Tag: solo traveler

Letting Go

Letting Go

“We must try not to sink beneath our anguish…but battle on.” –Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’ve been feeling A LOT of emotions the past few weeks. It all started when I said goodbye to my parents. Since then, everyday presents new opportunities for self-reflection and growth. Change is coming. It’s drawing near on the horizon, and as always in my life, this is something that never ceases to trip me up.

Today was tough. I was incredibly overwhelmed from the moment I woke up. But what I’ve learned through a year of journaling and blogging is the power that comes when one writes down thoughts on paper. Getting those emotions out of the head is the healthiest way to deal with them. After a day like today, I needed to ask myself, why am I so stressed? What am I upset about; what is worrying me that I can’t put a finger on?

Today, just like any other day, I hope to finish it off feeling well-fueled, well-rested, content and grateful. Above all, I hope to finish the day off with a smile on my face. In order to achieve these goals, I must acknowledge the aforementioned questions though. Acknowledge that something is wrong, something is clearly bothering me, but that’s okay. It’s not so much that I am having strong feelings that is wrong; but it is incredibly frustrating for me when I can’t recognize those feelings and name them as emotions. Am I happy, sad, scared, overwhelmed?

First off, I have been feeling stressed. So much so that my body has broken out in an irritating, itchy, blotchy red rash. If my stress level is so high that it is manifesting itself in very real, very uncomfortable ways on the exterior of my body, then clearly it’s time to address this stress.

I’m stressed because a hell of a lot of things are changing in my life. There’s a hell of a lot going on, and there’s only so much that is within my control. And not being in control has definitely taken its toll on me these past few weeks. A part of me finds this quite strange. I have done so much this past year; I’ve seen so many places, met so many people, and grown as a person one hundred times over. I assumed control had nothing to do with the wonderful feelings of success I’ve had this past year.

Leave nothing up to assumptions though. Assumptions are misleading; assumptions can be wrong. Apparently, I’ve assumed lately that I’m living such a relaxed and go-with-the-flow lifestyle, and that this would help me deal when things aren’t in my control. That assumption is proving to be very, very wrong. For me, it still remains true that there are certain things in life where I feel like control is necessary.

Planning is one such area. I have always planned my life. From very early on, I knew what I wanted, when I wanted it by, and how I was going to get it. Through college, what I wanted was to graduate in three years. During grad school, my desire was to finish my schooling, and finally transition my role from student in the classroom, to teacher of the classroom. For three years of employment, despite loving my job and having wonderful coworkers greet me at work everyday, I always knew that Eagle Point wasn’t my final destination. From the very beginning it would never be my home; so I suppose during those first three years of teaching I always knew that I was going to move on.

Eventually I did. And not only did I leave my job at Eagle Point, but I left my home, my family, my dog, my friends. I left everything I knew and considered important in life, to set off on the adventure of a lifetime. Fast-forward through one amazing year and I’m left without a plan. I don’t have a job lined up for the fall yet; I don’t know what life is going to be like when I come home; I don’t know how I’ll handle the transition when I finally say goodbye to the incredible life I’ve spent the past year building for myself. I’m out of control, and that is a very upsetting truth to deal with at the moment.

It’s not just a lack of control that I’m dealing with though. Also troubling me is the fact that everything I do these next two months has such a finality attached to it. Everything I have come to know as typical life over the course of a year is about to end. Nothing will be the same when I finally board that first plane on 24 July 2017.

On the one hand, I’m really okay with this chapter of life drawing to a close. I do feel like it’s the right time to go; but it almost feels the same as ending a relationship. We all know that feeling. The one you get when you have been with a person for a significant amount of time, and you finally decide to call it quits. Even if you’re breaking up with someone for all the right reasons, it’s still incredibly hard to say goodbye. There’s so much you feel like you’re leaving behind; it’s not hard to forget, all too often, what you’re making space for.

This is how I feel about coming home. I know it’s the right choice; I know it’s the right time. But I am going to miss the days of being a traveling teacher. I am going to miss the opportunities to adventure and explore the world. I am going to miss living an ex-pat life. I’ll miss my job, I’ll miss the friends I’ve made along the way. But the thing is, come July, it will not be the first time I say goodbye.

I’ve already said goodbye once in the past year. I said goodbye to Thailand last October. I said goodbye to teaching English; I said goodbye to being hot and sweaty EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I made it through that goodbye, and while I can draw strength from that fact, there’s a part of me that knows this time around is different.

I don’t know if I’ll ever live abroad again. Certainly I’ll continue to travel, explore, and see as much of the world as I can. But will I ever move to a different country again? That is a question too hard to deal with at the moment. That is a question best left unanswered. Instead of focusing so much on planning for my future; instead of spending all my time dwelling about the past, I turn to Emily Dickinson for advice; “dwell in the possibility”.

Possibilities are endless; this is an exciting truth. There’s still so much to do, still so much to see. Adventures await around every corner. And at the end of the day, “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.” -L. Frank Baum

An anniversary celebration in Prague: I lasted a whole year!

An anniversary celebration in Prague: I lasted a whole year!

“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” -Elizabeth Edwards

Monday 1 May is International Workers’ Day; happy Labor Day in Europe! As I write this post I’m sitting at a table in Starbucks in Prague enjoying my morning Americano, and reveling in the direction my life has gone over the past year. Exactly one year ago today, after forty-eight grueling hours of anxiety, excitement and travel, I officially landed on Thai soil in Bangkok. One year ago my adventure started; life sped up to an unimaginable quickness over the next three hundred and sixty-five days, and I haven’t been the same since I left.

It’s surreal that after an entire year now I find myself celebrating my day off from work for Labor (or technically I should be spelling it Labour, since it’s not actually an American holiday) Day in Prague, Czech Republic. After I finish writing this blog post, I’ll have a few more hours to explore the city before I head back to the train station to catch my bus back to Deutschland at three this afternoon.

The past year has been nothing shy of EXTRAORDINARY! I am so grateful for the endless opportunities that have showered my life in adventure, learning, adversity, and growth. I am so proud of the Emily who smiles back at me in the mirror everyday. She’s a pretty great lady! Adventurous, inquisitive, passionate, goofy, fun, loud and loving. It’s crazy to reflect back on this rollercoaster of learning that I’ve been on the past year. So much has happened; so much has changed. I’ve seen so many new and exciting places and I’ve met so many wonderful new people. But what’s most crazy of all is how, at the end of the day really, everything is still the same.

I’m still me, I still teach, I still love history, culture and travel. I’m still loud, I still laugh uncontrollably at times, I’m still quite strange. Even after all the growing I’ve done I still find myself uncomfortable in new situations. And above all, still, I am most grateful for my family and friends across the globe. The people who have stood by me, supported me in this dream, the people who I can’t wait to see again soon! If I don’t say it enough then I apologize because I think it every minute, of every single day. I am so thankful to have such a wonderful support system in my life. People who believe in me, see my strengths and capabilities, and push me to reach for the stars and always chase after my dreams. I am humbled, grateful, and blessed.

 

This past year certainly has been an adventure; I’ve done more, seen more, and felt more love than I ever dreamed possible. Even this past weekend has far surpassed my expectations! I was so busy and consumed for the three weeks in April that my parents were visiting, that I never realized I’d have the first two Mondays after spring break off from work. What a treat!

Last week on Tuesday we came back from a two-week holiday at my school. By Wednesday, after settling into a rhythm again I took a look at my school calendar and noticed that Monday 1 May happens to be a holiday (in most of the world…). Meaning a three-day weekend for me, hooray!

The thought of staying put this weekend never crossed my mind. Three days if a gift, time that is meant to be lived and explored. Instead of thinking about staying in Neustadt, I had to decide where I’d like to go. Almost immediately I settled on Prague.

I hate to disappoint, but I don’t have a great explanation as to, Why Prague? Rather, I just had a feeling that it was the right choice. Honestly, I’m sure that anywhere I ended up would have been as lovely as the next place. But I’m so glad that I ended up here!

To my surprise and delight, getting here was easy. A train to Nuremberg and then a bus to Prague. Simple enough. In total, a trip that would take me across international borders, but would require less than seven hours of travel. For this reason (and so so many more) I love living in Europe.

My first evening I found my hostel, explored the surrounding area a bit, and found a great place to taste Czech beer. While there I met two Americans, a husband and wife from Kentucky, both on their first European trip. They too love travel, as they explained to me in our ensuing conversation, but have focused much of their efforts on state-side travel as of yet (my next adventure perhaps…). We shared stories, advice, and company for a few hours; it was great. I don’t always fall into easy conversation with new people at every stop, but when I do it’s always so enjoyable. Even more, it reminds me how much I truly love my life and love what I do.

Drinks and conversation at the Prague Beer Museum were followed by a stroll over to one of Prague’s most iconic landmarks, Charles Bridge. The views and people watching didn’t disappoint. Although what surprised me most, the mass volume of people! As I mentioned before, a three-day weekend, for most of Europe; apparently I wasn’t the only one around who thought about getting out of town for the long weekend off.

Sunday was my self-guided walking tour around Prague, and it was wonderful! After ten miles of exploring I’d visited most every place that I set out to when making my original plans for the weekend. Starting off at the Prague Castle, the castle grounds, and the glorious cathedral. From there I hiked my way back down, and then back up again, to the Petrin Tower. Who knew that Prague had it’s own replica of the Eiffel Tower as well? The Petrin Tower sits atop Petrin Hill, a dense and lush space of hilly terrain and green from the ground up. It’s beautiful.

Located just between the castle and the tower is one of the oldest working monasteries founded in 1140, called Strahov Monastery. From the gardens outside I enjoyed a rest from all the walking and a snack while I took in the surrounding views of the city below.

Afterwards my tour took me back to the Old Town Square, where I found the town hall, built in 1338, and the even more famous fifteenth century astronomical clock. Next, I made my way to the Jewish section of town. Starting at the Starnova Synagogue, one of the oldest and most valuable European and world Jewish monuments, and also the oldest synagogue in Europe. I learned a bit about the history of Jewish culture in Bohemia, through the nineteenth century, as I visited the other five synagogues in town. All are located within a few square blocks from each other, set up as historical sites, memorials and museums; and centered between them is the old Jewish cemetery with headstones dating back for hundreds of years.

By late afternoon on Sunday I was quite tired. My day started early and had me trekking all around town. So in the afternoon I went back to my hostel for a much-needed nap. I would finish my day back at the Old Town Square for dinner and a lovely view. A great day!

My Monday plans consist as follows: Wencslas Square (as in the Christmas song). This boulevard is well-known in Czech history, originally as the city’s main horse-trading market. Then, in 1848 when a giant mass was held outside the national museum, the street gained more recognition. By 1918, attention fell upon it once again when they hosted a massively public celebration of the new, Czechoslovak Republic. It was here too, in the 1980s, where two university students committed suicide by lighting themselves on fire, in a dramatic and powerful protest of the communist state in Czechoslovakia. Finally, most recently in 1989, yet another celebration was held after the fall of communism was announced. (Think of it as the Times Square of Prague.)

After that, my final stop in town is the Lennon Wall. After his murder in 1980, Lennon became a pacifist hero in the region. An image was painted on a wall behind the French Embassy. After years of trying to keep it covered, white-wash after white-wash, communism was no match, and the Lennon Wall became a permanent symbol of political focus for Prague youth.

My weekend in Prague has been wonderful. I am so grateful for every adventure, big or small, that I have the opportunity to take. Life is a beautiful gift.

Balance: the positives and negatives to solo travel in Thailand.

Balance: the positives and negatives to solo travel in Thailand.

“Life is about balance. Be kind, but don’t let people abuse you. Trust, but don’t be deceived. Be content, but never stop improving yourself.” -Nishan Panwar

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post. Last weekend I shared a slightly less rosy view of life in Thailand, and I must admit, I was not prepared for, let’s call it “the myriad” of reactions that I received. But onward I forged, writing and posting about a different side of Thailand that I’ve experienced over the past four months or so, sharing it for the first time with family, friends, and readers.

As I mentioned, I was a bit taken aback by the myriad of reactions, and as such my mind has been spinning ever since. I am not writing this story today because I feel as though I must defend myself. My blog is my own, it is full of my own feelings, my own emotions, and most importantly my own opinions. Therefore, readers must remember to take into account what I have to say with at least one small grain of salt, and know that there’s always more than one side to every story that you hear.

With that being said, I have decided it is best for myself, for my evolution as a writer, for my growth as a traveler, to write and share this story today. I will benefit from putting my thoughts onto paper, and that is the reason that I’ve decided to share the following words with you all.

***

Yesterday, when I arrived at work in the morning, I was feeling very off and uncomfortable. Almost as if I was getting a bug, and being so close to the end of the semester, getting sick is the last thing that I want. I managed to take an hour nap, sitting at my desk, resting my head on my backpack; and while it was not necessarily the most comfortable setting, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to take a nap mid-morning at work in the first place. Counting my blessings…

After pushing through the day, albeit feeling much better following my nap, I knew I wanted to go home and stream a restorative yoga video to help my body and mind unwind and relax. (Brief side note here, if you like online yoga videos, but haven’t checked out DoYogaWithMe yet, do so now! It’s an absolute MUST!) Unfortunately, the wifi in my apartment was acting up yesterday and I was unable to stream a full video without significant stops and interruptions.

If you don’t know the premise behind restorative yoga, it is “the centering of your breath and body- aligning the physical and mental by practicing stillness or gentle movement for extended periods of time…” Think of it very loosely illustrated as “adult nap time.” Therefore, with that being said, one cannot successfully practice stillness nor quiet the mind if your video is constantly being interrupted by re-buffering delays.

This is not the first time I have experienced such a problem. It has happened before, a few times. Sometimes I try reloading and waiting out the poor connection. Other times I switch to Travis Elliott’s 108 Days Yoga Challenge, as you can stream the cross-training video for free on YouTube (another awesome video to checkout if you like streaming yoga online). But yesterday I knew cross-training was going to be too much for me so I did something new. For the first time since beginning my regular practice four months ago, I led myself through fifty minutes of restorative/yin practice all on my own, without the help of an instructor, video, or anything of the sort.

I am very proud of myself for having achieved this so successfully. I believe it speaks to how much knowledge I’ve gained about poses in a restorative practice. I also believes it speaks strongly to mindfulness. I believe it represents that I’ve come a great distance with regards to mindfulness, since beginning my practice. I don’t believe when I first began, that I retained neither the knowledge nor the discipline that it takes to guide ones’ self solely through restorative or yin yoga. All I can take out of yesterday’s experience is that it is evidence that what I’m doing every week truly is making a difference and having a positive impact on my life. In many more ways than one too.

For this discovery, I am very proud of myself. I take it as a moment of victory, that when I set my mind on something and truly commit myself, then look at what I’m able to achieve. Look how far I’ve come. I also take it as encouragement to not give up. Keep pushing forward and discovering more victories through weekly practice, commitment, and dedication to something (new or old) in life. Stay committed; stay the path; your efforts will yield wonderful results. Mine certainly have done so, and I’m just so happy and proud of myself for how far I’ve come.

This story also brings me, once again, to a very recurrent theme throughout my writing: gratitude. Again, I must express my gratitude for all the experiences afforded to me in Thailand. I believe the level of commitment to my practice that I’ve wanted to reach for some time, would not have been possible, had it not been for my decision to move across the world on my own. I needed time, and space, and I’ve found both those elements to life over here.

Timing. It’s funny how things so often come down to just that. I have the time to focus on myself since moving to Thailand. Time everyday focused on self-reflection, evolution, and growth. Time to put my needs and my happiness before all else in life. Clearly I didn’t have such time (or rather didn’t know how to FIND/MAKE such time) back at home. Or else, I don’t believe I would have fallen into such a dark space, in the months leading up to my departure. A space full of depression, self-doubt, anxiety, and frustration.

That space has since been filled with an endless amount of brightness and light! It is now a space full of happiness, laughter, adventure, new relationships, smiles, and love.

Traveling solo was exactly the remedy that I needed, to combat the rut I found myself in at just twenty-six years into life. I needed to get away from everything, but not because I was running away from my fears. Rather I needed time and space to be alone for a little while, to recenter and focus my life. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past four months, and for that, I am thankful.

Following my blog post last weekend, that was written to ultimately explain why I have decided to leave Thailand after only half a year, many people reached out to me. Again, the myriad of responses and reactions that I received came as quite a surprise, if I’m being honest. Some people extended their sympathy and loving words of encouragement and praise. While others though, read into my blog with a negative perspective of my words, and for this reason, I believe, misinterpreted my opinions quite drastically.

Let me explain. I did not write my last blog as a blast against Thailand. I did not write it to completely contradict all of the wonderful things I’ve shared and the positive experiences I’ve had in Thailand over the past four months. Rather, as a writer, I believe I owe it to my readers the justice of sharing the whole story about my experiences while in Thailand; and among the positives, there also have been some negatives scattered here and there too.

The problem lies then, with the fact that I have previously only discussed the positives for some time now, as it relates to my experiences in Thailand. Why? Well ironically because I’ve actually been afraid of how people might react to the “whole” truth. It seems now, in hindsight, that some of my fears were indeed warranted.

I’m not saying here that what I’ve been writing these past four months hasn’t been the truth, because it has. Every single wonderful experience and smile that I’ve shared along the way has been real. It is the truth, but there’s indeed more to the “whole” truth that I haven’t been brave enough to share (or at lease not until a week ago…).

But I hope to calm the voices of doubt by explaining that everything I write is simply my own opinions, and it’s certainly not meant to be taken/intended to be read as facts. If anything, opinions must be more heavily scrutinized. Therefore in no way do I write these words neither to ever deter people from moving to Thailand, nor deter them from having their own life experiences and adventures.

Rather in my personal opinion I believe I’ve done just the opposite for my readers. Look through my past four months of blogs and you’ll easily uncover far more positive reasons to come here than negatives. Just because I’ve sprinkled a few negatives in my stories over the past few weeks does not mean that I don’t enjoy life here.

Please do not read into more than what I’m saying. All I’ve tried to do is paint a better, more complete, and well-rounded picture of my life since having moved to Thailand. I would never intend for a single negative to completely erase or eradicate all of the positives that I’ve been writing about over the past four months. But in an attempt to tell the “whole” truth, I finally worked up the courage to shine a small light onto another side of living abroad. And to my dissenters’ opinions or beliefs about me after my last post, I say this:

I am living a real life over here, and as such, in life with the positives will always come at least a few negatives. Because as the saying goes, which is as true now as it ever has been, there’s no such thing as perfection. And along that line of reasoning, then I must admit that Thailand is not perfect. Neither though, do I believe, was my life back at home before I moved; or nor do I anticipate a perfect life in Germany when October rolls around. Rather as with everything, everywhere, and everyone, moving to Germany and starting a new job and a new life in Europe, will too bring with it a few negatives along the way. But this is normal. This is life. And this is something that I’ve decided that I’m ready and willing to risk; for without risks, life will cease to offer us rewards.

balance

Alas, I must repeat, I do not regret for even a mili-second, my decision to move to Thailand. Nor am I closing the door on this chapter of my life with a sour or upset impression of this wonderful country. Just the opposite is in fact true. When I look back on the five months I will have spent living, working, and exploring in Southeast Asia I will remember my time only fondly and with a smile on my face.

Thailand has truly been wonderful to me, despite a few hiccups along the way. But hiccups, just as they are an annoyance when they happen in life, are too a simple fact of life. Something to be overcome, not something to concede defeat to; something to view as a challenge that can and will be defeated, not an impossibility.

So to that, as I have said so many times before, I express my deepest and most sincere humility and gratitude towards Thailand: to the people, the places, and the culture that I’ve experienced; which has allowed me to grow, evolve, and blossom into a beautiful version of myself. Someone who is happy, healthy, and very proud of the person whom I am today.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” -Lao Tzu