A month ago today, I was stuffing the majority of my necessary belongings into a carryon-approved backpack. Russell is a proponent of the Excel packing spreadsheet; I went ahead with the organized chaos of the visual inspection and crossed-fingers-hope that everything made it into my pack. My family dropped me off at the airport, and after a bit of time bellied-up to the bar by my gate, I boarded a Lufthansa 747 bound for Frankfurt, Germany.
After one plane change at Frankfurt International Airport and a short shuttle ride later, it was just me and my overstuffed backpack, trying to interpret Hungarian street signs in an attempt to locate my hostel. I must have rang five incorrect doorbells.
I was not alone from that point forward. While I fully expected to trek my way through Central Europe and the Balkans on my own, I met a couple of guys in Budapest who—the day before I was to hop a train to Slovenia—asked to travel with me. They had both been on the road for several months, and as they had no set schedule or destination, figured they would like to see the part of Europe I was heading to. They would remain with me for the entirety of my trip.
So an American, a Canadian and an Australian headed to the train station. That sounds like a bad joke setup.
From that point forward, Europe was an absolute blur of ups, downs, and days that seemed to speed up immensely. A train station in Ljubljana nearly became our accommodations when our train arrived late and the hostel desk had closed for the night. My original plan to board an hour flight from Zagreb, Croatia to Dubrovnik, Croatia turned into renting a car and driving 13 hours down the Croatian coastline. I ate far too many döner kebabs and walked up more hills than I’ve encountered in my 29 years. It was a freedom I have never experienced, and my trip instilled in me the value of slowing down, accepting that plans can—and will—change, and appreciating the little things around me that I would normally blow past en route to my final destination.
And that was one of my motivations for shoving my life into my backpack and spending a month abroad. I did not expect some kind of world-bending internal revelation, but traveling has a way of altering your overall perspective. It’s great to be back to a normal routine, not sleeping in a room with other snoring people, and having a dresser to put my clothes in, but I will admit that I the travel bug sank its teeth firmly into my heart. Seeing the world should be on the top of everyone’s priority list. Coming from a compulsive planner, my only advice is to buy the ticket and figure the details out later. That is my one take-away from my journey.
We only have so much time on this rock, and we should all see as much of it as possible.