Returning to the End of the Beginning

July 13, 2016: Arrived in Rome, Italy.

This is where I ended my 3-month European tour last year. It was the end of a grand voyage, but the start of a new journey. My bag is still packed and the journey continues. So, I pause in remembrance of that crazy adventure.

December 15, 2015

90 days. 11 countries. $5,000. 15 host families. 10 youth hostels. 2 fancy hotels. 1 night on the streets. Countless life lessons.

Totoro’s and my 3-month European journey has come to an end. I landed in Toronto last night, and the first words out of my mouth were, “F*ck, it’s cold!” I immediately met up with Alison, and she did what all best friends should do: gave me a hug, bought me a beer, and later on, got me piss drunk on Pinot Grigio. It’s good to be back.

It’s indisputable to say that this solo expedition was life-changing. Solo traveling does that. It challenges your physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual self. It teaches you to trust your instincts, to expect (and look forward to) the unexpected, to be open-minded to new experiences, and to re-evaluate your personal values and beliefs. And in return, you’ll learn to appreciate time, people, and purpose to a much greater degree:

1) Quality Time: I had so much free time; something I wasn’t used to. I spent hours upon hours alone and undistracted at cafes, restaurants, beaches, museums, and parks, and I LOVED it, and looked forward to this personal time. I actually had the time to taste my food, to enjoy my wine, to be hypnotized by art, music, and to meditate in nature. I did some serious soul searching; I thought about the meaning of life, analyzed how and why our society functions the way it does, and explored my favorite topic: the mind. When was the last time you had a chance to do that? Unfortunately, our society has many (clever) distractions to keep our minds occupied (e.g., consumer culture, entertainment, social media, over working, social pressures, etc.), and consequently, we lose the ability to reflect on life; we lose the ability to know ourselves; we lose the ability to feel and think genuine emotions and thoughts. We’re moving, but we’re not going anywhere. This trip will always remind me to use my time wisely. Don’t waste a second.

2) Genuine People: As much as I liked seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum, the best part of our journey was interacting with the locals as well as fellow travelers. I was fortunate to meet many incredible people. They weren’t incredible because of their jobs, skills, possessions, or physical appearance. They were incredible because of their approach to life despite their circumstances (e.g., heartbreaks, abuse, homelessness, poverty, terminal cancer, physical impediments, imminent death, etc.). They’ve been through hell and back, and yet, they are the most positive and compassionate people I’ve ever met. They are strong. They are brave. They are honest. They are full of life. Of course, they have their insecurities and worries, but that doesn’t stop them from learning about the world, making new goals and fulfilling their dreams. But more importantly, they never hesitate to give back to the world, and show love to others. I want to surround myself by these people. They are the light when you are in a dark place.

3) Purpose Driven: Of course, solo traveling allows you the time to recreate your perception of self and to meet new people, but then, you need to DO something. After reflection comes purpose. I still want to open a café in Japan. I want it to be a sanctuary for the traveling soul; for those who are curious about life. I want to listen to their stories and share in their experiences, and so, I’m going to learn more languages. Japanese, French, German, and Italian are at the top of the list, and I’m going to learn them through immersion. Seems impossible, but as my host in Berlin told me, “The easiest way to learn a language is to sit down and learn the damn language.” This is my 生き甲斐.

So in the meantime, I’m keeping my bag packed.

See you in the world.

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