I love you, written in every language (Paris, France)
My time abroad is coming to an end.... For now at least. Right now, I should be, Lord willing, 35,000 feet up in the air and hurtling toward Chicago at a speed much faster than a metal tube should be able to go.
In the past 167 days, I've been in nine countries, lived out of a suitcase for 84 days (and by the time I get back to my final destination, Seattle, it'll be 112 days), and I've slept in 25 different beds.
It's amazing how many people (both at home and abroad) have told me I'm brave for going on this journey. That it's inspirational, or courageous, or they say how proud they are of me. To be honest, none of those words seem to fit me. What I'm doing seems natural to me, but also completely crazy. Believe me when I say that sometimes I wonder how this became my life. When people send me texts or emails asking what country I'm in and I actually have to think about it ...
Believe me, it's not lost on me how weird that is.
It's been quite a year.
But just because I've done all that, doesn't make me special.
The name of my blog should really be The Terrified Traveler. A Sojourner's Narrative sounds as if I'm confident, brave, and have my shit together. Believe me, that's not the case.
If anyone could hear my internal dialogue, they'd think I was nuts. I overthink everything, question myself a lot, and overall just give myself a panic most times I go someplace new. I'm not a worrier by nature, but really, my internal dialogue would give me away in a second. However, I was taught, by my wise father, to act like I know what I'm doing and I'll get far. It's easier to apologize than to ask for permission.
That advice has gotten me further than he'd ever know.
But what I want to say here, now, is that most of the time I'm terrified. Especially early on when I really had no idea what I was doing.
While experience has calmed my nerves a little bit and I'm okay with making the mistakes every traveler makes, I still don't at all consider myself courageous or brave... I'm nervous, anxious and scared. Not all the time, mind you, but often enough to realize it.
It's when I'm on the train or on the plane careening to a new city, with no way to go back. I vacillate between 'I really want to be at home, where I'm comfortable and not alone or anxious' to 'Rachel, pull it together, this will be great.'
It's when I'm staying in a hostel with kids ten years younger than me. I want to just go to bed, but there is a part of me that wonders if I'm too old to do that pub crawl.
It's when I'm wandering around the city in which I don't speak the language and I actually have to communicate with someone. So I just point at what I want and say as little as possible.
It's when I'm wandering around the city thrilled I can just go down any street I want, enter any museum, go to any restaurant because I'm on my own and I can do whatever I want.
Then, I'll want to go to a bar and have to talk myself into it because who wants to go to a bar by themself? I'm not sure I'll ever like that part of traveling alone.
But I push through and usually by the time I have to leave the city, I've fallen in love with the culture, the food, and the atmosphere and I know I'll want to come back.
So I'm not brave, or courageous, or inspirational.
But if you want to call me those things, don't say it because I booked the ticket.
Or because I boarded the plane. Or because I went on an adventure.
Say it because I said Yes to a dream.
And by the grace of God, I followed through.