The article that I am about to publish feels like an important step for me. I know that I don’t do much more than speak about myself a lot on here 🙂 , but if I am sharing so much, it’s because I’m hoping that my experiences will resonate with some of you.
Those of you who have followed me during the last few years know that I’ve gone through a lot, good and bad, and that I got a bit lost at times. And I’m realizing more and more that all of my story is one of self-discovery through the obstacles that life throws at me, sticking to myself and my values in order to make the choices that feel right. Thus, my life events may not be very relatable to you, but I believe that my purpose is, because we are all kinda doing the same: trying to find our way in this big, crazy world.
This year has been magical for me. After what felt like a never-ending journey in the dark, I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel again. There is no doubt that walking the Camino has contributed greatly to my healing, as well as all of your love and support.
That was the first step.
However, after the beautiful experience of hiking 800 km was over, I couldn’t help but feeling something quite unsettling, a whisper in the back of my mind telling me: “Is that it?” See, I made the mistake of seeing this unfolding of events as the end of a story, instead of a beginning. Sure, I had finally grieved (for the most part), and I had gotten back on my feet and it felt great. But I failed to realize that it was only the beginning of a healing process, a process that will probably never really end. Mostly, I failed to realize that what came after that would be much more important, and probably the hardest step that had yet to come.
I needed to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life, now that I had control over it again. Now that I had gotten rid of the voice telling me I’m a failure and now that I got my energy back (oh, it feels so nice not to be tired all the time), a life of opportunities opened in front of me again. Damn! I was faced with that overwhelming feeling that I knew so well again. “What am I doing with my life???” By now, that question and its resulting anxiety sounds like a broken record.
So for a while, I made the easy decision. Since I didn’t know what to do, I would just stay where I had been, and see from there. That’s how I ended up spending another summer in my home town in Switzerland. I worked a bit for a holiday camp for children but other than that, I haven’t been very active. So as soon as I got the chance, I would escape to Poland or Copenhagen, to see my friends, to feel closer to myself, to be anywhere else but here.
Going home had been an indispensable stage for me, to take care of myself and to heal, to reconnect with my friends and family, and to the life I had left behind. To stop running away. However, now that process is over, staying feels like running away from my true self. I missed the old me, I missed the brave fool that hit the road not knowing what she will discover, loving the journey, not needing a destination. The freedom, the intensity of emotions, the poetry of life…
That is why, a few weeks ago, I decided that I needed to reconnect with the traveller in me. Sure, I have done my share of travelling this year, but following arrows and visiting friends doesn’t have the same flavour as hitting the road, not knowing where I will end up. Romania had been on my mind for a few months.
So I left! For a couple of weeks, I met awesome people in Bucharest, wandered Transylvania, was warned about getting eaten by bears, visited Dracula’s castle, partied in a city full of houses with eyes for my birthday, did a road trip with a new friend, drove along the famous Transfagarasan road and even paraglided over beautiful views.
It was awesome!
… and it also felt kind of empty at times.
The day I left, I had to take a five-hour train ride to the capital in order to catch my plane. There were only 2 trains a day, so I didn’t have many other options, and I couldn’t afford to be late, I had about an hour margin. I had a bad feeling about it. After all, the transport system had already failed me at least 4 times in this country. And my fears came true. After a couple of hours in the train, it stopped to let another one pass by. The problem was, it was on a slight slope uphill, and it didn’t manage to start again. For fifteen minutes, it miserably tried to go, without any success. The employees of the train ended up having to put sand on the tracks to help grip. That took ages. By the time the train was able to move again (at a ridiculously slow pace), I had to face the evidence: I was not going to catch my plane.
The reason I’m telling you this story is for what happened next. I was in a compartment with five other people, and since I am not very good at hiding emotions, they saw that I was upset. One lady in particular, asked me how she could help, and when I explained the situation, the reaction was awesome. Everybody took out their phones (I didn’t have any data) and started looking for solutions. We checked the next planes, if mine was on time. The woman even called the airline. Finally, we decided that since the train was so slow, my only chance of getting to the airport on time would be to go out at an earlier station and take a taxi. They organized everything. Someone would be waiting for me at the next station. When I got out, the whole compartment cheered for me and encouraged me to go get that plane. It was awesome!! I was so touched by so much generosity.
The taxi drove like a mad man, and I arrived just on time at the airport. What a relief! I sent a message to the woman who had helped, to tell her that if she ever came to Switzerland, she had a friend there. She answered that she worked for the UNHCR in Geneva… what a small world. 🙂
There’s a reason I’m telling you about this act of kindness. Remember when I said that my stay in Romania felt kind of empty? Well, that moment wasn’t. And I think I have understood quite a few things about myself during this trip. I have changed. I don’t have the same expectations as before when it comes to travelling. Although I will always have a nomadic heart and I will always want to discover more of what this world has to offer, I realized that I have a deep need for meaning that will not be met by simply backpacking around, without a goal. I have done that, for a long time, and it was absolutely beautiful and meaningful to me at the time, as well as necessary for my self-development. My years on the road have taught me so much about myself, and have proved to me that I didn’t need anyone else but me to give me validation.
I think that life is made of cycles, and I have entered a new one. Where those years of making decisions for myself, building my image as a strong, independent traveller have been important in my life trajectory and to get out of the cycle of insecurities I had grown up in, to learn to be okay with being alone, I am entering a new cycle. I might not need anybody else but myself, I certainly want it. I want to travel with more meaning, with a project, and I want to belong to something. I want to surround myself with people I share values with, even though that might be hard, even though it might imply more sacrifices than simply counting on myself. I truly believe that we can grow and learn so much from one another, and that we are all better together, and I want to incarnate that now.
This is what I want to tend towards, even if it doesn’t happen right away. When I expressed my doubts about what move to make next, someone reminded me that I had already taken many crucial decisions in my life. I certainly have it in me. So I decided to refuse the comfortable job and situation that I had been offered here, in my home town, for the winter. I don’t want to close my eyes to the outside world any longer. I still don’t know where to go, what I will do… but I’m on my way. And it certainly feels like the right one. It might take some time, I will probably make many other mistakes.. so what?
I will keep growing. Just like we all do, everyday.
For now, a new adventure of a few weeks begins, as I am about to bicycle towards the Pyrenees with my amazing friend Caroline, who inspires me daily, and with whom I can’t wait to hit the roads of France.
I have also lost an old friend, my faithful four-legged companion Paprika. A piece of my childhood flies away with him. My heart is full of sorrow, but also of joy to have known what might be the purest form of love. Goodbye little Paprika. I take you on the road with me, next to the others.