On These 80 Days

Seven countries and 80 days later, I begin my journey home tomorrow.

I could not have imagined how this gap year has turned out. While sitting in a cafe in Paris with my pal Rachel, I wrote in my journal “I didn’t realize this year could or would be this good.” Granted, those were ridiculously wonderful conditions to write such a sentence, but it’s the truth. These last few months of traveling, especially, have wildly exceeded my expectations in the most spectacular ways (not to say it’s all been sunshine and rainbows; I could write a whole post on some really hard/sad/lonely moments).

While planning this trip, I felt like every choice I made was extremely arbitrary. Due to the fact that my mom works with people around the world, I had a place to stay in a ridiculous number of places around the globe. Choosing where to go was overwhelming. But now, on the other side of this trip, I smile at how well God took care of me. Each place came at just the right time, and the three legs of my journey felt very distinct and important in their own way.

First, a month by myself in Europe. I visited a few friends and always had a home to stay in, but I traveled solo for quite a bit of that month. If I may be so bold as to insert myself into the hero’s journey, this was my crossing into the first threshold of adventure. It was as if my year up until that point was the training grounds. Imagine the epic training montage preceding my trip; except, instead of getting physically fit and being knocked down by a tough-but-wise mentor, picture me sitting in my therapist’s office as we dig up old wounds and she reminds me over and over again of my inherent worth and value. Badass stuff.

But now I was thousands of miles away from my home base, and I had to learn how to show up as my authentic self and show up for myself. It took conscious effort, and at first I had to fight against my instinct of assessing the room and adapting my personality to fit the situation; but with practice, I grew much more confident in who I am, what I like, and what I have to offer. Also, after so much travel, so little sleep, and so many timezones, it simply became too exhausting to be anyone other than myself. I cannot describe how freeing it is to operate out of a place worthiness and how much more fullness of life there is to experience when I’m not exerting so much effort adapting.

Then, a month with my family in Bangladesh. A quick recap: In Bangladesh, I went on two flights on a float plane, visited a garment factory, toured tea gardens, ate meals with my hands, saw fireflies for the first time, traveled to a remote village and had tea with a local family, rode on rickshaws and CNGs, attended a Bangla Easter service, played soccer with locals, and worked a cafe shift at the specialty coffee shop in Dhaka.

And yet, despite all of those extraordinary moments, most of that month was overwhelmingly ordinary. I read chapter after chapter of Harry Potter with my cousins, attended their school functions, played tennis, read and wrote, and had countless conversations with my aunt that nourished my soul. Spending time my family was a breath of fresh air in the midst of a hazy city. It was also refreshing to be around my aunt and uncle, who I don’t feel that I have to explain myself to. They entered into my journey, and I am so thankful for their encouragement and affirmation.

Then, to bring my trip to a close, I got to spend two weeks in France and Amsterdam with my friend, Rachel, from home. It was a true holiday, in which we ate stupidly good French food, spent hours at cafe after cafe, read, journaled, chatted, and operated under absolutely no agenda. And since she spent a year living in Amsterdam, I felt pretty privileged to be shown around the city which held such a big piece of her heart.

I am ready for home. Though I have lived quite comfortably with the incredibly minimal contents of my backpack, I’m excited for little things like knowing that a fuller wardrobe is waiting for me at home. I’m ready to drive along Highway 1 again and to spend a few sweet months as a barista back at Cat and Cloud before heading off to school in the fall. My heart is full, and besides exhaustion, I’m having a hard time coming up with any feeling other than gratitude.

Once again, thank you to every single person and family that has been a part of this small journey, whether by offering me a bed and a warm meal along the way or by simply following along through this blog. I don’t think I can ever express how much it has meant to me. Much love to you all!

Until next time!

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