A year ago, to the day, I was getting ready to board a plane to Spain. My stomach was in my throat and a one-way ticket was in my hand. So many fearful thoughts tried to distract me from my goal, “What if I run out of money?” “What if I get lost?” “What if I get hurt?” (When your only goal is to walk 500+ miles, you start to really question the parts of your body that you’ve always taken for granted.) I was terrified, but I felt so brave.
My entire life I have been obsessed with doing things “by myself” and not needing anyone else to get me through it. One of my biggest take-aways from this year of adventure has been learning that exactly the opposite is true. We NEED each other. We can’t actually get through anything alone. At least I can’t. I get all of my energy from building relationships with, and learning from, other humans. What I used to view as not needing other people was actually not needing their permission. The only reason this year was so amazing and full of growth is because of the humans that I shared it with along the way. What I didn’t do; however, was wait on anyone to join me, need me, or affirm that what I was doing was OK. I gave myself permission to do what I wanted, and the people I needed were there waiting for me every step of the way.
I am feeling all the feels as I reflect on what has been one hell of a year. When I chose to take a year off from my job, I knew that I loved what I was doing, but that my personal growth in that spot had begun to fizzle. I had no idea where I wanted to land, but I did know I needed to leap. Hiking the Camino de Santiago was my only plan. The rest just unfolded organically and it was such a magical journey. I’m not feeling much like waxing poetic, but taking a picture walk through this past year is feeding my soul.
I missed my first train from Madrid to Pamplona and while frantically booking another ticket I met a wonderful group of Pilgrims before I ever began hiking. We took taxis from Pamplona to St. Jean Pied de Port, France, where the trail begins. I slept that first night in an attic because the town was completely booked. When I came down from the attic to eat breakfast, I met Susan and Rachel at breakfast; the rest is history. We walked and ate; walked and delt with my disastrous feet. The support from my Camino family turned out to be greater than I ever anticipated. We finally made it to Santiago after 40+ days. Susan was my rock every step of the way. We celebrated for a few days with friends…and then I kept walking to the ocean. Thank goodness I did, because I met even more beautiful souls as we weathered the literal storm to the lighthouse at The End of the Earth.
I took the bus from the end of the trail in Spain to Porto, Portugal. The loneliness hit me hard after leaving the trail. I quickly met some new friends in my hostel that helped me out of that slump.
I hopped on another bus and rode south to explore Sintra and Lisbon where I found some of the most breathtaking ocean cliffs I’ve ever seen, and did some pretty fantastic castle chasing.
After planning my own way through Spain and Portugal, I took a back seat to the organizing and joined a small group of people from all over the world to explore Morocco. We rode camels and ate pounds of couscous and tagine. I saw the desert for the very first time, and slept under the stars in the middle of the Sahara. These two weeks were a wonderful sensory overload. Every place I went was filled with new sights, sounds, and smells all at once. It was truly a dream.
After 2 weeks in Morocco I flew back to meet my aunt in Barcelona and spent a week in a hotel with a BATHTUB. (At this point I had only stayed in hostels and cheap hotels for nearly 2 1/2 months. I shared every toilet and shower with strangers.) We also snuck our way into the members club and got lots of free drinks that week! Barcelona is the neatest mixture of old and new culture getting along beautifly. My last day here I was able to reunite with a Camino friend and enjoy brunch before she saw me off to Italy!
From Barcelona I flew to Italy to meet a sweet friend living abroad, (Haay, Elisha!) who let me crash her birthday week in Florence! We walked the city a million times and ate record amounts of pizza. Then we took the train to Milan and hopped on a flight to her home in Prague.
Prague was a thing of beauty that I didn’t even know I needed! Friendship, art, castles, and food all slapped me in the face and it was GOOD! I got some much needed R&R in Prague and regained some momentum that I was losing.
Blue skies in Berlin was the best send off I could have asked for before heading back to the States for a few weeks. I loved every unique part of this funky corner of the Earth <3.
I flew back in to California and my bestie for the restie welcomed me home so hard. We went straight to Yosemite to ward off the jet lag and then had a very San Francisco photo shoot in The Museum of Ice Cream before we both went home for a Tennessee Christmas!
In January I flew to Honduras to work with an awesome group of teachers at their nieghborhood school for a couple months. It turned into only a couple of weeks, but was still an amazing experience. Thanks to the friends I met, I got to see the real raw and beautiful Honduras (as opossed to the isolated news stories that only show violence or island cruise pictures). I got to see classrooms, meet families, eat home cooked meals, and drink so many wonderful cups of coffee!
When I came home from Honduras I was welcomed by my San Francisco family once again with the most open arms. I was able to refocus and regroup. I nannied for a bit and made a little bit of much needed money. After several months of traveling my “what” and “why” got a bit blurry, but my friends are always there to help out when things get foggy (no pun intended San Francisco).
When my Maui friends heard I was home early, they called and told me to get on over to the isalnd quickly…and who really says no to that? It was so great to see the same old friends and some different parts of the island. Overdosing on whale watches, getting locked inside of Iao Valley, watching sunsets, and tagging along for puppy adoptions made for a wonderful reunion week!
I tried to take full advantage of having this time off from work and went to visit as many friends as I could in the next month. I’m so grateful to the wonderful humans and their couches/beds that were offered to me in Huntington Beach, New Orleans, Austin, Houston, and more. When I showed up on all of these friends’ doorsteps with my big ass backpack, everyone greated me with a smile and showed me the best parts of their city. Seriously, thank you all so much.
I ended this year in the best way possible! Joining Kristin Addis on her first Be My Travel Muse Adventure trip was so much more amazing than I could have anticipated! I made so many wonderful friends and felt so loved. I highly recommend spending your birthday hiking the Inca Trail. Thanks to this trip I not only ended this year feeling just as brave as I started, but also learning to lean into vulnerability. We are 100% on this Earth for human connection and I connected with some of the best.
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging does not require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are”. – Brene’ Brown