Flashback to June. I was sitting in the international departure terminal in SeaTac airport, passport clutched in hand and my heart beating a bit faster than normal. I was about to embark on my first solo adventure abroad, hitting four countries in Europe and living with a host family for part of the time.
Scenes from all the best travel movies were playing in my head. Riding on the back of foreigners mopeds and finding myself while flipping through metro maps and getting to know strangers. Eating croissants under the Eiffel Tower, sipping on sangria in Barcelona, spending nights in Lisbon, drinking cheap beer in the streets of Bairro Alto. Travel is just so damn glamorized now a days that there wasn’t a thought in my mind that anything could possibly go wrong. How could it when I soon would be dancing the night away with my new foreign boo.
And nothing did go drastically wrong. I didn’t get murdered, or kidnapped or become part of some Taken 4 type scenario. But not everything went perfectly either.
Take, for instance, the time I was in London, literally getting lost at every street corner to the point that by the end of the day I had walked 17 miles. My pinky toes had literally transformed into two gigantic blisters that grossed out me and all of my hostel bunk mates.
Or the time I got caught in the rain in Paris. My paper H&M bag getting soaked until it sent all of my things into the street. Running into a tourist shop and abandoning all of my traveler street cred by buying an “I Heart Paris” to shove all my crap into.
Or struggling to form a coherent sentence in Spanish while living with a family in Barcelona. Stuttering and smiling and nodding when I had no idea what anyone was saying to me. Having to download the Google Translate app.
Or the times I’ve been trying to fall asleep in a hostel, seconds away from slipping into a blissful slumber, when a group of people come back from the bar, flip on the light switch and start having a loud conversation about the Bachelor in Paradise. Can it seriously not wait?
There’s been countless times where I haven’t taken a shower in far too long and I can’t seem to shake the smell no matter how much deodorant I smear on. I’m pretty sure my host family has never seen me have a good hair day.
I quickly found out that wow, life isn’t like the movies. You get sore, and lonely and tired and sometimes you wish you could just be lying in bed at home, binge watching Netflix with your spoon stuck inside a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
But I’m definitely not complaining.
From shady neighborhoods, to pick pockets, language barriers and gross living conditions, still nothing beats the feeling of stepping off the plane you got on only hours before and being transported to an entirely different land. Being surrounded by a different culture, different language and different people has a way of taking you off of autopilot and waking you up to all that surrounds you. Seeing the thing you’ve always dreamt of, doing the things you never though you would, that’s what makes the struggle worth it. At least it’s worth it to me.