I woke this morning with one thing on my mind: “My year-long transformative journey of travel, both inner and outer, is complete.”
I didn’t think it would be a full year. Back in June, while I was still in Europe, I thought my journey was coming to an end. I can remember my best friend coaching me over the phone as I pondered at whether it was time for me to go home: “You’ll have a moment, and you’ll just know.”
That moment never came, until now.
A Transformative Journey of Travel
Anyone who’s ever undergone the incredibly transformative journey of travel around the world understands that with each new external experience comes a slew of internal growth, understanding, and perspective. It’s as if the mind expands along with the countries you touch, the different cultures you experience, and the different people you meet. You get to see how other people view the world, which comes to transform the way you see it as well.
Undergoing this journey alone, I now realize, was something I needed to do. There was a voice in me, my gut or my heart, telling me to just go.
Since this day last year, I’ve visited 12 countries and spent 9 of the 12 months away from my home in Vancouver, Canada. Here are some dates over this last year that I’ll never forget, with some of the most important memories attached to them!
10/06/13: Watching Sunrise in Cocoa Beach, Florida
One year ago today, I was three days into my first solo vacation in Florida. With a newly acquired ability to work remotely freelance and contract writing, I had booked the trip as a tester of sorts. I wanted to see whether I could handle the task of solo travel because if I were going to accomplish my dreams of traveling the world, I knew I’d have to master this.
So I chose a destination far enough away but close enough for comfort. I flew to Orlando, and after growing bored, rented a car and drove to the east coast. I dipped my feet in the Atlantic for the first time, and set my alarm clock for another first: on the morning of October 6th, I watched the sunrise in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Which was, to say the least, a transformative journey in itself (you can read more about that in a narrative here).
On this trip, I ended up spending three weeks in Florida, touching both coasts, and jumping on a 5 day cruise to the Bahamas (where I’d meet my future roommate that would make my next trip possible!)
01/14/14: Flying to London
This was a scary step, indeed. With a short layover in New York, during which I spent a couple rainy hours wandering around Times Square, I was on a transatlantic flight to London. I was enrolled in a two month Fashion Journalism course at Central Saint Martins, during which I had planned to entertain weekend travel to other parts of Europe.
02/02/14: Visiting my Family in Switzerland
It had been 16 years since I’d last been to Zurich, Switzerland at the age of 7, and finally I was about to see my distant family again. Visiting my Grandmother (Grosi) in Switzerland had long been a bucket list item waiting to be accomplished; she was now 94 years old and time was ticking. So I took the first opportunity I could get, and booked the long anticipated trip from Gatwick to ZRH. The trip was made up by touring the city, visiting aunts, uncles, and cousins – through which my Grosi’s memories were translated to English – and eating lots and lots of Swiss chocolate.
02/22/14: Eating Pasta in Italy
Finally I had made it to Italy and was about to accomplish another bucket list item: real Italian pasta! Sadly my first few bites of pasta in Florence were overwhelmingly disappointing at one of the tourist restaurants near a busy square; I made up for it the next night at a local spot with two pasta dinners, and dessert. And, not to forget, got to see the beautiful city of Florence by bike (read about it here.)
03/17/14: Arriving in Budapest, Indefinitely
By the end of my two months in London, I decided I hadn’t nearly had enough of Europe yet. The only trouble was that I couldn’t exactly afford to keep up with life in London, so if I were going to make my long-term travel dreams a reality, I knew I’d need to settle in some place more affordable. That place turned out to be Budapest; I arrived, fell in love with the city, got my own apartment, and stayed for three months riding my bike around, writing everyday, sewing my own clothes and loving every minute of it.
04/16/14: Jumping on a Train to Prague
So I’d spent virtually a month alone in Budapest by this time (apart from a really fun and exciting time while a close friend was visiting) and I was starting to feel that pangs of loneliness. I knew that getting the ‘togetherness’ feeling of being near family was out of the question, aside from frequent FaceTime calls, so I figured I’d replace my need for oxytocin with some more travel-high dopamine. I jumped on a train to Prague, and – oh my! – was it ever amazing. Go here for more Prague pictures, and here for the story about my secondary stop in Bratislava.
05/20/14: Visiting Greece
I’d always dreamt of visiting Greece. My Grandfather’s father came from Greece, and I always wondered what it would be like. I’d imagined white structures with teal-blue rooftops, and found myself slightly disappointed when I realized that wasn’t the case in Thessaloniki (the second largest Greek city next to Athens). But, nonetheless, I found that the people were incredibly nice and friendly, the food was good, and the beaches in Halkidiki – a couple hours outside of Thessaloniki – were to die for. Read more about my trip to Greece here.
06/18/14: Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the First Time
Well, this one is sort of self-explanatory. On June 18th this year, I got to fulfill a HUGE bucket list item when I visited Paris with my sister. I spun and twirled beneath the Eiffel Tower at first glance. I simply can’t wait to return to this amazing city. Read more about my short but sweet time in Paris here or view some of my favourite Paris images here.
07/28/14: Celebrating my Birthday in the Carolinas
I got to spend my birthday – and much of the summer – in North Carolina, which included a birthday weekend to Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. With relaxation surrounding me, this gave me plenty of time to simply enjoy and reflect on the wild memories of my travels while anticipating my future ahead.
27/05/14: A Final Trip to Switzerland
On an unanticipated trip to back to Zurich, Switzerland with my father to say goodbye to my (now) 95 year old Grosi, I found that ‘togetherness’ family feeling that I had missed so much over the year. I also found closure in so many ways, and though life isn’t always perfect, I discovered that this trip back to Europe acted as the closing chapter to my time in Europe and the incredible year I’d encountered.
This last year has given me more experiences, more love (especially self love!), and more lessons than my entire life combined. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of it together, it’s that we should always listen to that inner voice, regardless of the fear, uncertainty, or disapproval around us. If you’re inner voice is telling you to go, just go – you won’t regret it for a second.