Here’s a few beautiful photos of various countries in the EU 🇪🇺, Central America, and the Middle East -enjoy!
Here’s a few beautiful photos of various countries in the EU 🇪🇺, Central America, and the Middle East -enjoy!
As I sit here in my prayer/writing room, the rain pours down relentlessly outside. It’s a Monday, and it definitely feels like the case of the “Monday blues.” When I get in moods like this, I find myself day dreaming. Dreaming of where in the world to go to next. Imagining myself sloshing through the muddy trails as the rain falls as it is now, but with a view of the Scottish highlands to keep me invigorated. With the rain falling on that journey, I can imagine it being something to remind you of the adventure you are on, and that you appreciate nature’s elements falling down upon you and adding to the feeling of mystery as you make your trek.
But right now, the rain outside my window is just making me feel glum. I sometimes wonder about my love for travel. I wonder why I am so obsessed with it. Why it’s always intrigued me.
When you are traveling, or even dreaming of travel, as I often do, the possibilities are endless. The mundane is gone. The mystery is real.
For me, whenever I’ve traveled, my senses are awakened. My soul is on fire. I find that I am pushing myself to do brave things. I am brave when I travel. And sometimes, I am afraid. And that’s okay. Being afraid is not something to be ashamed of. When you do that thing, though, that you are afraid of, like hiking across active volcanoes across New Zealand, and wonder if they might erupt again at any moment as you walk across its rim, then you experience a feeling that is worth every moment of fear. Empowerment.
It is empowering to look back at the 19.4 kilometers you just hiked in one day (here’s to you, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, NZ) and knowing that you pushed through the fear and moments of doubt. That even though you cried along the way, thinking there was no way you could finish the hike, but that a helicopter would have to come pick you up, your willpower and determination still got you through. That strength that you mustered from deep within, willed you to walk another step, and another, and another.
You feel empowered when you arrive at the car park, the end of that day long hike, and you plop down, your physical and mental energy completely spent. And you want to cry, tears of happiness and of feeling so proud of yourself, because, “you did it.”
It’s overcoming those little moments of fear along every journey, that make you truly stronger. That make you believe in yourself. It’s stepping on that plane to go on your first solo journey. It’s looking up at the mountain in front of you, feeling overwhelmed and afraid, yet still taking that first step. For there is a bravery within you that you often won’t realize is there until you DO Travel. When you find that bravery, you find your strength.
Travel. It wakes you up. It lights the fires of courage within you.
If you are afraid to travel, you are not alone. It’s okay to feel afraid, but what will we do with that fear? Will we allow it to make us stay in our homes, never following our dreams or venturing out our front door? Or, will it be a catalyst? A catalyst to propel us into action. To book that plane ticket instead of pushing the “back” button on our screen. To step on that plane, even though you have a fear of flying. To get in that kayak and paddle across the harbor, even though you’ve never stepped foot in a kayak. To walk through the streets of a city where the language is foreign and you were afraid to leave the comfort of your hotel, but you walked down that long hallway and out into the street even though you wanted to turn back. To do all of these things and more. To do them DESPITE your fear.
There are many reasons why I travel. Because it makes the future look exciting and bright, despite days like today, when the rainy weather is just a forecast, instead of an adventure in the Scottish highlands. Because just the thought of it lights my soul on fire. And because it always has a way of making me feel brave.
Be brave. Go be alive. Go travel.
We are ready to go! Next adventure – Costa Rica! Got my reading material . . . can’t wait to finish reading “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis (check out her website here)! Such inspiration and truth! AND . . . Always have to have my travel magazines to dream about our travels after this adventure is over. True wanderlust spirits!
Throughout the days leading up to my solo trip, I had been worried, anxious, and actually dreading the fact that I would need to take a train from Florence to Pisa, as I would be flying out of Pisa and it was about an 1 1/2 hour away by train or car. I couldn’t miss out on seeing the Leaning Tower, either! So I booked a hotel for my last night in Italy in Pisa.
I’ve only ridden a train once, in Europe, many moons ago, in Paris . . . with my husband. I know people take trains all the time, but when you’ve never done something before, it can be quite intimidating. I kept going over all the things that could go wrong. I would get on the wrong train. I wouldn’t find a space for my luggage. I’d get really anxious and have a panic attack on the train. Or I’d get sick on the train. What if I did take the wrong train and ended up miles away from where I wanted to be. What if I tripped as I walked into the train and fell flat on my face? Oh man . . . anxiety! Instead of the quote about all the things that could go right, when you’re anxious then you think of all the things that can go wrong. I had gone to the train station in Florence the day earlier to meet my friend Amy, and I was so overwhelmed. By all the people. The signs. The voices on the speakers. I was thinking, “there’s no way I’m going to be able to ride on that train tomorrow.” I had already bought a ticket online, but my palms were sweating at just the thought of riding the train.
I know I am an advocate for facing your fears (wasn’t this what all this trip was about – facing fears and stepping out of your comfort zone?) but there also comes a time when you have to have some wisdom in listening to your body. I had been through so much as in facing so many “new things” and “firsts” and little challenges along the way, that I felt like my heart and body were telling me I needed to give myself a little break and not push myself so hard, at least not concerning whether or not I take a train.
So, when I awoke that Friday morning, and my body was literally shaking with nerves, I then, with resolve, made a decision. A decision on my own. I decided to not take the train.
“What? You didn’t face your fears and do that which you didn’t think you could do?” You may be thinking. What I did was made a decision that I knew would be best for myself in that moment. I almost think of the word “self-care” . . . I knew how I was mentally and emotionally feeling that morning, and that if I had gotten on that train, that might have honestly been too much for me. Maybe that sounds like taking the easy way out or being a coward or not a true traveler, but I am so proud of that decision I made. I think I’m even more proud because I did make it on my own – I didn’t call up my husband and ask him what to do or ask his permission to take a taxi instead to Pisa.
It’s kind of ironic, because one of my inspirational quotes that I kept thinking of and that I had written down in my journal that I took with me, was from the movie, “The Polar Express.”
“The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.”
It was an incredibly liberating feeling as I rode in the back seat of the taxi and looked out the window at the beautiful Tuscan countryside. For I had taken matters into my own hands and looked after myself. It was a relaxing car ride that took a little over an hour to get to Pisa. Of course, taking the taxi ended up costing much more than the train, but we had allowed room in the budget for unforeseen circumstances that might arise. I do not regret it, and I truly believe it was worth every penny.
Anyways, at last, I arrived in Pisa! The sun was shining which brought happiness to me after seeing so much rain in Florence the past few days. I arrived at my hotel, The Grand Hotel Duomo, which was in a pedestrian-only area. I breathed a sigh of relief as I stepped out of the taxi. It was quiet here. Peaceful. A pizzeria was right across from my hotel.
I needed this day in Pisa. I was so happy here. It was a night and day difference environment when comparing Florence to Pisa. I of course loved Florence, but it was what my soul, heart and mind needed after being in the hustle and bustle of a big city. The pace was much slower here in Pisa. I found myself walking slower and really taking every little detail in, like the lavender wisteria that draped across the doorway of one of the local shops.
After checking into my hotel, I immediately walked over to the main attraction. To see the Leaning Tower in person after seeing it my entire life in pictures growing up . . . again, there really are just no words for those kind of moments. Surreal, really. It towered above me and I was one happy girl. The tower does lean, yes, and I laughed at myself and all the other people doing silly poses and trying to get that “perfect shot”.
For lunch, I ate at a little cafe that had a direct view of the Tower, and I had spaghetti and roasted chicken. That afternoon, I was quite tired, and just relaxed in my room, with the window open, listening to the birds singing outside and watching the clouds change shape. It was wonderful!
I had a smorgasbord of cold cuts for dinner as well as a delicious pizza. That day was truly spent just relaxing and enjoying what little time I had left in Italy. I bought souvenirs for my family and dropped postcards in the mail. The excitement of returning home was welling up within me. I was so ready to come home and be back with my husband and daughter.
And so, the next morning, Saturday, I took my taxi to the airport that had my plane waiting for me to take me back home. I was less anxious this time about flying and this time the adrenaline that ran through my veins was because I was so excited to embrace my husband at the airport and to hold my daughter again.
I flew into London Heathrow Airport where I had a two hour layover and then boarded my final flight that was to take me back to Texas.
Again, I don’t like flying, but this time I wasn’t as nervous as my flight across the pond a few days earlier. However, about 45 minutes before we landed we encountered extreme turbulence, and I was gripping the armrests for dear life! I think those moments make getting home all the sweeter!
When the wheels hit the tarmac, the most powerful emotions washed over me and tears started streaming down my face. That moment, when we landed, and I knew that I had done it, that I had accomplished this solo journey, is a moment I will never forget. I will forever be grateful for those moments when the tears fell down and I didn’t care that I was crying in front of strangers. They had no idea what my story was. It will be etched in my memory for all of time. I was so thankful. My heart was filled with gratitude for this beautiful journey I had just taken. And, just about more than anything, and this is what my soul had needed, was . . . I was proud of myself. My heart overflowed with pride for what all I had accomplished on my own. It boosted my confidence in myself again – in my capabilities. It made me believe in myself again. As I mentioned in Part 1, a few years ago I feel like postpartum depression had taken so much away from me. It had made me feel like a failure. Like I malfunctioned. Like I was incapable.
Events that happen to us in life can hold us back and hold us down. They can leave us feeling stuck. They can damage us and warp our reality and how we see ourselves, or it can allow us to see ourselves in a negative light. PPD was that event for me. I think we all have our “events”. And, if we find ourselves living and dwelling in the past, and holding onto these negative perceptions, maybe we need to do something about it. Maybe something drastic. Like taking a solo trip thousands of miles away from your comfort zone. You never know what may happen when you take that first step.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
The next morning I felt very jet lagged, nervous and anxious, and just flat out “weird”. I wanted to stay in my hotel room – all day. I felt all bravery that I’d been having since getting on the plane a couple days before had left me. I called Josh (waking him up at 2:00 am!) and he encouraged me to get out – to step outside. I finally found the courage and forced myself to leave what little comfort zone I had there by leaving the hotel. And I was so happy I did! I found a beautiful church called Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, which had me in awe of its high ceilings and ornate frescoes and stained glass. There hadn’t been a line to get into this lesser known and less popular church in Florence, and that was exactly what I needed at that time. Jet lag can really make you feel weird and I was feeling the need to be away from people and have as much space as possible. Those moments taking my time walking through the church were so calming to me and just what I needed. I meandered through the courtyard outside and breathed in the fresh air. It was so quiet and peaceful. I loved my time there and that I was on no time clock . . . no one there to rush me, or to tell me what to do next. That is another glorious thing about traveling solo that I learned . . . you call the shots. You can be “selfish” for a few moments. And that’s okay. I’ve always been an advocate for self care, and I feel like solo travel is the ultimate form of self care. Sometimes, we NEED to get away. By ourselves. We get lost in the busyness of life, and so it’s nice to take the time to slow things down and be present in the moment, and taking a trip is an avenue where you can do this.
At the same time, it’s kind of funny because before I arrived in Florence, for months leading up, I had been researching that city to death. I have learned about myself that I like to plan things, especially when it comes to travel. Which I know is what you’re NOT supposed to do. Perhaps it gave me more of a sense of control, which I needed to feel, more so because I was traveling by myself, and I wanted to feel a little more familiar with the big city before I got there so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Well, so I had therefore made a list! A list for each day that I’d be in Florence. I seriously had like 15 attractions listed for each day! Very unrealistic I know. And because of that, I think I had inadvertently added pressure on myself to see everything and do everything on my list. I even had the restaurants listed out that I felt like I “had” to go to. In retrospect, yes, a little research is good, but not to the degree I took it. Leaving room for exploring and spontaneity is much more freeing and releases you from pressure and expectations and a “schedule” that may even just be in your head.
At this point, also, because I was feeling so tired and jet lagged, and a bit overwhelmed by my list that I felt I had to tick off all the boxes . . . it was then that I actually realized I needed to slow down. Once realizing this and taking it step by step was so good for me.
So, after visiting Basilica di Santa Mario Novella, I then had pizza in the square/Piazza that overlooked the church…it was so peaceful and felt perfect. I ate at a little cafe that even had the red and white checkerboard tablecloths that I imagined Italy would have! There was Italian music playing, the weather was fine, and I inhaled the most delicious margherita pizza I’ve ever had! Life was good, and I was feeling calm and better after eating.
I was headed to the Duomo to see all of its attractions, and along the way, in the Piazza del Duomo, I saw many vendors selling souvenirs. I saw some paintings being sold and so I stopped to look at those. The man selling them was bargaining with me, which was fine. I bought a beautiful painting, and then, he was trying to sell me another painting. He got close to me and even started whispering, I guess he was talking about the prices, but it was a foreign language, and so I had no idea what he was saying. At this point, I was feeling uncomfortable, and so I was just like, “No grazie!” And so he gave me my painting, but as I turned to walk away, he hugged me! I had my back to him and my intuition told me that he was even trying to kiss me, but I pushed him away and grunted, “Ugh!!!” And walked away from there very fast. It was crowded in the Piazza and I felt my heart pounding. That really shook me up and scared me and I felt very uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do. I was going to just go on about my plan and see the Duomo, but I felt uneasy. So I walked back to my hotel.
I told the lady concierge about what happened and started crying as I told her. She was mad that this incident had happened and she advised that I go to the police station and report what had happened. And so, I walked to the police station. I waited over an hour in vain, because the police officer on duty told me he spoke little English and to come back the next day between 8 and 11 am when his chief would be there who spoke better English. I did talk to him, with difficulty, but he understood what I was saying happened. So I left, and was feeling overwhelmed but glad that I had tried to do my part at least. I debated about whether or not I should go back to the police station the next day to report it or not.
Anyways, the situation really shook me up. I felt scared. I didn’t feel as safe as I once did upon first arriving. And so, what did I do the rest of the day? I let fear stop me. I stopped back at the piazza where I had eaten earlier that day, and found an outside cafe and had creamy risotto with asparagus. It was raining at this point. The risotto was steaming hot and warmed me up inside, but I scarfed it down. I felt like my nerves were shot. I rushed eating because I was feeling so anxious about what had happened at the Piazza and all I wanted to do was to go back to my hotel room, and not come back out. I’m just being totally honest about how I was feeling in those moments. I wasn’t able to savor my food, or to truly take in the moments of people watching while the rain fell down all around us. The things fear and anxiety can do to us!
The next morning, I woke up and I felt very emotional and I REALLY did not want to leave my hotel. I wrote my friend Amy, who lived 45 minutes away in Bologna, and told her about what happened and how I was feeling. (It was so amazing by the way, that Amy was there, for we had once lived in the same city, and she had actually been my daughter’s music teacher! Her family had moved to Italy a few months prior to my visit, so I would call it providential, which will make more sense later).
Anyways, so Amy called me, while I was sitting in my hotel room feeling and looking like such a mess because I’d been crying, and one of the first things she said and that caught me off guard, was that she would not waste the day away at the police station. She said what happened was atypical and basically that that doesn’t usually happen and that I didn’t need to feel unsafe because of this random incident.
The Enemy of course being Satan. She said that Satan is wanting to rob me of my joy and of my time of enjoying myself in Florence. She said this was supposed to be a journey of healing for me, coming on this trip.
Wow! Her words changed my mindset and comforted me and gave me a newfound determination. I then called Josh and we discussed about what Amy had told me. He also gave me another pep talk and he told me to be like the bearded lady (minus the beard!) in “The Greatest Showman” movie when she sings with courage and confidence, “This is me” and stomps through the streets of the city singing:
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.”
The “sharpest words” part was that of Satan or anxiety telling me I couldn’t do it, that I was weak and scared and fearful.
And so, I left my hotel room, walking down the long hallway and feeling scared, but brave. So determined. I was not going to let my time, my joy, my happiness be robbed of me while I was in Florence. I listened to this song as I braved walking through the streets of Florence again. My goal was to see the Ponte Vecchio, the iconic bridge on the Arno River. I knew it was far from my hotel and that there was a possibility that I might get lost, but I kept on walking. And that is a memory that will forever be ingrained into my mind. For I found that I was enjoying myself and having fun walking amongst all these people….it was one of the most EMPOWERING feelings, because I was facing my fears head on.
And when I finally came upon my destination/goal, which was the river, I felt incandescently happy and SO proud of myself! That is why the picture of me standing with the headphones in my ears and with Ponte Vecchio in the background is such an important picture to me. There’s a story behind that big smile on my face. That is why I am so happy and smiling so big because of what all I had overcome, and how it ended up being one of my most favorite memories of all the trip. I was reminded of the quote from The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf says to Frodo:
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
The day ended up getting even better, because I got to see my friend Amy. She took a train and came down to visit me that afternoon. It was just what this girl needed! That’s why I say her being there in Italy at the time I was there was providential. A God thing. Without her words of wisdom, I’m not sure I would have pushed myself and seen past what was really happening. I think I would have just stayed in my hotel room the entire trip, being sad and missing out. She and I had the best time together, strolling through the streets, taking our time. I even had my first Italian gelato! It was so great to catch up with an old friend and I’m so thankful for our friendship.
I forgot to mention, that earlier that morning, I did go visit the Medici Chapel, which its beauty was absolutely beyond words.
That day is a day I will never forget. When challenge and adversity crosses our path, what do we do? Do we give in, and give up? Or do we use it as a catalyst to propel us forward and onward? Because, when you do face that challenge, whatever it may be, head on, your confidence then soars through the roof. As I’ve mentioned in Part 1, my confidence in myself in some ways had basically been shattered after going through PPD. Maybe your confidence in yourself is shattered or almost nonexistent. I would encourage one who feels this way to DO something about that. We can’t just sit there. Do something that scares you, that is completely out of your comfort zone. And when you do, you will find out just how capable you really are.
Anyways . . . back to the rest of my day. So after parting ways with my dear friend, I went back to my hotel and I treated myself to room service. And yes, I ordered that “melt in your mouth” steak from the hotel’s restaurant that I had had my first night there. It was so nice to relax and reflect back on the adventure I’d been having since first leaving Texas a mere 3 days before. The best part was knowing that my adventures were not over, because the next day I would be spending the last day of my Italian holiday in Pisa.
After saying goodbye to my husband, and walking through the airport by myself, I already felt a newfound bravery within me. I went through security, and felt relieved (that’s never fun). I found a quiet place to eat, and began to realize already that this is all new to me . . . ever since I’ve been married to Josh (we celebrated 7 years of marriage this past April!) . . . he has been with me on my travels 90% of the time. I missed him already, but I also felt an independence that I hadn’t felt in many years. At this point, I was trying not to think too much about me stepping on the plane in a couple of hours, and so I distracted myself by playing solitaire and Tetris on my phone . . . exciting stuff! Not really, but I was doing whatever I could to not feel too nervous and anxious!
I found my seat and was still pretty calm. I have flying anxiety, and so as soon as the plane started speeding down the runway, I felt my palms start sweating and my body felt weak and shaky. It was a LONG flight. I felt like I was never able to fully relax, but that my body was tense and trembling off and on. Still, I had to just push through it (I had no other choice!) and so when we made our first stop in Madrid, Spain, I felt slightly relieved that I had made it this far. There was a huge group of people, fellow Americans, that were all traveling together with a tour company. I rode on the underground tram to the other terminal alongside these people, and I felt comfort in their company. I was still anxious as a cat, but they were talking to me and they were amazed when I told them I was traveling solo. One lady even said she would never be brave enough to do that. That boosted my confidence in myself, which I believe I was needing at that point, because my nerves were on high alert.
I went through customs and eventually this group of people parted ways with me, and I felt a little sad. They were starting their tour somewhere in Spain, and a part of me felt a little bit alone for a moment. It was almost like a marathon . . . one thing on to the next, and you just have to self-talk the whole way through until you make it to the finish line.
After another 2 1/2 hour flight, my heart started racing with excitement as we started descending. That’s my favorite part of the flight, is when you can feel the plane start its descent, and of course, my absolute favorite moment is when we land. I let out a big sigh of relief when the wheels hit the tarmac.
There is nothing like the feeling when you arrive at your destination. Especially when you have never been there before. I can always literally FEEL the adrenaline in my body and a feeling in my chest like it could burst! I just want to jump around and dance! The anxiety left my body and I was smiling so big and smiling at everyone I passed by.
I grabbed my suitcase from the conveyor belt, and then stepped outside to go find a taxi. I stood in line and waited for mine. This was another first for me. I have never ridden in a taxi by myself. It was like every little step was a huge accomplishment for me and boosted my confidence. As I rode in the backseat, I looked out the window and felt like a little kid again. I listened to the driver talking on the phone in a foreign language, Italian, and it all began to sink in of where I was at and what I was doing. I felt so giddy!
The taxi finally arrived at my hotel, the Grand Hotel Baglioni, and as I walked up to the front door, I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped. It was absolutely beautiful. So elegant and sophisticated looking. And I was right in the middle of the city, which made the hotel’s location a perfect spot to just walk out your door and go explore the city.
I checked in and felt like I was treated like royalty. There were frescoes on the walls of the lounge area, where I relaxed with some aperitivos after my very long journey to get there. The hotel had an old world charm to it. I loved it.
My hotel room was quaint, but cozy and comfortable. It had a stained glass window and wooden beams on the ceiling.
At this point, I became overwhelmed. I could hear all the city noise through my window and I desperately wanted to go see the Duomo. But, fear set in. Anxiety welled up within me and I felt overwhelmed.
I had to call my husband. I told him I didn’t know what to do . . . should I just relax in my room (it was about 3:00 pm in the afternoon at this point, by the way), or should I go start exploring? I was finding every excuse in the book to stay inside my comfortable hotel room (it was raining, was one excuse) but thank goodness for my husband. I had woken him up from his sleep, but that man still gave it his all to encourage me. He said, “Go explore the city!” Fear can keep your feet glued to the floor. Glued to where you are at in the moment . . . where you are in life. But, after talking to him, I mustered up the courage to walk out my door.
I didn’t know where to go. How do you solve that? Ask questions. I asked the hotel concierge where the Duomo was, and he said to just turn left outside the hotel and walk down the street. Sounded easy to me.
The rain was gently pattering down upon my umbrella, and I took my time as I walked amongst the crowd of people. I felt calm. I felt excited. The energy of the people all around me was contagious. I walked across cobblestoned streets and stepped in rain puddles, and didn’t care that my feet were almost already soaking wet. I just kept on walking. I had a goal . . . and my goal was to see the Duomo that Florence is renowned for. That I had been seeing on pictures covering my Facebook and Instagram for months before this trip.
And when, at last, I rounded the corner and saw the red Duomo (the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) towering in the sky in the distance, I literally gasped out loud. Seeing it for the first time was even better than I could have possibly imagined. I was in absolute awe. It was almost larger than life. And the detail and beauty of its creation could make one want to cry. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest. In that moment, I felt incandescently happy. When you work hard to get where you are going, it makes achieving that goal worth every step it took you to get there.
I stared in wonder as I walked through the Piazza del Duomo and asked strangers to take my picture for me. This city was alive. It was beautiful. Breathtaking.
After taking in the sights, sounds, and smells around me, I took my time walking back to my hotel. Again, did I mention how happy I was?
That night, I had made dinner reservations at the hotel’s restaurant, called B-Roof. I had requested a table by the window, and when I walked into the restaurant and saw the panoramic, floor to ceiling windows that had a view of all of Florence, including the Duomo, I again couldn’t help but gasp out loud. It was one of the most amazing dining experiences I’ve ever had. I’m all about views, and this view might be at the top of the list of places I’ve dined. The service was incredible. I felt like a queen. This is what I had: “Tagliatadi manzo alla griglia, fagioli all’olio e contorni di stagione” (or, in English – “seasoned, sliced grilled beef, cannellini beans in olive extra-virgin oil and vegetables in season.” Oh man, I do believe that is THE best meal I’d ever had. The steak sprinkled with sea salt and flavored to perfection was so tender it just melted in my mouth. I love to eat, by the way, and so I was in heaven as I savored every bite. The glowing candlesticks on the table added to the romantic ambiance, and my heart longed for Josh to be sitting across the table from me. It made me happy at the thought of bringing him back with me one day, and sitting at this exact table. As night settled in, the Duomo became illuminated in the dark sky. I took my time enjoying these moments, and then finally headed back to my room where I soon fell fast asleep.
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
– John Augustus Shedd
This was it. It was finally time. After months of planning, researching, and dreaming, I was about to embark on an adventure that I had been craving and needing for years now. Not just a typical “vacation” to get away, although, yes, this stay at home mommy was needing a break, but that was not the purpose or intent of this trip. I was about to set sail (or hop a plane) and was about to leave behind my safe harbor. I was about to take my first ever solo trip. Across the world. Thousands of miles away. Away from my family. My comforts. My what had become to me….my “lifelines.”
A few months ago, I wrote a post about my soon to be solo trip. I briefly mentioned that there were reasons as to why I needed to go on this solo venture, but I did not explain why I was doing this.
I feel like the “why” is important. Sometimes we don’t even know why. Often times, for me, to travel is simply because it makes me feel alive. It’s intoxicating. Exhilarating.
Maybe some of you who have gone on a solo trip can understand. Your “why” might not be the same as mine, but in some way I can almost guarantee that you can relate on some level. Maybe you’ve gone through something really difficult in your life, as I had.
A few years ago, after my husband Josh and I had our first baby, I experienced something very painful and scary. A month after our daughter was born, I was completely blindsided by postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. It rocked and shook our world. It was a traumatic time – a mountain that I didn’t think I was going to be able to conquer. Thankfully, I owe my healing that I finally found, I owe that to God. But I also know that my husband was crucial in my healing. He fought alongside me and held up the sword in battle when my arms became too heavy. He is indeed my hero. He never abandoned me. I thank God for him. Because of this painful time, although the PPD “only” lasted about 4 months, it became a life changing experience for both Josh and I. Looking back now, we see how it changed our marriage. When you go through a battle with someone, there is a bond, a comradeship, that you can’t ever fully put into words. It ended up being a beautiful thing for our marriage, and our love for each other grew tenfold.
My family and friends were there for me and helped me get through my darkest days.
And so, after going through something so intense, traumatic, and painful … after that event is over, you find yourself still reeling after it’s over. You find that yes, good things DID come from something so terrible.
Perhaps you have experienced an event in your life where it left you feeling this way. If you have, I am truly sorry. It is not easy to move on after such a trying time . . . but, along the way, I’ve learned that, no matter what, we have to keep moving forward.
PPD lied to me while I was in the thick of it, and it has also lied to me since finding my “healing”. It’s been a journey.
One of the lies it made me believe is that I failed. I malfunctioned.
But something I kept noticing in my journaling, is that it made me feel like I was incapable.
Taking myself completely out of my comfort zone and challenging myself to the very core . . . traveling by myself, across the vast ocean, to a foreign country to a land where I did not speak the language . . . yep, that sounded like just the challenge I needed.
I needed to believe in myself again.
So, I chose Italy.
And here it was. Time to go. April 9th, 2018. Departure day.
I have struggled quite a bit with anxiety since going through PPD, and it’s a struggle that comes and goes. And so, I had had my doubts, and shed several tears in the days leading up to my solo trip to Italy. All the ‘What If’s’ that played in my head were beyond count. And so many times, I even said out loud to Josh, “I can’t do this. Let’s just cancel the trip.”
It was a Monday, and my husband drove me to DFW. Along the way, I was debating whether or not I wanted him to come inside with me and help me get checked in for my flight. Part of me wanted him there to help me with at least this part, and to be with me for as long as possible, but I also knew that this might make saying goodbye even harder – it would prolong the goodbye.
At the last minute, I told him to just go ahead and drop me off. This was one of the best decisions I made for this trip. Josh had suggested that it might be even more helpful for me if I do this whole thing ALL by myself, even from the checking in point. And even in that moment, as I hugged him tightly beside our car at the curb of the airport, I felt a courage fill me to my core. Was I scared? Nervous. Oh yes! But I had a belief that I could do this. And what a feeling that is that we must cling to when we do believe in ourselves! Those moments are so important.
I waved goodbye, and walked in the airport, and thus began the start of my solo journey.
In less than a couple months, I will be going on my first solo trip. First solo trip. Ever. Of course, I’ve flown by myself before domestically, but I’ve had friends and family waiting for me at my destination. Not so this time. I will be crossing the pond, flying internationally by myself. If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I have traveled internationally before, but I’ve had my husband with me. So this time is really different.
I will be going to a place I’ve always dreamed of since I was a little girl. Italy! I find myself constantly daydreaming about my future adventure and sometimes the excitement is so high it almost makes my chest hurt!
But, at the same time, there are days when I start REALLY thinking about this solo journey. I think about all the logistics. The step by step process of getting from my house to the long plane rides to reaching my final destination. I start thinking of everything, all the details, and then all of the “what if’s”. I soon find myself overwhelmed with a thing called anxiety. And there are days when I say out loud, “I can’t do this. What am I thinking?” And then I say to myself, “I’m just going to have to cancel the trip.” And I feel defeated before the adventure has even begun. It’s in those moments that I don’t have the confidence in myself that I CAN do this. Doubt and worry, oh my, they can really mess with us and interfere with our lives…steal our peace and happiness. Oh yeah, and fear. That’s a big one that I feel like I wrestle with a lot.
I am being honest here…I am not sugarcoating how travel can be, at least for me sometimes. I love traveling just about more than anything in this world, but I have travel anxiety. General anxiety. So it makes it a little difficult sometimes to enjoy the journey. Maybe some of you out there can relate. We know all the motivational quotes out there about enjoying the journey, but when you have anxiety it can interfere with what you truly want. And what I want IS to not dread the part of making it to my destination and just being happy and relieved when I get there, but I want an overwhelming sense of peace and calm to wash over my entire being ON the journey itself. I want to savor every step of the process that it takes of getting there. I want excitement and adrenaline to rush through my veins on the journey, even while flying (which makes me anxious, like most people!) and not just to have those feelings when I’ve arrived. For some people, it might come easy to do this, but for me it’s not so easy. It is something that has frustrated me and has hindered me at times from fully enjoying a trip. What I find myself doing is being two steps ahead in my mind, instead of being present and fully in the moment.
So, what is the point of writing all of this? I know it’s a different, more vulnerable post than I’ve written on this blog.
I write this to say that travel is not always pretty and glamorous as we all can make it appear by the pictures we take – the postcard worthy pictures. Those of us who travel know this. All the mishaps that can and do happen along the way. But it’s all part of the adventure right? (I nudge myself to believe it as I say it!) We know travel can be stressful and exhausting, and can bring out a lot of emotions, both positive and negative.
BUT…when we or I find myself being overwhelmed with anxiety, I have to remember why I am traveling in the first place.
I CHOSE to go on this solo trip, and I’ve been wanting this for myself for a long time. For various reasons, of which I won’t explain all of it now, maybe for another post, but here is one reason why. I want to grow in my self-confidence – to fully believe in myself again, because somewhere along the way after going through some things, I have lost that. I need to believe and know that “I am capable.” And so, stretching myself and getting out of my comfort zone and doing something that I believe is hard and that would be like climbing Mt. Everest – I know that it will be nourishment to my soul. To accomplish this….I can only imagine the overwhelming feeling of how proud I will feel! I know this will be so good for me.
And, of course, I am going on this journey because wanderlust is in my veins, too. Life is a gift. This world is filled with wonders, and I want to see and experience it all. Gratitude, contentment and wonder washes over my heart, mind, and soul when I am in a new place. To hear a foreign language and not understand a word that is spoken but being enamored by its sound. To appreciate a different culture and to just sit there and “people watch” and in those moments you just feel so alive. Traveling makes me feel alive. It always has. It awakens me. Fills me with passion for life.
So I must remember these things. I am afraid to travel solo, yes, but one of my favorite quotes inspires me to keep on dreaming and to not press the “cancel” button. Oh, the regret I would feel if I did that! “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” (George Addair). I will not let fear have a say; it will not keep me from my dreams.
And, I will end with another favorite quote of mine;
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu
For anyone who’s explored Central America or the Caribbean, the beautiful country of Belize has probably been in the queue for potential places to visit. For us, Belize was the only choice – more specifically, the small settlement village of San Pedro located on Amergris Caye. Just for a little bit of history: Belize was formerly British Honduras, and is now an independent Commonwealth realm on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered by Mexico to the north, and to the south & west by Guatemala. The beautiful waters of the Carribean Sea surround the east of Belize.
The 30 minute flight in our puddle jumper aircraft from Belize City (the capital of Belize) to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye was one [flight] which we’ll never forgot! The plane seemed to just barely clear the end of the blacktop runway and catch enough uplift for takeoff – but, it somehow happened . . . and we were on our way! We’d never flown in such a tiny aircraft – one which was equipped with a whopping 8 seats. Despite the size of the aircraft, which only seemed to become increasingly smaller as we gained altitude, the views were huge – sweeping panoramas of the verdant jungles, snaking rivers and crystal clear waters – outstandingly beautiful.
As we landed in the tiny Central American city of San Pedro, located on the southern-most region of Ambergris Caye, we were instantly shocked – not only by the beauty we’d witnessed from the air, but also the third-world feel as we stepped off of the airplane. Everything about San Pedro was different from any other country we’d visited during our travels around the globe, including the primary mode of transportation, which is golf cart – everything was perfect and we knew an adventure was ahead of us!
As this was our first visit to Central America, we were unsure as to what we’d find upon arrival. To our pleasant surprise, we were greeted by friendly faces, including the immigration officers, shop-keepers and locals, all who welcomed us with open arms to their small country. We knew immediately we had chosen well in terms of the country we wished to visit during our first trip to Central America.
Upon arrival to San Pedro, we were taxied via golf cart from the terminal a/k/a ‘garage’ to the most incredible, relaxing, and accommodating resort on the Caye, being Ramon’s Village. While we did take advantage of the affordable jet-ski rentals and the thrilling open-water shark scuba dive at the Aug Hol Chan Marine Reserve, our Central American getaway was primarily gear towards R&R. Ramon’s Village was perfect and suited our every need, including booking excursions as mentioned above.
Ramon’s Village offers dive site trips, including the famous ‘Blue Hole’ at their dock located on-property!
The food – ahhhh . . . so wonderful and so fresh. The fish tacos were out of this world!
After filling up on fish tacos, we headed out to the Reef for the dive of our lives! A big thumbs up and thank you to our guides! Just a 30 minute boat trip from Ramon’s Village to the Hol Chan Marina Reserve on the Reef will yield an experience of a lifetime! A must-do when visiting Ambergris Caye.
All in all, Ambergris Caye was fantastic and the ultimate destination for anyone who’s looking for relaxation and/or adventure!
Thanks for stopping by – safe travels!