“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
- Eat, Pray, Love (movie) -
I first read Eat, Pray, Love three years ago and I fell in love with it. I read it a second time right before I left for Prague. I took it with me and read it a third time when I arrived in Australia. Truly one of my favorite books because I can relate to a lot of what Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about as she traveled through Italy, India and Indonesia. The desperation to escape. The anxiety of not knowing what’s next. The loneliness of traveling solo. The revelations learned while traveling. I get it.
The above is one of my favorite quotes because for me, it’s so true. It took a lot of courage for me to pack up and leave the U.S. Many people thought I was crazy for not having a plan; for me, not having a plan wasn’t an option. I knew I would get to Prague but I didn’t know what to do after that. Sure, I felt anxious and some days I was afraid of what would happen next, but looking back on all of it, I believe that not knowing was the best thing I could have done because it launched me into this epic journey around the world.
Today officially marks my one year anniversary of being abroad.
So I celebrated by making Bourbon Chocolate cupcakes (heavy on the bourbon) with buttercream frosting. I even used green wrappers in honor of St. Patrick. And don’t judge me for using an average quality of bourbon. That shit cost me $37.
While everyone was celebrating St. Patricks Day and drinking green beer, I was boarding a plane in Philadelphia destined for London. At the time, I was fucking terrified of leaving, but looking back on it all now, boarding that plane was the easiest thing I’ve done in the last 12 months.
So much has happened in one year. So many highs, a handful of lows, and tons of adventure and soul-searching mixed in. Four continents in twelve months. Words just don’t do justice to what I’ve experienced abroad.
I moved to Prague, Czech Republic to take a 4-week TEFL program and battle my Quarterlife crisis. I met 23 classmates from around the world. I discovered a love for the English language and a stronger passion for teaching. I struggled with culture shock, language barriers and a dislike for writing lesson plans but I grew confident with my public speaking, writing and teaching skills.
I completed my 4-week program and became a certified ESL teacher. I met an American expat and blogger who was also teaching English in Prague. I partied hard on graduation night with my classmates at my favorite 80′s dance club in Prague. I said goodbye to two classmates who became good friends who were continuing their journey through Europe. I accepted a teaching contract in Thailand. I enjoyed my last few days in Prague drinking Czech beer, eating fried cheese, and butchering the Czech language.
I finally returned to the Motherland for the first time since being adopted. I met another blogger who teaches English in South Korea. I met a crackhead from Canada. I swooned over a gorgeous Frenchman in my hostel dorm room. I struggled with culture shock, language barriers, and fitting in but not really fitting in.
I traveled to Sydney, Australia and lived in a hostel. I met a blogger from Philadelphia/New Jersey who has been living in Australia for (now) two years. I went skydiving. I found myself in a relationship. I met some great people and created even better friendships. I discovered a love for Australian and New Zealand accents (swoon). I became a coffee snob (sorry Starbucks, but your coffee just cannot compete with Australian cafes now). I moved out of the hostel and into a 4-bedroom flat in Surry Hills. I fell in love with living on an island.
I fell in love with Sydney, Australia. I created stronger friendships. I enjoyed being in a relationship. I learned how difficult it is to juggle friendships in both Australia and the U.S. I discovered that the closest thing to Sabrina’s pancakes that I’ll get here in Sydney is Pancakes on the Rocks.
I made the decision to live in Australia for the next year. I returned home for two weeks to deal with some unfinished business and apply for a work and holiday visa. I played my last hockey tournament in Ocean City, Maryland for a while. I realized how impossible it is to have a long distance relationship (even if it was for the two weeks) when both partners live on opposite sides of the world.
I celebrated my birthday in Sydney with some amazing new friends. My freelance writing became a full-time job and I worked toward a Location Independent lifestyle. I bought a shiny new dSLR and drew up another dream of being a freelance photographer (which has now downgraded to just a hobby… for now).
I traveled up the East Coast of Australia to Brisbane and Surfer’s Paradise. I hugged a koala and fed kangaroos. I discovered that life needs more impromptu dance parties (pants optional). I learned how to walk away from something that didn’t make me happy.
I participated in the Melbourne Cup action and won $15. I hosted a friend visiting from Chicago. I hosted Thanksgiving in Australia with [mostly] foreigners. I missed my 10-year High School reunion but am totally fine with that considering where I’m currently located now. I traveled to the Philippines with another friend for a week-long holiday on Boracay Island.
I reunited in Sydney with a friend who had spent the last two years living in London. I spent Christmas in Pittsburgh with my family and enjoyed some time when I didn’t have many obligations or responsibilities.
I celebrated New Year’s Eve with one of my besties on the rooftop deck of her Olde City office with spectacular view of the fireworks. I enjoy some quality time with friends in Philadelphia. I returned to Sydney, ready to dive into 2012 with love and gratitude. I celebrate my first Australia Day watching the Ferry boat races and fireworks at Circular Quay and truly embraced Sydney as my second home. I struggled with vulnerability and the emotional after-math of a breakup.
I climbed myself out of a month-long depression by booking a one-way plane ticket to Europe in the Fall. I made the heart-breaking decision to leave Australia in July. I acknowledged my alcohol abuse during the month of January and cut back. I planned an awesome travel itinerary for 2012. I started focusing more on the things (and people) that matter and less on the things that I cannot change.
For anyone who wants to travel (or live) abroad but doesn’t think they can do it, I hope you can find it in your heart to just go. I hope you can dig up the courage to make that big, shiny change in your life – whatever it may be and wherever it may lead you – as a positive step forward to creating your happiness and living life on your own terms.
Traveling much of the world solo has been scary and emotionally challenging, but it’s been the most rewarding thing that I have ever done with my life. I have grown and matured in ways that could only be done by pushing outside of my comfort zone repeatedly. I wouldn’t trade the experiences for anything in this world.
And I cannot wait to see where these next twelve months take me.