My Story: Part 4
Summer in Europe
I left Bali for what I thought would be a relatively short summer holiday in Europe. Before leaving the States, and without knowing exactly where I would be at this point in my journey, I had made plans to meet my family in Rome for the first week of July, and then spend the second week there with friends. Since I would already be in Europe, I figured I might take advantage and explore a couple of other places afterwards, but I had every intention of returning to Bali.
I was thrilled to arrive in Rome: it was exciting to be in Europe at the height of the summer, to be in such an amazing city for the first time, and to be able to experience it with loved ones. I had only been on my trip for about 10 weeks, but it was astonishing to think about all that had already happened.
I settled into family vacation mode, sharing souvenirs from my travels and enjoying the luxuries of a non-backpacking vacation in Italy. We made all the typical sightseeing stops, ate well and made great memories. It was a successful family trip: I was happy that they had had a wonderful vacation and I felt lucky to be able to share part of my journey with them.
As my family prepared to return to the States, I found myself becoming a bit emotional. I was psyched that I got to spend another week in Rome and was excited for my friends to arrive later that day. No part of me wanted to go home — I was still very early in my travels. But as I said goodbye to my family it was almost as if I was making the decision to leave home and go on my journey again: a decision I made with no hesitation and with great excitement, but also with a twinge of fear and sadness.
I had been in fairly regular contact with my family as I traveled, so they knew the basics of my journey thus far. During our week together I shared additional details with them, but I didn’t share it all. Even in the midst of the journey, and with all the success I had experienced already, there was still a little voice in my head saying: “What are you doing out here all by yourself? What is the point of all this? Why, why, why?” Ironically, at the time in my Escventure that I was surrounded by all my loved ones from home, I felt some of my greatest loneliness of the trip. It was a fleeting feeling; one I hadn’t experienced until then, and one I didn’t experience for the remainder of the year, but looking back on it I understand it more now.
That moment represented a confluence of my past and present, of who I was and who I was becoming, of what I had left behind, what I was taking along with me, and what I hadn’t yet discovered. I had begun the process of letting go of the old and embracing the new. My visit with family was a reminder that things were changing. I wasn’t saying goodbye permanently, but something in me was shifting. My ego was desperate to cling to the familiar and tried to convince me it would be a lonely road of solitude if I continued down this new path. At the time I didn’t really know why I was sad, but I just sat with it and let it pass through me. I had a lot to look forward to and I focused on what came next.
Later that same day, I had a session with my coach in Bali via Skype. I was frustrated about how much I was still blocking my own intuition. “I get that you need to be trained” she said. “Yes!” I replied. I was so excited at the idea of a step by step tutorial about how to do this. Finally, someone would tell me exactly what I needed to do, or exactly what not to do. I would get whatever I was missing. She said: “What’s obvious is that there is a training in London coming up. You’re in Rome, so that’s right on your doorstep.” My heart fluttered at the idea of returning to London. Maybe this was meant to be.
“But, what’s also obvious is that the same training is being held again in a few weeks in Africa. And that one has a writing course attached to it, and part of your vision is to be a writer,” she continued. As much as I was intrigued at the idea of going to London, we both knew Africa was calling me. My coach said she thought one or two spots were still open on the Africa trip and she would get in contact right away.
Soon my friends arrived and I focused on having a great time with them. Now that my family had departed, I needed to find a place to stay in Rome that fit my budget and, ideally, was close to where my friends were staying. We had checked availability and pricing at both hotels they were staying in and neither worked. I bunked up with one of them for the night, but wouldn’t be able to do that for the remainder of the trip.
I was embracing my new “go with the flow, let things evolve, plans optional” approach to life, but I was expecting things to fall into my lap without putting in any effort at all. I found myself in this weird space where I had cast aside my typical modus operandi to allow for the flow, but didn’t feel confident enough, or trusting enough, to use my own intuition to help guide me. At breakfast the next morning I posed the question “Where am I going to stay?” to one of my friends. We were seated at a table outside of a cafe next door to his hotel. Very casually he leaned back, gazed down the road and simply said, “there,” pointing to a building with a flower box hanging from one of the windows.
The building didn’t have any signs visible from a distance or any indication as to whether it was commercial or residential. I was caught off guard by my friend’s nonchalant suggestion, and I asked him if he had been there or had walked passed it and he said that he had not. A part of me wondered if this was a joke, and the other part of me was curious to see if this would actually pan out (I didn’t have any other options at the moment anyway), so I went and checked it out while the others finished their food. As I stood at the door of the building, there were a number of small plaques with the names of businesses and organizations housed within. I scanned them and spotted two small hotels on the same floor. I smiled, experiencing both disbelief and an excited recognition/knowing. There was something to this whole intuition thing, and it wasn’t just me.
The door to the building was locked but I hung around until I was able to follow someone else inside. I made my way to the first hotel and confirmed they had availability there for a reasonable price. They also said the place across the hall had availability should I decide to extend my trip. I couldn’t contain my smile and hurried back to tell my friends what had just transpired. I was in awe of how effortless things could be, and how powerful my friend’s intuition had been. I wanted to be able to do what he had just done.
By the next day I had a message from my coach that there was a spot open for me on the Africa trip, so I reserved my place for the two courses to be held in Swaziland. That was a twist in my trip I hadn’t expected. I literally had to Google where Swaziland was: it sounded like a fictional place to me. Suddenly I had three weeks to kill before I headed to Swaziland by way of Johannesburg.
As our time in Rome drew to a close, I pondered where to go and what to do over the next few weeks. There was so much of Italy that I hadn’t seen. I thought about backpacking through Tuscany for a while, and also considered traveling to the Amalfi Coast and meeting a couple of other friends who had just arrived there on vacation. I also had an option to fly to Crete in Greece and rent an apartment there belonging to a friend’s family member who was currently out of the country. Tough choices, I know.
In the few sessions I had had with my coach, she had taught me that intuition is essentially observing the obvious and connecting the dots. Sometimes all you need to do is ask yourself “What’s obvious?” When I asked myself what was obvious I realized that although I would really love to spend time in Tuscany, I didn’t feel like backpacking, and I also preferred the idea of making that trip with my future boyfriend at some point, rather than on my own. And although it would’ve been great to see my friends (who I don’t get to see all that often back in the States) visiting the Amalfi Coast, schedule-wise it just wasn’t a good fit. What was obvious was that I could spend a few weeks on a Greek beach with an apartment all to myself at a reasonable price.
My last afternoon in Rome I found myself walking through the streets, soaking in the remaining few hours of daylight before I departed Italy. I bought myself a final gelato before I returned to St. Peter’s Basilica one last time. It had become one of my favorite places in Rome. I loved standing in the entrance gazing up at the dome as the sun filtered through the windows. I sat down and thought about the fun I had had during the past two weeks in Italy and how lucky I was to have been able to share that time with family and friends. I prayed and reflected on my whole trip to that point. Then I thought about what came next. I was heading to Crete the next day and then on to Africa in August. I was riding the wave.