Cailey Dillon is a student at the University of Central Missouri and an ISA Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain.
This week, I had the opportunity to travel anywhere in Europe since I had the week off of school – oh the options! I decided to fly to Germany to visit an old friend who lived with my family when she did her semester abroad. Her family welcomed me with open arms. They cooked me delicious food and asked about my family and how I was doing in my hometown of Valencia, Spain. I cannot describe how happy it made me to see such a familiar face. I’ve been struggling a lot with homesickness, but to see someone who was like a sister from my past? It really made everything better.
We decided to take a 3 hour bus to Amsterdam for the weekend to explore and see some new sights. I can confidently say that Amsterdam was the most beautiful city I have experienced since I got to Europe. Yes, it’s busy and touristy and you’re going to walk a lot and perhaps get you’re ankle clipped by a passing bike, but you’ll love every minute of it.
I just want to mention this because I think everyone in my place has or will experience this feeling: you actually won’t love every moment of of your adventure as it’s happening. You may feel really lost, possibly scared and definitely alone, but not all at once. However, these feelings won’t ruin your experience, in fact, they’ll probably enhance it. Sometimes, even when you’re surrounded by a city that is hustling and bustling, people that you know, delicious smells, and happy music, it’s still possible to feel completely alone. I’m not sure if I can exactly determine why it’s okay to feel this way, but I believe it is.
Even after just a short weekend trip while struggling mentally and emotionally, it’s possible to feel like you triumphed and succeeded over your feelings. In retrospect, things can be much lovelier than they actually were and I think that’s the way I want it. Some days are harder than others, no matter how beautiful your surroundings are. It’s about persevering through the hard times.
Everyone has their own reasons to travel, and for me, it’s about getting to know myself better – learning my downfalls, my emotionally weak spots, my motivations, and just what makes me truly happy.
For me, sometimes it’s finding a yummy cup of coffee on accident to enjoy on the side of the canal before I have to give up and ask for directions because I am consequently lost. Sometimes, it’s finally listening to a song that I’ve been dreaming about listening to in a specific city for years. ( i.e. Dean Martin in Italy or a song titled “Blind Man in Amsterdam” in Amsterdam itself). Sometimes it’s taking 30 extra seconds to get a better photo of a beautiful city to make me excited.
Sometimes, you travel with people that you’ve never traveled with before and it can be difficult if you have different ideas of what you want out of your trip. I sometimes struggle with change and when things don’t go my way, but oh the value of walking into plans blindly! You get to see things you never would have made an effort to see and subsequently would have likely never seen. It’s like getting a new pair of eyes – think of all the new things you’ll be exposed to! I likely would have never made it to the Amsterdam Flower Market, the port, or the Anne Frank Museum had I been too stubborn to blindly trust the people I was with. All of which, I would highly recommend, especially the port at sunset. I didn’t believe magic was real until now.
For me, more than anything, traveling is about learning how to be lost. It’s challenging to be physically and mentally lost but it teaches you who you are. It teaches you to be confident in yourself even when you feel like you know nothing (and to be confident in your ability to communicate even when you don’t know the language…).
The time that you spend lost is not lost time. It is still time that you are on your adventure, and it’s easy to get discouraged, but you have to just keep exploring and know that everything will be okay.
I stress myself out when I start to think of how much I should be writing down about my adventure or when I don’t have a chance to jot down a little thought or insight I just thought of. I get discouraged and overwhelmed when I realize how much I want to write or how much I can’t remember from the moments I’ve been letting pass. I don’t think I’m the only person who struggles with this problem. I have to continue to remind myself that even if I don’t write something down, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or it didn’t cross my mind. I still grew from every little thought and experience I had.
I have to remember that I’m going through big changes and to cut myself some slack while I venture through my semester and all over the world. I’m never going to achieve perfection but I will always keep learning to be lost, and that makes me so lucky. Amsterdam was beautiful and treated me well. I can already tell that the short weekend helped me grow and offered me insight to the way I would like to travel in the future.
The world awaits…discover it.