It is the end of August and I am rounding the corner on my third month of traveling! It is actually a drop in the bucket when I look at the year and a half left in front of me. I'm currently in Greece, the 13th country I've visited after moving counterclockwise through Europe. I began June 1st in London, took the Eurostar to Paris and the train through Belgium stopping in Brussels, Bruges and Oostende before heading up to Amsterdam. I took a few days in Bordeaux before switching gears to Spain's Madrid, Sevilla and Malaga. I took the ferry to Morocco and enjoyed the cities of Tangier, Marrakech and Casablanca before flying to Barcelona. I returned to the coastline of Nice, Cannes, Antibes and Monte Carlo, then hopped on another ferry to Corsica. I took the overnight train to Vienna and Salzburg before going to Munich.
I stayed in Prague for a few days to relax and enjoy what I had always remembered as my favorite city in Europe. I explored eastern Europe's Budapest, Zagreb and Split before a stop over in Italy and what has turned into an island hopping extravaganza including Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos and Paros. My plans are to fly out of Athens on the 1st of September to begin the next leg of my journey to Turkey, Egypt and Africa, Dubai, India and Nepal, followed by China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, before ending in Japan.
Many have asked me why I'm doing this...and I've never been one to need reasons, but the more times I answer the question the closer I come to the answer. I remember hearing a quote that said "Those willing life takes hand in hand; those unwilling life takes kicking and screaming". This trip chose me; I'm clear about that. The variables that made it easier were that I'm a teacher and there are no jobs, I'm not in debt, I'm not married and I have no children...If those aren't reason enough, I'm young and probably won't get a chance to do something like this again. It's not that I didn't have reasons to stay; I'm just bigger than my reasons:) It's not that I don't get scared; I feel it. I just don't let fear stop me.
The inner transformation is best described as the equivalent to getting a third nostril. That may sound silly, but you didn't realize how much you needed both of them until one plugged up when you got sick right? Well traveling is like growing a third...you can't imagine that there is this much air out there!! I've learned there is a fine line between naivety and intentional ignorance and that both are self defeating. I'm aware of my own transformations in some instances like my relationship with women. There is a kinship that I either denied or never chose to be a part of, but I've come to see that the bond amongst women has a language all its own.
The outer transformation...well it's a humbling experience realizing your personal level of vanity. Going without hair color, cuts, facials, waxing...you get the idea. Men lose weight in Europe, women gain weight. Fair or not, that's how it is. There is no "low/non fat" or "sugarfree" anything and I hope you like ham because its in everything:)
"Would I do it again?" Well it's not over yet, but so far- in a heartbeat!! At times it felt closer to an endurance test than a vacation, but the Yoda-like ticket lady in Oostende said it best: "You'll eventually get there...don't worry". I would recommend this experience to everyone! It's so difficult to realistically consider it once you have begun your career. Two weeks vacation really isn't enough time to go anywhere, but the world that opens up is beyond words.
The trip I'm taking at the age of 31 years old is very different that the trip I took to Europe just 9 years ago for my semester abroad. I think the biggest challenge, in the beginning especially, was getting used to the sound of the voice in my head. Now if growing up an only child doesn't prepare you for traveling alone, I really think there can be no training. I believe this trip has already significantly altered my thoughts, but as for my outward personality, well I'll have to ask my friends when I return home...in 2011.