I recently came home from my first solo trip abroad. At first, I didn’t think I gained anything from it but the mere courage I gained from simply going off on my own, but after coming home, I realized that I learned so much more. On my flight home I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and two things resonated with me. The first was the motto to Life:
To see the world, things dangerous to come to,
to see behind walls, to draw closer,
to find each other and to feel.
That is the purpose of life.
I definitely saw a little of myself in Walter. He’s a dreamer with an overactive imagination, who yearns to live life but is too afraid to. I’ve always thought that was me and to some extent, it is still who I am. I know it may not seem so–especially to some who know me–but I’m scared to live my life. Or really, scared of not living it like I want to. And like Walter, I believe this fear manifested sometime after the passing of my father two years ago.
I never in my entire life have been so afraid of life.
But that’s just it. I’m not really afraid of life per say, but more so failure and not being liked and accepted, and well, death. I’m ultimately afraid of trying, of taking that leap into the unknown and free-falling into something possibly great. I’m not as brave as I think some people think I am.
When I landed in Istanbul and checked in to my hotel, I was seriously considering getting back on a plane and going home. I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t go out and walk around on my own because I was scared of what might happen. I had a brief panic attack on the floor of my room and I swear, I never felt so alone. Traveling abroad by myself was really big for me. I will admit, it did take a lot of courage and I’m glad I went out and did it, but at the same time there were moments where I felt so alone that it hurt. I wasn’t confident in myself to open up to complete strangers. As a person with deeply rooted trust issues, being open with others has always been super hard. All of my talk–and I talk a lot sometimes–is superficial. It’s usually about something I know, or have seen or experienced, but never about me; never about how I feel. And it’s those feelings that make connections though, right?
I did two separate group trips on my trip abroad: one is Istanbul and one in Greece. The tour in Greece was more of a small group trip, in that I joined a group and stayed with said group with the same group leader and people for the whole way through. While I met tons of new people, I connected with very few, and it was because I wasn’t as open with myself as others in my group were with each other. My group leader even noticed, telling a fellow group member–who related it to me while I was on a Amaretto Sour 7 Shot Challenge high–that out of everyone in her group, I was the only one who hadn’t really opened up to anything. That of course was until she set up karaoke for the group and music is my solace. Singing is something I genuinely love to do and the confidence in myself shows when I sing. So naturally she’ll see a whole different side of me then. And it was only then that she felt her group was complete.
And that’s why Life’s motto resonated with me. To live, you have to be somewhat fearless, to face your fears, to see the world, to meet people and connect with them, and to feel so deeply you get wild butterflies in the pit of your stomach. And while I did all of these things, I only connected with a few of the people I met and I only allowed myself to feel those wild butterflies just once. As I reflect back on my trip, I could have allowed myself to live more, so much more. If I could do this trip all over again, I’ll definitely live more.
The second thing that stuck with me was this scene:
I have always lived my life in the after the fact. Analyzing and obsessing over the should of’s, could of’s and what ifs. I always have a hard time seeing the most important things while in the moment and only realize them after the time to honestly acknowledge them has past. I often find myself wanting to wholeheartedly say thank you to that one person who made me feel so special that one time, long after that moment has past; long after that person is out of my life and I could never again have the opportunity to say thank you the way I want to.
I suppose that completely negates to live in the moment. I can take everything in but not see how overwhelmingly great it is until after it’s over.
And I suppose that’s one of my flaws.
My friend once told me that I fail to read the signs. And I suppose that I do. But I don’t mean to come off ungrateful or impolite or wanting to brush you off because I was just not into you or the moment or anything. No, I was probably reveling in the fact that you saw something so special and worthy in me that it made me feel so self conscious I forget everything and begin to obsess over the fact that I’m not special or worthy of anything, let alone someone else’s interest. I purposely deny that any of those signs are real, that it was just my imagination, that no one could be that interested in anything I do because let’s be honest, I’m way too insecure to let anyone know how truly amazing I really am. It startles me to know that other’s can see things in myself that I can’t.
I find it hard to let anyone know how I truly feel about them, and when I do, it’s often too late. And to that I am sorry.
What it means to live in the moment is to just stay. To stop talking, moving, thinking, and just take in the moment. To acknowledge the greatness and appreciate it. To feel something and embrace it. Now, I’m not one to have regrets, but I do wish that I slowed down sometimes and took a moment to really take everything in, even if it meant to pause and just stay.
So here’s what I know today. Thank you for getting me to dance in the beginning. I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Thank you for listening to my story and finding a bit of inspiration from it. I never thought I could be inspiring. Thank you for being there as my cheerleader before I sang, even though I wasn’t as nervous about it as you thought I was. Thank you for taking an interest. Thank you for cheering me on while I did something that I never thought I’d do ever. Thank you for the water. Thank you for the twirls and the dance. Thank you for the walk home. Thank you for making me feel not so alone. And I know that this seems a bit dramatic, and that in many of these cases I did say thank you, but I’ve just realized the importance of all these little moments and I simply want to acknowledge them now for what they’re worth.
But for the future, I will try to live the life I imagine in my head and let people live it with me. It will be hard and it won’t happen right away, but I will at least begin to consciously try. I will try to think less about why great things happen to me and simply live in the moment and try not to question it. I’ll try to accept it as a compliment and simply say thank you. I will no longer deny myself those simple joys in life because I think I’m unworthy of it. Because, like you once said, no one cares.
After traveling for about 12+ hours straight with a stopover in Munich, I finally made it to Istanbul, Turkey. It didn’t hit me how completely and utterly terrified I am to be here all by myself until I left the sanctuary of the airport. They drive from the airport to my hotel was fine. The travel rep that picked me up was nice and the drive was smooth. It wasn’t until I got out of the van in the middle of the street that I realized I was a bit out of my element. I suppose that’s only natural when you arrive to a new place vastly different from your norm, but I think the feeling of utter panic was amplified by the mere fact that I didn’t have a familiar with me; that I was truly on my own. It almost made me want to turn back and go home. Almost.
When I got to my room and began to settle down, I was sure that I wasn’t going to leave it until the following morning to eat breakfast and meet my tour group. I was so scared of leaving. For the first time in a very long time I didn’t know what to do with myself. The streets of Istanbul remind me of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico, except from what I had gathered from the drive, there was no definitive grid like I am used to. I swore that if I left my hotel I wouldn’t know how to get back. And after doing a quick Google Map search to get to the Grand Bazaar, I was almost sure I’d get lost.
But I did my search and wrote down directions (since I’m sans technology unless there’s WiFi), and left the hotel. I walked a few paces in one direction, but according to the little arrow in Maps I was going the opposite direction of the bazaar. So I turned around and went what I presumed to be East, until the WiFi signal from the hotel faded and I was on my own.
So I did what I apparently do best. I continued walking aimlessly through the streets of Istanbul with an attitude like I knew where I was going, until I miraculously made it to the Grand Bazaar (don’t ask me how I made it there so quickly, I just sort of followed the people).
The Grand Bazaar is quite grand. The word huge is an understatement. This place is endless! My mother cautioned me like all mothers do, to stick to the main paths so as not to get lost, but I found that I caught onto the geography of this place rather quickly and was weaving in and out of small shops with no problem and with not a lot of potential to getting myself lost from the main path. There’s tons of stuff to look at, but once you’ve seen a bit of the place, you know that most of the shops are similar and there are plenty of them selling the exact same things.
I got bored of the place quickly (the fact that a lot of the shops selling pretty lamps didn’t want pictures being taken bummed me out as well), so I went out and found an ATM to take out some more cash, bought a water bottle, and found a stand by the tram to buy some postcards and these really pretty woven bookmarks. I found my way back to the hotel well before night and did what I do when there’s finally Internet access, update social media. I soon found myself dozing off, so I took a shower, changed into some PJs and went to sleep at around 6pm Turkish Time, only to find myself awake at 12am the next day writing this post because my internal clock is so messed up.
I’ll most likely head back to sleep after this, but I just wanted to share my first day. It was quite an emotional experience getting used to being alone in a foreign city for the first time, not knowing the language or the place. While there are a few things I noticed about Istanbul that I don’t particularly like, I’m trying not to be quick to judge the place only after one day. Let’s see what tomorrow has in store for me.
I leave for my Greece + Turkey trip in four days! I still can’t believe it’s finally the time. I’m not really prepared. This summer has been my busiest summer ever and I really didn’t have the luxury to constantly think about my trip like I normally am used to. I finally don’t have to work after today, so now I can really start preparing myself for my trip.
The one thing I constantly obsess about is packing. I tend to overpack all of the time. Lately, I’ve been getting better at not over packing, like on my trip to Disney World in July, I went with just a packed duffle bag. But I’ll be away for 3 weeks this time and while I don’t want to pack a lot, I still need to pack enough clothing to get me through 3 weeks. So here’s how I went about it.
I wrote up a check list. Yeah, I always write one of these up, and even though I do follow it, I never make a specific distinction of the quantity of the items I want to bring. I usually just label things like, shirts, shorts, socks, etc. This time around, I specified quantity. My trip lasts roughly 22 days. I did some math and figured, if I wear a bottom for about 5 days before washing, I’ll need about 5 bottoms. That with a dress that I can wear at least twice, I have just enough bottoms to get me through to 22 days. Jeans are always the best because you can wear them multiple times before they are deemed dirty. I used the same math with tops. I’m packing 11 tops that I can wear twice if I hand wash them along the way. That gives me 22 tops, not counting the dress I can wear twice. I figure that’s just enough to get me buy. If anything, I can always buy things as needed and still have enough room in my bag.
While clothing is one thing, I constantly obsess about entertainment and electronics. From my previous Eurotrip I realized that I don’t really need much entertainment. I brought my Kindle along and barely touched it, so it simply added to my worry that some one will steal it if I left it in the hostel. So this time around, I’m limiting my electronics to just my simple point and shoot camera and my iPod Touch. I made the sacrifice with my camera only because I’m traveling alone and the idea of carrying a bigger camera with me sort of freaks me out. I don’t want to have to worry about my electronics being stolen from me, so limiting them is the best move I can make. I’m taking a USB flash drive as well as an extra memory card (you can never have too much extra space!). I’m substituting the Kindle for one paperback book (which I have yet to pick out) and like always, I’m bringing a journal to write in. I’m taking the Remains of the Day journal I made to semi-scrapbook while on my trip. I’m bringing along a pack of Glue Dots as well, so that I can stick tickets, receipts and brochures into my journal without any of the hassle and mess of glue and such. Glue Dots are the best invention ever.
I’m taking some playing cards and lots of pens. I’m also taking a very small makeup bag and two wallets. I tend to separate my coins from my bills, as carrying all those coins together with my cards and bills can get heavy. I figure have two separate places for my money is smart idea as well, though I’m not too concerned with wallets being stolen. Passport and important documents, toiletries and a few extra I’ll take as well. I tried to stick with my 10 things to take on a trip list as much as possible, so most of those things listed will definitely come with me.
I haven’t decided yet what sort of luggage I’m going to pack everything in. I was thinking of my hiking backpack, but if when packed all of my things might fit in a smaller piece of luggage, I might just opt for that. Maybe taking a small luggage carry-on and a slightly bigger than my norm personal item bag, and just splitting my items accordingly. I don’t know yet, I have to try packing things first and seeing.
If you’re curious, I’m going to attached the packing list that I made up for you to check out if you need any help packing yourself. The download is a Word document, so if need be, you can easily edit it and use it for yourself! Download it here.
Well, I just wanted to update you all on my current status, seeing as I’ve been a bit MIA as of late! Hopefully you can find this packing mess I’m in helpful. I’ll try to update here and there while I’m away. Hopefully I can get good Wifi somewhere just to write up a few posts about Turkey and Greece! I’m definitely going to share this trip with you in full detail as much as I possibly can. I will definitely be active on Instagram though, so you know you can always follow me there!