Little surprises…

While rummaging through some old documents sitting on my desk today, I came across a letter I wrote while applying for a scholarship through the program I was to study abroad with in Paris. I completely forgot I wrote it, but it was just the surprise I needed. I read this letter and knew I wrote it, but it became so interesting to realize how my mind has evolved since writing it.

Here I am. I’ve applied for internships, worked in television production and spent my senior year trying to soak it all up, but I feel slightly unsatisfied. This letter reminded me of why I am doing all of this work. I’m not trying to get internships at Discovery Communications and others like it because I want money. I am applying to work for these specific companies because of the possibility of travel opportunities. I love cinematography and broadcasting television, but so much of my soul is based from a fire within me to travel and help other species. I don’t just want a job I want irreplaceable experiences. I am going to copy the letter I wrote here, for any of you who may have the same feeling about travel that I do. This is why I travel…this is why everything I am doing matters at all.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 

Beginning the moment I could understand the written word and recognize rotating images on Animal Planet, Travel Channel and Discovery Channel, I became a restless soul constantly seeking the ever changing and expanding world of endless culture surrounding each corner of the planet. To me, travel became an innate obsession after watching the genocide in Africa, reading about the extinction of the Baiji White Dolphin in the Yangtze River in China and observing the timeless architecture in Paris. In no way would I sit in one place watching the world from behind a screen ever again. 

My curiosity and desire to see the world through the eyes of those living thousands of miles away grows by the day. This has resulted in flying across the world to Reykjavik, Iceland to discover the plentiful landscapes and budding philosophy based on the notion that we must care for the planet the way it cares for us. As my Icelandic tour guide Oli believed, “nature must be preserved completely. Without it, we have nothing.” 

The memory of my travels has resided deep within my heart and has been a privilege that I am grateful for as each day passes. I recognize the opportunities I have been able to grasp; a significant reason why I have chased this Parisian journey so incessantly. My goal is to understand the way the world works. I want to feel what others feel. I want to be out in the field fighting for what is right. 

Without the glories of travel, I believe imagination is limited. Just the way a dog living inside a home cannot experience the softness of the grass, a person cannot respect the differences between her and the foreigner beside her without traveling to culturally diverse countries. In order to develop an true internal acceptance of others, a person must live alongside other less fortunate or perhaps more fortunate cultures. Broadening the knowledge of how the world spins will generate empathy for those living with less. In life, this can be one of the most difficult mindsets to embrace.

I know that travel an be frightening and it can be challenging in more ways than one. This is a life lesson; that which requires bravery will muster the greatest of changes. This is the largest hope for my future: to change, to develop, to be confused, to be uncertain and to learn what it means to make a significant impact on someone’s life. 

Now, I wrote this letter before I traveled to live in Paris for four months. And to be completely honest, my feelings before the semester have only grown more intense. Still, I have learned one special lesson that I never thought I would. Sometimes, us travel fanatics tend to feel unhappy in one place for a long period of time. If we feel upset or frustrated, we look outside ourselves and want to change our environments. Perhaps our problems are from the weather, the air quality or even traffic. After I lived in Paris, I noticed that
some of the problems I would have at home still existed when I lived abroad. So I learned that my little problems weren’t from external sources at all. They were stemming from inside me. So, being here in Southern California once again, I’ve made the distinctive choice to be happy right where I am. I often complain that I want to travel, but the truth is, I am traveling right now. When I lived in Seattle, I was so eager to come here and go to school. That was my biggest adventure to date. I was going to experience college outside of my hometown because I felt just as eager to live in a new place. But a year passed and I wasn’t happy because of things that I couldn’t change. So, I wanted to up and leave once again. But what if changing my environment wasn’t the solution? What if changing my mindset was the answer.

Truthfully, it was my mindset. So reading this letter to myself now, it means something completely different than it did then. I don’t travel just because I want to see new places, I travel because I truly want to help others and make a difference in the world. I want humans to live as one with their planet, not against it. That was the reason buried deep in my heart. It took sifting through the muck surrounding it to find the authenticity I always had, but never saw.

I ended up being offered the scholarship. When they gave it to me, they had no idea their money was going toward me finding myself once again, not just funding a travel-hungry college student.

T.

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Light me up

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One of the hardest parts of saying goodbye to an adventure that has defined my character indefinitely, is to remember of a quote from my favorite song. It says, “when one door closes, open a window.”

That is the best way to think of my journey living in Europe. As I sit here at the airport, nearly tearing up, I have to think of a few things. If we never end the happiest moments of our lives, we can’t truly understand the value of the experience. These may be cliché notions but I am having to reach into my pocket and take them out because I don’t want to let go. We have such a huge planet that is so vast; we can spend an entire lifetime traveling around it. Though I haven’t left Europe during the course of this trip, I am to be forever restless to discover whatever else there is out there.

To be me. To travel. To be a traveler. To be a wanderer. To be a nomad. To see a train and want to get on it. To not care where the destination is, as long as it is somewhere new. To love public transportation. To plan the next trip in the middle of the current one.  To find the greatest peace in the simplest of things. To find a few minutes to sit and watch. To buy too many travel books. To feel the most comfortable in the airport. To talk to everyone you see. To walk long distances. To love the modest lifestyle. To feel lit on fire…all the time.

I’ve learned to be comfortable in the most uncomfortable situations. My biggest joys are new mountains, rivers, new colors and new people.. I am obsessed with soaking up new cultures. Small annoyances and mishaps become funny anecdotes. Whatever problems bubble up pass so easily. My biggest fears have slowly diminished.

What is life…to be genuinely happy and to realize that people and experiences mean more than anything else out there. Joy is the sun that shines through airplane windows. Joy is a bus ticket. Joy is witnessing two separate tables of people strike up conversation with one another, despite a language barrier. Living four months traveling the world teaches the truth about life and what it should be like. All of the people out there country-hopping know exactly what I am talking about. It is the priceless education of travel.

For those of us who know what I mean, trying to “find yourself” takes a while. We all think we know what we want, what we want to do, who we want, where we want to end up and what each day means. But how can we know any of that if we don’t step out of our own backyards. I don’t mean our physical locations, I mean the comfort of our limits. We can travel the world, sure. But to be a tourist and to be immersed in a culture are so different and produce completely contrasting results. One is a photo album of all the beautiful places we’ve been. The other is a photo album of all of the nights we spent playing guitar with locals until 3 a.m., of moments we lost our passports on the train, of the tiny hostel rooms we had to cram ourselves in, of the ferries we missed, of the protein bars we had to eat because we can’t afford anything else, of the best friends we made in the most uncommon of circumstances. I love getting uncomfortable, feeling dirty and walking so much my shoes break.

And so it continues, a life of always chasing a new sunrise. Here I come, Portugal.

T.

Croatia, my love

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Eight days, good friends, ferries and locals. That was it.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed Croatia making its way into the public eye through word of mouth and mediums like ABC’s hit show The Bachelornow I’m beginning to understand why.

Croatians love their seafood, love tourists and genuinely want you to get to know their country. I spent 8 days venturing through the the town of Split and the islands of Hvar and Brač. We also hopped on a bus from Split to a seaside port called Trogir.

The country was nothing like I expected. Every person we met was so eager to help us get around, find restaurants, meet other locals and discover hidden secrets. Coming from Paris, where they seemingly hate American tourists, it was a nice change. There was the famous Diocletian’s Palace dating back to the Roman Era, where you could get lost and feel like you’re in The Gladiator. It was indescribable walking across the stone paths and stumbling upon tiny, family-owned shops and bars.

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Watching small Croatian children fish on the island of Hvar.

Split is right on the edge of the Mediterranean sea. There are restaurants lining the water just like Barcelona, but something felt different. The community is always bustling around the palace talking to each other, laughing, fishing, buying foods from the outdoor markets and playing music. As I sit here, I can’t help but crave to go back. I  loved lying by the sea in the sunshine and hearing all of the different languages being spoken.

We met a hubbub of the friendliest travelers from all over Europe and Asia. Even all of the little cats walking around seem uncharacteristically snuggly. This country might be small, but it’s the home of some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

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Public transportation in Croatia was more like having a constant tour guide. Riding the ferries was a genuine pleasure because they moved somewhat slowly, so you could sit on the top deck outside in the sunshine. The water was so blue, it almost seemed straight out of Photoshop. On any island we visited, there were young kids sitting on the side of the piers fishing beside the adult fishermen who were selling freshly caught sea bass, octopus and squid right off their boats.

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Croatia’s token octopus salad.

Cuisine in Croatia easily became comparative to what I might find in Seattle. I live on the Pacific Ocean, but it seems that the Mediterranean had something more to offer. In the morning, owners of restaurants walked to the pier, bought local seafood off the boats, and properly showed you a tray of the freshest daily options that evening. It was just magical. Our world is moving so fast, yet Croatia has the ability to slow things down. Even in gelato shops, there were machines that made daily gelato right in front of your eyes. I can’t brag enough about this country.

The first restaurant we visited was an accident and something right off Pinterest. Konoba Korta, oh how I miss you.

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Vegetable couscous with a spicy kick.
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Bacon wrapped chicken skewers with grilled vegetables.
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This was anything but your typical creamed tomato soup.

Our experience consisted of one kind server, two perfectly homemade brewed Croatian beers, a tomato soup, an octopus salad, two bacon-wrapped chicken skewers and a whole lot of smiles. When we got the check I almost dropped it when I saw the total. A meal I thought would cost $45, was only 80 Kuna, (the Croatian currency) which is equal to about $11.36. Unbelievable.

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That afternoon, we casually played soccer with some local kids who constantly made fun of our lack of skill. It was adorable.

Croatia reminds me that that even though there is a lot of darkness in the world, there’s good as well. Sometimes our minds are bogged down with such negativity, but if we take a minute to connect to one another, we can feel our purpose more easily.

Croatia, thank you!

T.