the adult world before my time. All my friends were in this phase, a new beginning, new friendships, drinking, studying all the things I wanted. I hadn’t realized at the time; because I was so resentful of the circumstances I was in, that I had all these things, similar, but to a different degree. I have always felt guilt with regards to my achievements, I never felt I was good enough or smart enough to further my education, in many ways I still live with this consciousness in the back of my mind.
I had a great job; I loved it most of the time anyway. I did however feel like there was no end goal, and it was through this recognition that I decided to travel. I did Spain first, beautiful, I worked for a few more months and travelled to Greece. I fell in love with the airports, the carrying of luggage (what a drag, right?) and the early morning check-outs. I enjoyed living in hotels, the different food, the sea sickening ferries and the hung-over mornings drinking enough water for three people. I was hooked; I then decided to widen the variety of countries but just into one trip. I visited the Contiki website and eventually settled on a tour of Europe and even more time in Spain.
London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Munich, Tyrol (Austria), Venice, Florence, Rome, Lucerne (Switzerland) and Paris. This trip was shortly followed by two weeks in Spain, including Pamplona, Seville, Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Ibiza and others. I am already jealous of past me, while writing this down. My one gap year, working and travelling in-between became two years. I saw no prospect of me changing the lifestyle I’d grown accustom to. Working wasn’t comfortable, but it was a lot less scary than following my dreams of being further educated and possibly moving out of home. I had also become extremely reliant of my salary, buying my own clothes and having very little expenses.
Travelling is a paradox. It is not glamorous, but it is gorgeous. It is extremely stressful (passports, money, documents, clothing, valuables etc.) but it is also calming in a sense. It is disempowering and empowering at the same time. It is a humbling experience, but it also creates a confidence. I have never learnt so much about myself as I did in the few months I was able to travel.
My point is, that there is no “set in stone” way of doing things. I realize now that even though I always wanted to study further, two years ago I wouldn’t have been ready for such a huge commitment. Two years ago I had no sense of the value of money, I had no real social skills other than those with school friends, and I had no real idea of what I wanted. I may still be contemplating what I want from my life, but I know what kind of a life I do not want. That is probably more important than anything from this entire experience. I wanted my life to be full of new ideas, creative outlets, and amazing connections.
I’ve done the things I dreamed about as a little girl, I’ve partied in Ibiza as so many of my peers crave, I have been drunk on happiness and spirits in countries all over Europe. I have travelled by bus to the most unappealing stops towards and from the borders. I have poured shots down my throat, walked alone, to find the nearest metro to take back to the hotel and had broken conversation with the locals. Gypsies in Italy have harassed me; I have drooled over the most amazing European sex gods, old men have looked me up and down, much to my dismay. I lost my passport and begged the bus driver to kindly return all my money and belongings to me. I have had these opportunities, and now it its time for a new adjustment, something else I have always wondered about but feared in so many ways. I just think we should always have some sort of enlightenment in our lives to show us what we are capable of.
Europe, you showed me love, alcohol, tears, poverty, historical/romantic sites, fashion, childlike minds and you showed me how to be okay with being me. I love you and I’ll be seeing you. Forever Wandering.