Finally (Un)Settled

After taking trains, planes, buses, subways, cars and boats every couple of days and moving around between cities and countries, I’ve finally been somewhat settled in the London area for over a week (….it’s still hard to keep track of days). But, here I am, halfway across the world, calling this apartment my “home” because it’s where I can cook my food, simply hang out and rest my head at night.

That’s the funny thing about life – you’re born in a location you don’t choose, and for many, it’s home forever. I think our generation is really shifting this fact. From workplaces to living situations, offices and bedrooms are becoming global, and the world is both our play and work ground.

People always say “do what makes you happy” and then society places this box around what’s accepted and expected. If you were to truly design your life, start with just one day. How would you wake up and spend your time? What routines would you like to implement? What would you avoid wasting your time on?

Every day, here, while traveling, I’m trying to wake up and do the things that I actually want to do. For example, yesterday, I went for a 3 mile run near the Thames and then went to a coffee shop nearby to read. This morning, I’m listening to music and writing, then I’ll spend the day with my friend, because that’s exactly what I want to be doing.*  I’m very aware that there’s privilege in this set-up because I don’t have to be at work at a certain time or take care of kids, etc., but if there’s something that you want, there’s ways to make time work on your side, regardless of responsibilities. With a surrounding fortunate set of circumstances, I’ve worked to make this my reality.

Some people have asked when I’m coming home. I don’t have the answer. For as long as this is what I want to be doing, I’ll do it and make it work, however I have to. I once made the mistake of flying home from Australia instead of continuing on with a friend to New Zealand because I felt like I had to (or should) go home and jump back into a job. I’m not going to prematurely end what I want to be doing because of external influences that make me think I should be doing something else. Now, after having a taste of actually doing what I want, when I want (this has become my definition of freedom), I am willing to do whatever it takes to continue.

Life is a series of choices. We are faced with big and small ones everyday. Choose whatever it is that sets your soul on fire and practice day in and day out.

“I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul. ” – William Ernest Henley
* Side note: other skills I want to learn – if you have advice on the best ways to do it, please share – graphic design, another language, basic coding, an instrument

 

Stranger Things Have Happened (Pun Intended)

“Other side,” he said. I’ve been in England since Thursday evening, and every time I’ve walked up to my friend Luke’s car, it’s been mistakenly on the driver side. Naturally, it’s understandable given I’ve come from America where our driver side is their passenger side, but it’s still comical to me. It also serves as a reminder that there is no such thing as “normal.” Despite the fact everyone here speaks English and it’s the most like where I come from out of the places I’ve recently been, I can’t help but feel like people just know I’m not from around here, even before I speak with my hard “a’s” and emphasized “-er’s.” Plus, crossing the street is always enjoyable when you look the wrong way first.

After spending at least 10 minutes with Border Patrol promising them I plan to go back to America despite not having booked a flight home, I proceeded on an hour long train/bus journey to meet my friend. It was painless and easy because the public transportation here is really incredible. I met some friendly strangers along the way, one Kiwi girl who actually shared some of her scone with me on the bus because she knew I was really hungry. There’s still good in the world…

I’ve been wanting to see London for quite some time, and timing couldn’t have been better. When I mentioned coming in passing to a really close friend of mine from here, whom I met two years ago in a hostel in Australia, he said I should definitely come and welcomed me into his home. He and his family couldn’t have been more gracious hosts. We explored the country side where he lives, went for delicious meals, and shared serious stories over drinks at the local pub. And, we took part in one of the most British pastimes – a pub quiz (of which I contributed next to nothing).

I was really taken aback by the scenery and my thoughts of how dramatically different the landscape is from what I experienced during my childhood. We literally walked through woods to get into town. Rolling hills, cows, cloudy skies, and brick houses fill the quaint neighborhood. One of my favorite parts about neighborhoods here are the flower pots hanging everywhere because they add so much color to the streets, and of course, the British accents.

Apparently, some people find it quite strange that he was hosting me, considering we only met once in person for a few days across the world two years ago, but when you meet people like that, it forges a friendship for life, and I’m really grateful for this chain of events.

Even better is that it all worked out when it did, as I was here during his 29th birthday weekend, which we celebrated in a treehouse-like pub surrounded by his close, and obviously great friends. I say obvious because I’m a firm believer that you’re the sum of the parts with whom you surround yourself.

And now, for the real kicker. During my travels in Croatia, when I was “stuck” on the island of Hvar waiting for my “new old” iPhone 5 to make its way through customs, I met a woman named Emma in the hostel bar/restaurant. We struck up a conversation when she complimented my laptop case – my laptop which was only out because of my phone being broken (see previous post about being phoneless on an island). Immediately, we began talking with another guy I had previously met (from Georgia) and got into a deep conversation about race, family, culture and more. It was clear that she and I have a lot in common and a lot to learn from one another.

We then spent the next few days together, walking around Hvar, eating and cooking, sharing stories, and going out at night with groups of new friends we made during our hostel stay. (Sidenote: If you’re ever in Hvar and need a hostel to stay at, follow the path to The White Rabbit, where it’ll feel like you’re with family).

And now, I’m here in Twickenham, London in Emma’s apartment,  waiting for her to come back home from her touring some of Europe on a Bus About trip. Then, we’ll see more sights here as she’s welcomed me into her home as if it were the “normal” thing to do.

It’s funny how the world works when you stop planning and believing you have control over what’s to come. Granted, you need to make moves and take steps to accelerate, but you also have to be open to speaking to strangers who, when the timing is right, become your closest friends.

7 Days Later on an Island in Croatia – Lessons Learned

20180302_10159179706245571_589339253_o.jpg   20258122_10102177747443829_6485118325349732670_n.jpg

And, when you’re in the midst of it all, it’s hard to fully collect your thoughts, feelings, and desires. You’re moving at a fast pace, with roughly 40 pounds of baggage strapped to your back, arms, and innately, your insides. You’re meeting people from all over the world, with hundreds of life stories that they are open to sharing because you’re in a foreign country with people who you may or may not ever see again. And, then, there’s the select few that you know you connect with so strongly that you will make the effort to meet at a another time, in another place.

Sometimes, you’re sitting lazily under a palm tree doing nothing and drifting off to the sound of local kids and a family having a picnic on the waterfront as the wind blows and the sun beats down on your legs. Other times, you’re watching the tourists completely flood the city, gulping down one too many drinks, leaving a trail of their trash as they head into the next pub. You ask the locals how they feel about this, and you know while it’s good for their economy, they’re sick of it, even if it only happens six months out of the 12.

You accept your ignorance of having not known the history of a region so rife with struggle and conflict, and truly understand the impact on personal lives when you become close friends with a girl who was displaced by war and separated from her family for two years. You hear the pain and growth from experiences you’ve been so privileged to have avoided merely by the fortune of being raised elsewhere.

It becomes clear that travel is sometimes glorified and beautified, and not always simple. But, you also realize that all you need to survive is food and water. You can change beds nightly and focus on the beauty of having the opportunity to meet more people because you’re in a constant state of flux. You see that there is a sense of stability in always being open to changing surroundings because you rely on so much less and can be ready for anything, at any time. Things really stop mattering so much. You can be alone and content. You can be surrounded and content.

At times, you’re disconnected technologically, so then, you’re totally connected in real time. As if real time even exists and has meaning. I’ve been consumed by people watching. By endlessly seeing that when people are in big groups and have nothing to say, they bring their phones into the conversation, avoiding eye contact and using their thumb to tap accolades to the edited photos on their screens. Or, they are taking snapchats of what’s live in front of them to broadcast to those back home, showing that they are here and you are there, not experiencing the same thing that they are experiencing behind a screen. I’ve been there. I’m happy I haven’t had the means to be for quite some time. It’s made days longer and connections stronger.

Mental pictures are my oldest and newest currency. They are the ones to cherish because they are becoming a part of my future.

I’ve pulled a splinter out of the toe of a stranger, a bee sting out of the hand of an older man, helped friends to their bed after wild nights that became mornings out, checked in on an acquaintance with low blood pressure, and jumped at any opportunity to help strangers when I have the means. I’ve had multiple nights in a row with no sleep and days of exploration, with days of simply passing the time and avoiding the heat.

I’ve talked about the meaning of life, God, love, desire, goals, fears and challenges with multiple people, mostly men, but also with some women, too. I’ve spent hours inside the busiest club on an island to talk philosophies with a friend. I’ve heard wild stories from wild nights of people who are finding themselves and learning what they seek romantically.

I’ve held onto the fact that many people derive the meaning of life from the relationships they make and the amount of people they can help.

Days roll by and time moves slower because you’re taking it all in. You’re connecting on very deep levels, having serious conversations over drinks and cheap eats while you realize the amount of talent and creativity people possess is broad, extensive and unique. You learn that people discover what they are good at over time, and sometimes later than expected in life, as well as having it come to them by chance. It gives you hope. It makes you realize that life doesn’t happen at ages, it happens in stages. And at various points in time because of the choices you make to take the chances and do the things that have always scared you most.

You see that, while yes, people do the same things to survive all over the world, cultures and norms are vastly different. Ways of talking, value systems, expectations, and actions take different forms. You understand that trusting your intuition is one of the smartest and most necessary tools you can bring to the table. You pick up on ways to know who means well and those that are just floating on by. You can spot the people still finding their way, and you can relate to having been there and then seeing those ahead of you, knowing you’ll get there, too.

You appreciate the inherent goodness in people and learn more about yourself through what people tell you they think of you. And, many times, it’s repetitive, which makes it the “truth”?

It’s not what you do, where you live and what you have. It’s who you are and what you do with the limited time you have here, there, and everywhere.

 

 

Foreign, Phoneless and Functioning

Croatia has been a shocking surprise. Most people talk about the beauty of Italy, Spain and France and make Western Europe a must-see destination, but recently, Croatia has been gaining popularity amongst travelers. It hasn’t ever been on my list of places to go, but from Mallorca, I was deciding between Mykonos, Greece/ Seville, Spain/ Lisbon, Portugal or Croatia. Since I have a few friends who said Croatia was great, I decided to just go for it. Because… why not?

Two days before my flight left on July 13, I booked a ticket to Split, Croatia, and I am beyond happy with the decision. Arriving here, I had no clue what to expect, but the romantic and charming landscape mixed with the festive atmosphere has made Split a place to remember forever. I’ve been here a few days, and immediately upon arriving at the airport and on the bus into the city, I’ve made friends. I’ve also learned so much about the history. A few fun facts:

  1. Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia all speak similar dialects. The most common feature that is different among the regions is religion: Croatia – Catholic, Serbia – Eastern Orthodox, Bosnia – Muslim
  2. Diocletian’s Palace – a Roman emperor who barely went to Rome during his reign has his palace here. It’s the only structure from the Roman era that actually has people living in it today.

When I arrived, I went out that night for dinner with two hostel mates and then met up with my friends who coincidentally were in Split to go out to some parties. The next day, I booked an early start to take a tour of Plitvice National Park up north (also met great people on the trip). The sights were unbelievable, truly. Words can’t describe the views and neither can pictures, so if you make it to this part of the world, definitely go take a live look at the park.

The only bad news is that my phone slipped out of my jacket pocket into the toilet and died during the visit. So, for a few days, I’ve been in a foreign country with no cell phone for GPS, photos or communication. The funny thing is, before it happened, I was telling people my realization that I really don’t need much other than the basics to live, plus a phone. Perhaps this is a lesson that I don’t even need that. It’s almost refreshing to be cut off of social media and my phone because I’m really living in the moment for me, not to share and broadcast every second or look at what others are up to. Instead, I’m focusing on what’s directly in front of me and making more lasting connections and memories in real time. Also, for the times I have been alone, I haven’t been able to rely on my phone for “comfort,” which I think is a good behavior to adopt.

Anyways, I spent the next day at a local and distant beach with my Swedish hostel mate who has become a good friend. We spent all night out, and since Ultra Music Festival is also happening at this time, the city is always alive and busy. While we didn’t make it to the actual festival, we went to an after party and stayed out all night until morning.

My next step is to take a ferry to Hvar for a few days before I make my way out of Croatia to Amsterdam and London. #SoloAdventures

#SoloAdventures Begin

It’s been a while since I last posted and began traveling. Days were so busy that I haven’t actually sat down to write for a while, but I’ve really been meaning to. Now that I’m here on an island by myself, it’s definitely the right time.

After being in Italy and exploring Florence and various cities in Tuscany, Venice, Rapallo, and Cinque Terre with mom, we flew to Israel for my sister’s wedding (at Sandrine in Nahariyya) and festivities before and after the big night on June 29. She made the most beautiful bride! It was such an incredible night and vacation with all of our friends and family in the country. We visited Tzfat, Nahariyya, Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv. I never wanted to leave Tel Aviv. The sun sets differently there, I swear it.

Then, my mom and I went to Barcelona for 6 days. It was my second time there and her first. We hit all the main tourist attractions like Casa Batllo, La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. The last day was spent at the beach in sprinkles of rain – something new for the both of us, but definitely memorable and fun because then the sun came out.

And now, #SoloAdventures officially started yesterday when I flew to Mallorca by myself. Mallorca is an island off the coast of Spain. The flight was super quick, so fast that I thought the plane had a malfunction when it was actually just landing. Once I arrived, I grabbed my backpack (from basically the furthest baggage belt possible) and headed outside to catch the bus into town. The island weather, humidity and heat were palpable from the moment I stepped outside, but I was very excited to see the land.

IMG_1980.JPG

The transportation system from the airport here is amazing – a 5 euro “public” bus that is actually like a coach charter took me practically outside my hostel (Hostal Atlanta). At the front desk, I was greeted by a funny Englishman who told me all about where to go and what to see.

So, naturally, I ventured to the cliffside and spent about an hour watching the ocean tide crash along the rocks and splash my toes. Everything is beautiful here – from the houses to the trees to the clear blue sea. Once I showered, I headed back down the street to catch the sunset at about 9 PM. It’s really nice because the sun sets behind the mountains along the side of the ocean, and that’s the flight path from the airport, so you see planes gliding into the sun as it’s going down.

I’ve never traveled to a country alone without the intention of meeting someone. While I’ve flown into Paris, Barcelona, Israel, Canada, Australia and Rome alone, I always went with the plan to meet up with a friend. Here, I know absolutely no one and it’s both refreshing and somewhat nerve-wracking. I’m embracing the quiet time more than anything because it really allows for reflection and opportunity to be open to everything. Today, I’ll probably catch a bus into the main part of the town – Palma de Mallorca, which should take about 30 minutes and then, I’ll go from there. Follow the ride @ #SoloAdventures.

Day 1-1.5: LAX to Germany to Italy

The journey begins like most do in Los Angeles, sitting in traffic on the 405. Rushing to LAX during typical Sunday afternoon traffic, we met our incredibly interesting Uber driver named Sandro (originally from Brazil). He, my mom and I spent the ride discussing his personal story, various adventures, and how travel offers the beautiful lens to see and appreciate the world differently.

We arrived just in time to the Tom Bradley International terminal to board our flight with Florence, Italy as our first stop on a three country journey for her (Italy, Israel, Spain) and an open jaws trip for me (Western Europe and Israel).

My mom has been dreaming of seeing Italy since she can remember, and since my sister is getting married in Israel in about two weeks, so we decided now is the time to make it happen. Then, my mom and I will visit Spain before I go on #SoloAdventures to various stops in Western Europe before heading back to Los Angeles (and then hopefully hitting the road shortly thereafter).

My first accomplishment, of which the Air Berlin check-in agent agreed, was packing a roughly 25 pound (12 kg) backpack for a two-month or so adventure. I’d say I knocked traveling light out of the park. For all you travelers out there, only pack what you absolutely need, roll it, rubber band it, and stuff in a travel backpack… not a suitcase! My mom, on the other hand, can’t say she accomplished the same, and already wishes she had done so.

After meeting about 5 other travelers along the way and randomly running into an old friend from elementary school, we boarded the completely sold out and crammed Air Berlin flight to Düsseldorf, Germany. To say we were like sardines is an accurate and clichéd description of the situation. Landing to a delayed by one hour layover (for a total of 3 hours), we were met with a lot of German and my mom’s deliriousness before boarding our propellor plane on to Florence. As she napped on me, I watched the clouds float above the mountainous and lush landscape of Europe, excited to return to the beautiful city of Firenze.

IMG_0460  IMG_0466.JPG  IMG_0463 (1)

We landed in Florence to warm sunshine and were met by our wonderful Airbnb host, Michele, who gave us insight into what to see around the city.

Obvious mission one: pizza, wine and the Duomo. After just a few sips of wine, mom was drunk. That and her admitting this is like being in a different world all made for a successful day 1-1.5? (time changes are crazy). Mission complete!

IMG_0482

IMG_0480.JPG

IMG_0494

IMG_0490