In my almost 33 years of life, I’ve had some good, some great, and some baaaad ones. And 2015 was probably one of the most trying years for me. Seriously... it was like a really bad country song being played over and over and over again. Looking back on it, I recognize that it was a purging of the old and the beginning of new positive things[MC1] to come. But at the time, I just wanted to find the nearest bridge, wear a beautiful white flowing dress, and take the dramatic fall I deserved for my suicide. But then I realized I had a lot to live for, and I probably wouldn't make front page of the Chicago Tribune, so I decided against the idea. My business had started to move in a positive direction; And above all, I had some amazing friends and family who supported me. I couldn't let them down. So I decided, why not? Why not explore a new place for awhile. What's the harm? Its better than suicide.
One of my closest friends was living in Amsterdam, and I had nothing but time. In hindsight, I actually didn't have the time to do what I did. But oh well! New me, new year...it was time to explore! In January of 2016, I set forth on a journey to see Europe. At that point, I had been to Europe before but I had never really stayed long enough to actually see multiple places.
As I was reading up on different places to go and visit, I ran across a couple female travel bloggers who were promoting the "solo female traveler" concept. This piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. One: 2015 (see 1st paragraph). Two: I needed to get out of my environment. Three: I wanted to see what freelancing and traveling abroad would look like. And four: 2015.
What I found was that traveling alone is actually very safe in Europe. Probably even safer than parts of the United States., including where I lived, Chicago. I had always thought people who traveled alone were very weird and socially awkward, OR they were 40-something year old white ladies who had been recently divorced and were trying to relive Julia Roberts’ iconic character from Eat, Pray, Love. Either way, I never thought it was for me. But to be honest, traveling with a group of women and taking family trips had run their course. More importantly, the last 2 female group trips I had been on left me falling out with one of my friends in the middle of Amsterdam Central and locked out of our house in Nicaragua with no electricity.
I had toyed with the idea of going abroad alone before. I originally wanted to be a missionary in Ireland or Scotland. (I can’t even stop laughing as I write that.) My belief was: Why are all the missionaries going to Africa? Black people aren't the only ones that need to be saved. There is a whole continent of privileged white people who need the Lord, too. And I was going to be the person to bring the gospel to them. After much research on the mission’s journey, I found that you weren't allowed to drink beer with the locals. And you couldn't date. And then there was this whole thing about balancing the Christian lifestyle, in which I kind of got into a serious debate with the admissions advisor over. Needless to say, I didn't get in.
My second option was to go get my masters somewhere -anywhere- in Europe. But I was really stuck on the UK. I think it was the whole "they speak English, too" idea. I applied to 2 School of Design Masters Programs in Scotland, and another school in the Netherlands that I can’t remember now. I got into both School of Design Programs in Scotland, but they wanted me to be there for 3 years and that was a no-go. My goal was not to come back to the states at 35 with a red-headed husband and a mixed baby with freckles and red curly hair. Chic. But, no. So after I exhausted all of my options, I decided to hold-off and think of something that wouldn't be so expensive and long term. And then 2015 happened. Which pretty much solidified that I should go away for a while and regroup, figure some things out and come back with a fresh perspective.
I knew I was going over to Amsterdam again for 2 weeks to visit friends. But what if I stayed longer? What if I worked and leisured my way through Europe?! AAHHH!!! The excitement was killing me. I was too pumped. It was time to plan. I priced everything to a tee, read as much material as I could, and organized everything from country to country. I was ready. Europe would be my oyster.
I figured this could be an amazing adventure. I’d get to explore, eat, drink, work, and meet new people. Little did I know that this adventure would be the beginning of a heavy wake up call and a whole new way of thinking for me.
But for now, it was time to pack.