Just five days and I'll be back in Rochester. Five days after five months seems like no time at all. Each day brings new emotions. Five days and I’ll be returning to some of the monotony that has driven me to travel. Five days and I’ll have friendships that last longer than a weekend and a bed in a room without 17 other people constantly coming and going.
Hmm, I suppose there might be a few people still reading this who don't know what I've been up to recently, so I'll briefly explain: I studied in Madrid for a semester and had a wonderful time there. I lived with a host family and, while my Spanish still isn't perfect, I have gained so much confidence in my abilities and am no longer intimidated by speaking (gracias a Dios). My last exam was on the 16th of December and I have been traveling with my small backpack since then (somehow). I've been to approximately 27 cities in approximately 13 different countries since August and, somehow, I've done it all on less than $2500. I've met so many interesting people, eaten a lot of delicious food, and explored some incredible places. I could write a book, not a good one, but at least some sort of collection of stories and advice that I've gained from my experiences (in this past month of backpacking, especially).
I'm closing in quickly on $0 in my bank account, so it will be nice to have a meal plan and housing and not trying to somehow spend less than $18 a day on housing, transportation, food, and everything in between. I am thankful to be going back to work at a couple of jobs I love so that I can save money for the rest of my education and for future travels. At the same time, it's been really empowering to be able to do as much as I'm doing and see all the things that I've seen on such a tight budget.
// If you're reading this and want to travel but don't think you can afford it please reach out to me. I love planning and I am really good at finding deals and “ballin' on a budget” and I would love to help. Seriously, if I can do it, you can, too. It might not always be easy or comfortable, but it is so worth it to adventure. The key is a very open mind and a lot of flexibility. I think I could make a good living as an extreme budget travel planner, but I don’t think there’s a huge market for such a thing because the people who are willing to pay for such a service do not coincide with the people who are on such a tight budget. So, until that changes, I’m willing to offer my help in exchange for the stories of your adventures. But I digress.
The woman who checked me into my hostel here in Budapest last night asked me why I don't have fear of traveling alone as a woman. I do have fear, though; I know that I'm not invincible, but I also know that this is true no matter where I am in the world, and so I refuse to let it stop me from taking opportunities.
With that, I’ve learned that, even though I’m young and sometimes do feel superhuman, I still need to rest sometimes. I still need people who I feel comfortable around. It’s not always amazing new cuisine; sometimes I must cook up the free rice that was left in the hostel kitchen because some cities are expensive and transportation alone has put me over my budget for the day. I don’t always find amazing friends, although I’ve been so fortunate to have found as many as I did in nearly every city that I visited. It’s not always warm, sunny places; yep, it’s very much winter here in Europe, too, and I’m sure you can imagine that it’s a bit tricky to pack all the things one uses in a month into a school bag. There are a lot of airport waits, missed trains, and inclement weather to face. There are language barriers and cultural differences and awkward interactions. There are days where I’m completely drained, but still must be out of bed at 8 am to do the next thing or get to the next place or eat the free breakfast or simply because I’m kicked out of my hostel room (yes, this happens a lot).
Even with these things, I can’t think of a better way to have spent my time. I have learned so much about what I like and what I dislike and how I handle difficult situations. I’ve learned that I’m very easygoing, but that I benefit a lot both mentally and economically from dedicating time to plan well.
All right, I’m sure I’ve bored even my mom at this point, so I’m going to wrap up all the cheese with some meat: if you have the opportunity to travel, take it. If you don’t have the opportunity to travel but you have a wanderlust, make the opportunity. I recognize this isn’t nearly as easily said as done and admittedly this statement is a very first-world, privileged one to make, but I do believe that everyone can do something. Travel doesn’t have to be international. Travel doesn’t even have to be outside of your city or village; it’s a mindset of going somewhere new and being open to new experiences. I believe that the best place you can go is outside of your comfort zone. Learn how small you really are in such a grand world and let that drive you to learn more from the people and places you encounter.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is ignore all my advice and do what you do. I wish you the best of luck and I thank you for whatever role you play in my life. To my bored readers: thanks for keeping up and I hope you don’t feel like I’ve completely wasted your time, although I did warn you at the beginning. Also, thank you for supporting me. To the people I’ve met during these past five months: you’re awesome and I’ll miss you – come visit me. To my fellow Rochesterians: I’ll see you soon.