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.

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.

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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.

One Way Ticket

I’ve got a one-way ticket, my passport, and an open mind with the willingness to tear down the boundaries of my comfort zone. It’s like spring cleaning for my life, yet again.

There’s something about summer coming that makes me want to escape and start fresh. It’s like being in school for so many years gave my mind, body, and soul the muscle memory to get away for a few months, take a break, and then jump back into routine. But, what if there was never meant to be a routine? Society has this way of making you think you have to do what everyone else is doing and puts this notion of success at the end of a supposed, and possibly illusionary path.

And then, writing it down makes everything so real. Like the truth of your inner self is staring you back and asking you what you’re going to do next. I don’t know.

I sat in the sauna today and watched my sweat roll off of my chin and hit my hands, cascading into a puddle on the floor. I was there, but I wasn’t there. I was just watching things happen to my body and the people around me, but letting everything go in and out, like watching a screenplay unfold and accepting whatever was to come. A man slipped down from leaning against the wall and fell to the floor. Slightly embarrassed, he quickly stood back up like nothing happened. On my part, there was zero judgment. Just an understanding that the floor is wet, and yeah, shit happens, but you get back up and readjust yourself the next time you lean back on the wall. Learn from your experience.

Like the drops of water and the man, I think that’s the way life is meant to be lived. Letting things roll and fall however they may, and being accepting of the outcome, while also knowing when to wipe it all off and try again, taking with you what you know and being open to knowing that there is still a lot you don’t.