Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why do you go away?

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." 
 I spend a lot of time on airplanes. In fact, I started writing this blog as I flew from the beautiful island of Mallorca to Barcelona. And then I fell asleep. And now I'm writing this blog on the plane from San Sebastián back to Barcelona. A new blog post has been long overdue. Since I last posted, I've been to Lisbon, London, Ireland, finished my program in Spain, and am at the end of my final adventure through Spain. I meant to post about each and everyone one of these places but time just got away from me. So while I won't go into the details right here (I'll share plenty of stories when I get home), I will take the opportunity to write about the ways in which my travels have changed me.

I've had to navigate London Heathrow airport four times by myself in the past two months. For those of you haven't ever been in Heathrow, it's a nightmare. On my way from London to Dublin, I had to go through security twice, two passport checks, customs, take a bus from terminal 1 to 5, and walk what felt like a mile to reach my gate, which then changed, making me walk across the airport again. To me, it just seems pretty casual. But in reality, I'm an 18 year old American girl navigating her way successfully through Europe's busiest airport without blinking an eye. I think I'd say I've developed a skill. Or maybe I have an affinity for 3 ounce bottles, ugly terminals, long layovers, and hard plastic chairs. Or probably, it's just something that comes with becoming independent. My travels have made me fiercely independent. On my way home this Wednesday, I will fly from Sevilla to Madrid to Dublin, where I will lug my huge suitcase to a hotel, spend the night, and return to the airport to fly to Heathrow, then Chicago, and finally Little Rock. A year ago, I'm not sure I would have had the confidence to do all of this on my own. But I've been to Morocco, Paris, Portugal, Ireland, London, Holland, and all around Spain this year, and I've managed. Before I left, people said it was a brave thing to do, to leave my comfort zone and go out into the world by myself. But that's another thing about travel, it connects you with so many other people. The friends I've made on this eighth month journey have influenced me in incredible ways. I've learned to be far more open-minded and accepting of other cultures, backgrounds, and religions. I left a tiny part of the world-- the conservative Bible Belt-- and I've found so much more. I've learned to not define myself by what I was taught growing up. Gay, straight, Christian, Buddhist, conservative, liberal, agnostic, Muslim, black, white, rich, poor-- no matter your circumstances or your beliefs, you have the right to be exactly who you want to be and I respect you. And I will go home as a better person for having discovered this, thanks to the friends I've made along the way.

And finally, my travels have made me fearless and passionate. Leaving my comfort zone was the best decision I've ever made. There have been ups and downs, days when I wanted home and days when I was on top of the world. But at the end of the day, I'm happy, because I'm doing what I love. I am passionate about travel and passionate about sharing my love of travel with other people. I would love to literally travel and photograph the world one day-- and I think I just might. I've learned that you can't let fear hold you back from pursuing your passions. I think I can do anything (and pre-gap year I got nervous ordering pizza on the phone.) 

Tonight is my last night in a hostel. Tomorrow we will wake up and return to Sevilla for the Feria de Abril. I come back to the United States on Thursday. And I plan to fit one last blog post somewhere in between.