Travelling is honestly my favourite thing to do at this point in my life. I literally dream of going to new places, meeting new people and speaking different languages. I get goosebumps when I imagine myself arriving in a new place. The smells, the scenery, the mountains. I don’t know why, but I just really like the sight of mountains and I just feel happy when ever I see mountains on the horizon. They humble me for some reason.
There aren’t many other things that have the same effect on me… I’m talking about the travelling part in general, not just the mountains although they are sweet.
My first taste.
My first taste of true travel was three years ago in 2015. I had just turned 21 and was about to go to Germany. I couldn’t believe that my dream of going to a foreign, non-English speaking country was finally coming true. I had been to Jamaica and America a few times before, but those were family trips, so I don’t really count them and I also didn’t have the insatiable urge to discover new places back then either.
Let’s talk more about Germany. I was really scared going into this trip. I had no idea how much money I’d need or what to expect. All I really had to go off of were youtube videos and stories from other people who had already been to Germany. Some people told me I’d experience extreme racism, some people told me everybody would be friendly and accepting. I honestly had no idea. I was also TERRIFIED of planes which didn’t help for obvious reasons. I honestly thought about opting out a few times, but once the ticket was bought and the 1055 dollars had been spent, I knew I was locked in. There was no going back. I spent the next little while brushing up on my German and preparing for the trip.
The day finally arrived and my mom and her friend drove me to the airport. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I remember getting on the plane and still being in shock. Luckily I ended up sitting beside a German guy who had flown this route a few times before. We talked a bit and I remember thinking it was cool meeting a new person and also the fact that I was getting to practice my German before actually getting to Germany. I thought that was sweet. What wasn’t sweet was how the German guy reacted to me saying that I was afraid of planes. I still vaguely remember his words as the plane took off. They were as follows “Alright man, here we go! This is the best part! Get ready, get ready GET READY! YEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” I thought I was going to die and how dramatic he was about the take off didn’t help. I laugh looking back on it, but I was terrified in the moment.
**This was the view from the plane window shortly after takeoff**
My unexpected trip to Ireland
I landed in Ireland and due to some confusing information and miscommunication, ended up missing my connecting flight to Germany. I didn’t know how to feel at first. I had initially expected something to go wrong because everything seemed too good to be true. I was able to get a flight for later on in the day luckily because it wasn’t my fault that I missed the connecting flight, but I had a problem. I had over 4 hours to kill.. in a country where I knew nobody. I was presented with a choice: Stay in the airport and stay comfortable, or push my boundaries and explore. I thought about it for a bit because I was nervous, but in the end I hopped on a bus and headed for downtown Dublin.
**This was taken right before I left the airport to explore**
Lesson one: “Soft, I’m doing it!”
This was one of the first lessons that I learned while travelling and it has stuck with me to this day. In regular, non-slang English, it would translate to “It’s no big deal, I’ll go for it”. That’s just most likely the exact thought that came to mind at that very moment.
Downtown Dublin at like 9 am wasn’t the coolest place I’d ever seen, but it was still cool! I managed to meet some people while I was there and they were friendly. I also got to see a bit of the city which was also cool because it wasn’t part of the initial plan at all. After exploring, I bused back to the airport, waited a bit and caught my flight to Germany.
**Random street in downtown Dublin**
Lesson Two: The unexpected can be a lot of fun!
I learned during my short stay in Ireland that unexpected events can be a lot of fun if you make the best of them. I could have just stayed in the airport the whole time, but then I wouldn’t have had such an interesting experience and I also wouldn’t have gotten to know one extra country.
I arrived in Germany and was greeted by my friend and her mom. I’m going to take this moment to give everybody who’s hosted me a huge shout out. You guys are amazing and I’ll forever be thankful. Anyway, I stayed with my first friend for 8 days and she really made the trip enjoyable. She put in so much effort into planning everything and literally every moment of the day was something new and interesting. All the people I met in that general area were amazing.
After my stay there we took the train to another friend of ours’ house near Cologne and I was then off to Frankfurt. These were all wonderful experiences, but I noticed that I was getting mildly stressed and I couldn’t figure out why. I started to realize that it was because I was around people literally all day, everyday. This confused me. Why on earth would that stress me out? I loved talking to people and being social. I always thought that being surrounded by people and socializing 24/7 would be heaven, but I was wrong and here’s why…
Lesson 3: I’m an ambivert
I learned that I was an ambivert. An ambivert is somebody who displays both introverted and extroverted qualities. I probably knew this welllll before this trip, but I think it was during this time that it finally dawned on me. It was relieving to figure this out. The reason I was stressed was because I was constantly around people. I’m a person who needs social interaction and alone time to collect my thoughts and reflect. I didn’t get much alone time on the trip, but I’m so happy and grateful this all happened because it allowed me to really see this character trait that I posses and that helped me in a lot of other areas of life afterwards. I always try to remember to stop and charge my batteries if I socialize too much. Once again I need to thank everyone for indirectly and inadvertently teaching me this!
**The Cologne Cathedral**
Lesson 4: Be spontaneous!
I remember I was up late once night while still in Germany and spontaneously decided to book a ticket to Barcelona. My friend who lived there was away in Australia for a wedding and told me I could stay in his room while I was there. Before I knew it, I was touching down in Barcelona. It was country number three when I was only really supposed to visit one.
I honestly loved Barcelona. It left a special mark on my heart and inspired me to learn Catalan when I got back to Canada. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t spontaneously booked that ticket. Looking back on it, I’m still super happy I did. I met a lot of cool people while I was there. It was also the first time I’d travelled completely solo.
** Carrer de Blai, Barcelona**
Lesson 5: Solo travel is amazing!
The idea of being in the country alone without any friends in the city scared me because I thought I’d end up being alone the whole time, but I met so many people through connections and couch surfing meet ups. It wasn’t that bad. I feel like it actually went better because I was alone.
Lesson 6: Hostels!
I remember I met a guy who was staying at a hostel. The only thing I knew about hostels at the time was that they were featured in a horror movie series and that I didn’t want to stay in one because I’d imagined weird things such as rampant uncleanliness, theft and a whole host of other things. The guy said he enjoyed his experience and met a lot of interesting people. That intrigued me. Maybe they weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I only ended up spending about 2 and a half days altogether in Barcelona, but I fell in love with the place. I was so sad when I had to leave. I flew back to Germany from Spain and then caught my flight back to Canada the following day. This time I didn’t get stuck in Ireland.
I didn’t just fly back to Canada with my suitcase. I brought something else back to Canada… no.. no… no I’m not talking about illegal contraband… I brought back an insatiable hunger and will to get to know the world and to travel more.
**This isn’t the exact Assimil book that I used to learn Catalan, but it was this trip that inspired me to learn it**
Feeding into the addiction
A couple months had passed and I was still high and in disbelief that everything that had happened on that trip ACTUALLY happened. It was now August of the same year. I’d wanted to check out Quebec for a while, but didn’t really think I’d actually end up going. You can all judge me on this part, but I had a tinder date with a girl who’d spontaneously gone to Montreal with some friends. That inspired me even more and made me see that it was actually easy to go. I decided that I’d go and also that I’d stay in a hostel. I think I originally wanted to stay at a hotel, but they were too expensive.
I went to my manager and told him I wanted to go to Montreal and gave him some dates. The dates were 8 days from when I was telling him and there was a strict policy that stated that you had to inform management 14 days before a vacation. He still made it happen and before I knew it, I was on a Greyhound headed to Montreal. The girl sitting next to me on the bus was French Canadian, the girl behind me was Belgian and the guy beside her was from South Africa. What an interesting exchange of languages that lead to. They were all really cool people and made the long bus ride more interesting.
I fell asleep at some point after the bus left the bus terminal in Ottawa and woke up in Montreal. I felt like I was arriving in a different country because I’d gone to sleep in English and awoke in a French world. Montreal has a European feel to it and that added to how I was feeling.
I remember I got to the hostel at like 5:45 Am. I was so lost, confused and alone. The website said that check in wasn’t until waaay later, so I rang the door bell and prayed somebody would answer. To my surprise, one of the volunteers let me in. We talked briefly and then I walked in and sat on the couch and he went back to bed. I remember sitting there and thinking “We’ll I’m here, now what?”. I was really in my head. I walked around a bit to see what the hostel was like. It was so weird and different. I’d never been somewhere like that before. It was cool though.
After a couple hours, people started waking up. I heard two people speaking Spanish and decided to just push my comfort zone and go for it. They were basque which blew my mind and we talked a bit which was really reassuring.
Nothing eventful happened until a bit later on when I was leaving the shower and decided to say hi to a random Korean guy. We ended up talking a bit afterwards and he then invited me to meet his friend from France. We all ended up exploring Montreal together which was super cool and a lot of fun!
**Street view in Montreal**
Lesson seven: A simple “Hello” goes a long way
I probably knew this before this specific interaction, but that simple “hi” turned into travel companions with whom I ended up exploring the city. I ended up meeting a lot of other people at the hostel this exact same way. The trip ended up being sooo much fun and I was able to practice so many different languages. None of this would have happened if I had gone through with booking the hotel. It was this trip that showed me how amazing hostels could be. I feel lucky that my first hostel experience was amazing. I really recommend that you guys try out hostels if you haven’t already. You’ll meet tons of interesting people and also save heaps of money.
Quarter life crises… well almost (Yes, they exist)
We’re now jumping ahead a couple years. It’s now 2018.
I turned 24 this year and I know a lot of people will probably read that and think “Wow, he’s so young”, but this was actually the first year that I felt old. Twenty five seemed so close and thirty seemed even closer. I don’t know why, but I seem to have an irrational fear of turning 30.
A lot of confusion and other problems came with my twenty fourth birthday. It was the first year that I truly felt thoroughly lost in life. I really felt my age. When I was 15 I’d always imagined that I’d be at a different point in my life by 24. For some reason I thought I’d be close to getting married.. strange, huh? Unfortunately I still believed that having a firm identity was important at this time, so I needed to “find myself” again to snap out of how I was feeling and to get back to “myself”. The only thing I could think of was travelling because it would encompass all the things that I considered to be parts of my identity.
Fast forward a bit and I was on a plane headed to Europe for the second time.
Europe round 2
I couldn’t believe it. I was on a plane heading Europe for the second time. A lot was riding on this trip. I really desperately needed to find myself again. That was the main goal of the trip. I touched down in Ireland and couldn’t believe that I was back literally three years to the exact date of the first trip. I got off the plane and was super excited to go to Amsterdam as soon as my connecting flight arrived. People were panicking about the snow outside, but I remember finding it funny how people found such a small amount of snow frightening. It kept snowing and snowing. It got to the point where it would actually be considered a lot of snow in Canada too. A few flights were getting canceled, but I wasn’t worried that mine would get canceled. The idea of that hadn’t even crossed my mind at that point.
It was getting close to boarding time, so I went to line up and I faintly heard over the intercom that my flight was being cancelled. I knew what I heard, but decided to stay in denial and stay in line. Eventually employees started coming out and saying that the flights were cancelled. Everybody was angry and started heading towards the information desks. It kept snowing and snowing and it became apparent that no more flights would be leaving until further notice. I was in shock and disbelief.
**This was the airport upon my arrival**
Lesson 8: Don’t connect flights in Ireland!
So just like exactly three years before, I was stuck in Ireland…AGAIN. At first I thought it would only be a day, but that one day turned into 4. I couldn’t leave the hotel that the airline booked for me and the other passengers who had also had their flights cancelled because the snow had gotten too bad and the area didn’t have the correct infrastructure for dealing with that much snow. It had gotten to the point where Canada would be struggling even with our infrastructure.
I tried to make the best of the situation, but I couldn’t leave the hotel because of the snow and it seemed like everyone staying in the hotel was on a high school field trip, so there almost was nobody to socialize with and the few people my age seemed relatively cold. That being said, Ireland seems like a beautiful place and the people are nice and I’d like to visit it properly one day. Preferably not during a snow storm.
**It’s hard to see in the picture, but the snow was literally almost up to my knees in some areas and I’m kind of tall**
The great escape
After 4 days of social isolation and an entire season and a half of Scream on Netflix, I tried my luck getting out. By some strange miracle I was able to get a taxi that drove me to the airport. I got there and after a long wait, was finally able to get on a flight to Amsterdam. I couldn’t believe it! I also couldn’t believe how short the flight was. Europe truly is very small.
I touched down in Amsterdam. I was in disbelief still at that point. “I’m finally going to get to test out my Dutch in a Dutch environment” I thought to myself! I was still lost and hadn’t gotten a local SIM card at this point and was really struggling with connecting to the wifi. I ended up deciding on a hostel and after using my terrible, but functional Dutch to navigate, found the right train and took it to the central station and walked to the hostel. I hadn’t made a reservation at the hostel because I liked the idea of just showing up. It gave me a slight rush.**Tell me in the comments if you think I was being stupid or brave!** Be honest!
Anyway, keep this little piece of hostel information in mind, it will make sense later on in the post.
I arrived at the hostel and made all my reservations in Dutch. I felt really good. One thing I liked is that people don’t freak out and think you’re a genius when you speak a language in its native country like they do in Canada. It’s just a normal thing.
Lesson 9: Explore on foot
After settling down and meeting two of my hostel mates who were from British Colombia, I decided to go out and walk around just to see what was around me. You see so much more of a place when you explore it on foot! I always liked to go for walks and bike rides, but Europe made me enjoy them even more. I made sure to walk slowly and to take in as much as possible and I’m glad I did looking back on it.
Lesson 10: You don’t have to go to school right away
The next day I was supposed to meet one of my many language exchange partners that I met on conversation exchange. We’d known each other for about two years on Skype and had talked a lot, but we had never met in person. I got up early and had breakfast with the two guys from British Colombia. One of the guys and I started talking about school. I explained how I felt like I may have made a mistake by not going to university or college when I was younger and how I was scared that it was too late and that I’d be too old when I graduated if I ended up deciding to go. I don’t really believe in people being put in your path by supernatural forces, but it honestly seemed like it. He then proceeded to tell me about how he’d just started school at 26 and how he felt the same way at first and how it actually isn’t that bad. Hearing it from somebody who was actually living through one of my biggest fears and surviving made me see that he was right! It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. He probably doesn’t know how profoundly that conversation helped me and eased my mind, but it did. I was still having mixed feelings about whether or not going on this trip to find myself was even the right choice, but that short conversation gave me a lot of hope and reassurance.
Later that day, I ended up meeting up with my friend and she showed me around the city. It was really weird seeing each other in 3D and not on a computer or phone screen.
Over the course of the few days I spent in Amsterdam, I had so much fun and met so many interesting people. My hostel roommates were so much fun and I hope to see them again in the future.
One thing I liked about my hostel mates was the fact that nobody really had a set trajectory. All of us were just going with the flow. The two guys from B.C literally booked their visa and flight to Turkey the day they were leaving and I did the exact same thing with my train to Rotterdam. I loved how spontaneous everything was. It gave me a huge rush
Lesson 11: Avoid tourist areas if you want to practice the local language
I learned that it’s really hard to speak Dutch in Amsterdam because so many people there either don’t speak Dutch or just switched to English on me as soon as they hear the slightest accent. A lot of people living and working in Amsterdam don’t speak Dutch at all. That dumbfounded me because I could never imagine walking into a restaurant in Toronto and learning that the staff were unable to speak any English or French at all. I think we English speaking travellers and expats get away with a lot when it comes to ignoring local languages when we travel or work abroad
** I loved how the buildings looked in Amsterdam**
Lesson 12: I could actually stay here if I wanted…
After Amsterdam, I took a train down to Rotterdam. It was a lot quieter and a lot less touristy than Amsterdam and I liked that. People in Rotterdam were also a lot more willing to speak Dutch and hardly anybody switched to English on me. I got to my hostel and checked in and met some of the people working at the hostel before rushing out to meet a friend. It was cool seeing each other again after like two years. He showed me around the city and we got food and drinks. After all of this I returned to the hostel and hung out with some of the people working in the hostel. I met an Australian guy who had planned to just briefly visit the city, but ended up staying for way longer and even ended up getting a visa to work there. He claimed that it was pretty easy to get the visa and this was the first time that it dawned on me that I could actually stay if I wanted to. I didn’t actually have to go back to Canada if I didn’t want to. I could be spontaneous and just take the plunge. Part of me really really wanted to do just that, but I knew I still had things I needed to deal with in Canada. A lot of people in that specific hostel were people who had planned to travel for a short time and ended up staying. One Scottish girl even told me that she quit her job, sold her apartment and dropped everything to travel.
Lesson 13: Don’t be so quick to judge!
After Rotterdam, I decided to stop in Belgium on my way to Paris. I can’t remember why exactly, but I think the guys I met at the hostel in Amsterdam had recommended Ghent to me, so I decided to book a ticket on Flixbus (Which I highly recommend using) to check it out. The ticket cost me 9 Euros… I couldn’t believe I was going to a completely different country for only 9 Euros.
I got to the bus station in Ghent and was immediately extremely disappointed by what I saw. “I made a huge mistake” I thought to myself! “I knew I should have just gone straight to Paris!” I was seriously considering just booking another bus ticket and leaving, but I decided to head into the actual city to just take a peak before I left. That ended up being one of the best decisions I made on that trip. As I walked into the ACTUAL city, I realized how beautiful it was. The view from the bus stop does not do this city any justice whatsoever. In my defence, I’d begun most of my journeys in the downtown areas of the places I’d been to before Ghent, so I understand why I was so quick to judge in hindsight.
I walked to the hostel and booked a room in Dutch. It was really hard for me to understand the people around me because they were all speaking Flemish, but I pushed through it. I originally booked one night at the hostel because I’d been told that I’d be able to see almost everything in one day and I really wanted to get to Paris. I remember the girl working the desk telling me that I’d probably need more than one day, but I didn’t believe her.
After exploring for half an hour I rushed back and quickly booked a second night and the girl just smiled because she knew she was right.
**How could I NOT stay here?**
Lesson 14: Go on “Free” walking tours!
I didn’t really know what else to see and was trying to figure out what to do next on my final full day. I noticed that there was a Spanish walking tour the following day. I’d never been on one before and I wanted to see if my Spanish would hold up.
I woke up late the following morning and ended up almost missing the walking tour. I met up with the people and we began the tour. It was actually FASCINATING. I learned that you can actually miss so many significant things in a city if you don’t know what to look for. This tour pushed my Spanish to the limit and I learned a lot and was also able to meet some cool people from all over the Spanish speaking world. I even got some Catalan in. Despite the fact that I was learning so much and loving every moment, I couldn’t shake one thought… “How on earth is all of this free? Is the hostel paying for this? Is she volunteering? How on earth is this free?!”
I got my answer at the end of the tour when people started offering up hefty tips. I tipped too of course, but I still felt cheated that they called it a free walking tour when it clearly wasn’t. I had absolutely no problem with paying and the girl who ran the tour did and amazing job, but I just felt like it should have been clear from the get go for dumb tourists like me.
Lesson 15: Book hostels before you arrive!
Please for the love of all that is good on this planet follow this one piece of advice here! If you ignore the rest of the post and only listen to this part, then I’ve done my duty as a good samaritan!
I arrived in Paris after an extremely long bus ride that was prolonged by a gnarly truck accident. I really hope everyone was ok. Anyway, I got off the bus and started walking to the hostel that had been recommended to me by a friend. After almost an hour of waking because I couldn’t figure out the transit system, I arrived. I confidently walked in and told the girl at the front desk that I wanted to book a room she checked and told me that there were no more rooms available. “Woah woah woah, run that back real quick… no rooms?” I thought to myself.
“What do you mean there aren’t any rooms left?” I asked her. She explained that it was a busy time and that the hostel had filled up, but that they had another location and that I could use the wifi to book a room with them before I made my way over there. She told me to book the room right away because they were filling up fast. I thanked her and headed out. I decided not to book a room at the hostel against the girl’s recommendation because I wanted to keep living on the edge. I walked for another hour.. partly because I walked the wrong way for like twenty minutes before arriving at the second hostel. Just like at the first hostel, I confidently walked up to the desk and attempted to book a room. I was feeling good. I was about to see Paris and was super excit… “We’re out of rooms” the girl said. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t believe it. I decided I should stop being an idiot and actually book a hostel before I couldn’t find any. I checked Hostelworld and there were hardly any hostels left. I tried booking a few, but they filled up simply in the time it took me to confirm the booking. I was quickly realizing that I was going to end up sleeping on the streets of Paris. I was losing hope, when I finally got a room! I was ecstatic, but shaken at the same time.
I made my way to the hostel and checked in. The place reminded me of a cult training centre. It was so weird. I got to my room and to my surprise there were no lockers! “Great, I’m going to get indoctrinated by cult members AND my laptop is going to get stolen” I thought to myself. I went back downstairs and asked if there had been a mistake. The man at the reception desk told me that everything was how it was supposed to be and wouldn’t stop smiling. That really creeped me out because there was honestly nothing to smile about. I walked back to my room in defeat while pondering what the new cult life would be like and what colour robe they’d probably have me wear.
I ultimately decided to try locking my suitcase with all my stuff in it because it luckily had that feature and when I went to open it back up I learned that I didn’t know the combination. Paris didn’t start of well and all… I already wanted to leave.
Despite all this, in the end I ended up really liking Paris and finally seeing the Eiffel Tower after wanting to for so many years was a very sobering moment. I just know that I need to book hostels ahead of time now. Living on the edge can lead to sleeping on the streets if you’re stupid about it like I was…and nobody wants that… even if they’re the romantic streets of Paris.
**Eiffel tower checked off my bucket list**
Lesson 16: Italian hospitality is no joke.
After leaving Paris I took a train headed towards Turin in Italy. I somehow managed to get on the wrong part of the train and learned that one half was going to Lyon and the other half was going to Turin. I’d never experienced something like that in Canada before, so I was both surprised and confused. In the end I ended up getting on the the correct part of the train and made it to Italy. The plan in Italy was to meet up with two other friends I’d met through the same language exchange website. They both agreed to host me. Yes, yes, I was kind of scared going into this because I realized that I was in a foreign country and despite the fact that we’d talked for years on Skype, anything could really happen because we’d never met in real life before. If the two of you are reading this, I mean no offence, it was just natural fear of the unknown.
Both of their families ended up being amazing and soooo accommodating. There are a lot of foods that make me sick when I eat them and they went out of their way to make authentic Italian food while avoiding things I couldn’t eat. They honestly made me fall in love with Italy and Italian people. Italian hospitality is like nothing I’d ever seen before. I will forever be in love with the mountains of Turin and the streets of Parma.
**Being able to see the mountains from the grocery store entrance blew my mind and I had to take pictures**
I made my way way down to Rome eventually where I met up with a friend I’d met three years before in Toronto because she looked a lost one day so I said “Hi, You look lost” and tried to help. Remember lesson 7? A simple hello can go a long way and we ended up grabbing drinks and hanging out for a couple hours that same day in Toronto.
She invited me over to meet her roommates and we all ended up having a dinner party together… IN ROME! I remember thinking that was so cool. All of her roommates were all very chill and down to earth. The day after that she invited me to an international student roof party for St Patrick’s day. Ps we weren’t supposed to be on that roof, but it was loads of fun. St Patrick’s Day 2018 was by far the most fun one I’ve had so far.
**I was so happy to be able to see the Colosseum in Rome too!**
Lesson 17: Return tickets are useful sometimes
While in Rome, I decided to book a spontaneous one way ticket to Naples. I didn’t know how long I’d be staying in the city for, so I decided that I’d just book a ticket back to Rome later on in the day. I explored Naples on foot and was able to see mount Vesuvius from far away. It was amazing being able to see that with my own eyes despite the heavy cloud cover. My plan was to go and actually see Pompeii, but I arrived too late.
**It was very cloudy, so I couldn’t see Mount Vesuvius as well as I would have liked, but I was still very thankful to be there**
After I was content with exploring, I decided it was time to head back. My phones GPS was acting up and kept sending me the wrong way when I was trying to book my ticket back to Rome. I tried finding the bus terminal, the train station and a car share pick up point to no avail. I couldn’t find anything.
After over and hour I was able to find the train station. I guess my GPS had started to work correctly. I got there and it was already really late. There weren’t many trains left. The panic was setting in. I was realizing that I might end up stuck in Naples when I had a flight leaving from Rome the following day. I ran through the train station and found a train headed to Rome. I had literally 4 minutes to book it. I ran to the machine literally right in front of the train and desperately tried to book a ticket for it. It kept timing out at the part where it was processing my payment, so I called a worker over and tried to explain my predicament in my broken Italian. He tried to help, but we had the same issue and I soon watched in horror as my train pulled out and left.
I was panicking more at this point. It was dawning on my that I was actually going to miss the flight. I opened up the GoEuro app and found bus that was heading to Rome in a couple minutes. I sprinted as fast as I could across the station and was joined by some other travellers who seemed like they were in the same predicament. I literally got to the bus two minutes before it left and my payment processed right before I got there. I was safe and made it on time. It was the most satisfying and humbling 3 and a half hour bus ride I’d ever taken.
Barcelona round 2
No need to worry, I ended up making my flight the following day in Rome and touched down in Barcelona later that same afternoon. It was really cool being back because I promised myself that I’d go back as my plane took off three years earlier. Being able to speak Catalan actually made the first couple of interactions I had with people a lot more interesting.
I made it to the hostel and checked in in a mix of Catalan and Spanish and then made my way to my room where I met an Argentinian girl and also an Italian girl who’d been living in Switzerland for a while who happened to also be 24.
**View of the entire city from Els Bunkers Del Carmel**
Lesson 18: Not everybody speaks English
I knew this already, but my time in Spain really solidified this concept. The Argentinian girl spoke no English at all, so she couldn’t follow when the Italian girl and I spoke English and there were tons of other people in the hostel who also spoke zero English. I loved it because it pushed my Spanish to the limit. I met a lot of very interesting and fun people through Spanish, If I hadn’t learned Spanish, most our paths wouldn’t have crossed.
Lesson 19: “It has to come from you”
On the second day, I met a girl from California and we talked briefly and then parted ways because we both had busy days ahead of us. We ended up bumping into each other again that same night in the hostel room and the Italian girl was there too. We started talking and then as usual with people in their twenties, school got brought up. I was never really a fan of this topic because I haven’t gone and it always hits one of my insecurities. The girl from California asked the Italian girl what she’d studied. She said she hadn’t gone to school. I was shocked. I turned to her and said “Wait you never went to school?” I noticed that she looked like she was about to react in the same way I normally react when I get that question which is to go on the defensive. I anticipated that and followed up with “I’m asking because I haven’t gone either… What’s your reasoning for not going?”
What she said next was obvious, but didn’t really dawn on me until I heard it from her mouth.
She explained how she thought about going and how people and tried to push her to go, but ultimately didn’t end up going because she knew she wouldn’t be doing it for herself, but for other people. She ended it by saying “people can push you to go, but at the end of the day, it has to come from you”
That last sentence kept repeating in my mind like in movie scenes where the main character is told something shocking or crucial to the plot. I’d always known deep down that part of the reason that I hadn’t gone to university or college was due to the fact that I didn’t feel like it was the right time and because I knew I’d be doing it to conform to society instead of trying to end up with a career. You never really expect such mundane conversations to effect you so profoundly, but they do!
Germany round 2
After a three day stop in London, I flew to Germany with a very light wallet. London is expensive and the strength of the pound compared to the Canadian dollar didn’t help. I arrived in Germany and was greeted at the train station by my friend who had offered to host me again. We spent some time in her city and I got to see her family again which was great. The vegan burgers and ice cream were also to die for. I’m not ashamed to say that I had vegan burgers and ice cream for breakfast too.
Lesson 20: Don’t go to another country and complain about how things are.
The first time I was in Germany I complained about a lot of things. Germany is in many ways very different from Canada and a lot of people including myself either don’t know or don’t expect that. Small talk as we know it here wasn’t really a thing in the parts I visited and you don’t ask people how they’re doing unless you actually care… especially when entering stores. I was so used to Canada where you get greeted and asked how you’re doing when you enter most stores, so I’d greet German people upon entering establishments only to be greeted by strange, and perplexed looks.
I complained and compared a lot of things to Canada instead of just embracing change. Their country functions fine and so does Canada, so what was the point of complaining?
The second time I was there I decided to just embrace the country and its differences. I did that in all the countries I visited, not just Germany and it made the trip so much better. There are actually quite a few things that I like more about other countries than Canada now. The idea of only greeting people and asking them how they’re doing when you ACTUALLY care was something that I really liked the second time around. It oddly started to bother me a bit how “Hi, how are you” is a greeting in and of itself and how the response seems to always have to be “Good, how about you?” even if you’re bleeding out and are rushing to the hospital.
Overall, my trip to Germany was amazing and I even got to see Berlin this time around. I really hope to go back one day.
**The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin**
Spain round 3.. wait, what?
After Germany, I had to fly back to Spain. Yes, I’m aware that my itinerary made no sense, but I wanted to meet up with friends and everybody was available on different dates, so this is how the trip ended up working out.
I landed in Madrid this time. I was kind of sad that I was back in Spain, but wouldn’t be able to use Catalan anymore.
I explored as usual, went on a walking tour with a really interesting tour guide from Argentina and learned the penultimate lesson…
**Random street in Madrid**
Lesson 21: Be passionate, it will draw people to you
I’m very passionate about languages, self development and travel and I guess that carried over into the video that he helped me film. When people are passionate about things, it’s beautiful. Have you ever watched a passionate dancer preform? Have you ever listened to a musician put their heart and soul into a piece? It’s powerful and it draws people to them.
I put enough passion into that video that the guy decided to go get his friend so that I could talk to him too. People can sense passion and you can use your passion to inspire others. The guy I spoke to seemed to be very moved by the message and the passion behind it and he may use his new found knowledge to inspire somebody else. Passion is beautiful
Passion leads into the last lesson I learned…
Travel is what makes me happy right now
Travel is what makes me happy right now in my life. It gives me such a rush and I always learn so much. I always come back craving more and more. It’s truly addicting and I can’t get enough of it. I’m not a cryer, but I’ve had many experiences that almost brought tears of joy to my eyes.
I truly hope that all of you can find something that makes you that happy. I understand that travel may not be my passion forever, something may replace it and I have other passions that have nothing to do with travel, but at this time in my life it’s one of the things that makes me the most happy. When you truly want something, you’re willing to suffer for it. You’re willing to put in hours of work, and stress and sleepless nights to attain it. I also hope that all of you can find something that you love enough to work that hard for. Most of you have probably found already something like that and if you haven’t keep searching!
Yes, travel makes me happy, but that wasn’t the last lesson
Lesson 22: I need to get back out there!
Yes, that’s the last and most recent lesson that my limited travelling experience up until this point has taught me. The world is huge and thinking about how immense the world is reminds me of my ignorance and the fact that I need to get back out there so that I can keep learning. I’ve only listed 22 lessons that travel has taught me so far, but there are a million more lessons left to learn and I’m ready to soak them all up!
This picture was taken in Segovia, Spain.