I knew the first day might be awful and uncomfortable, and for the most part I was right. Everything is so foreign that the tiniest things feel like big accomplishments- finding a phone, getting an Oyster card, etc. Suddenly the idea of traveling alone seems crazy. Every second all I want to do is call my mom and ask her what to do. Where should I eat? Should I go out or rest? Every minor decision seems major and overwhelming.
Four years ago on this day I wrote this on the first page of a little red moleskin while sitting on the floor of the St Christopher’s Hostel in London, trying not to let tears drip onto the page. This is a snapshot of a woman who has just realized the gravity of the risk she took.
That was day one of my journey out into the world.
Four years ago today I decided to leave Oberlin College, leave my home, my family, friends, and everything comfortable to spend 9 months traveling and living abroad, practically alone with no itinerary after the first 3 ½ months.
In that moment there was no way that I could foresee the force that was coming my way. The force of curiosity, energy, love and everything else that carried me from country to country. There was no way I could have predicted the adventures, the people I met who inspired and changed me, the heartbreak, the discovery of passions and interests. In that first moment all I felt was the loss of what was behind me. Which is normal, I think. We grieve what we left before we can move forward.
Somehow, that first day, I found the willpower to pick myself off that hostel floor and go get some Indian food at a nearby restaurant. I made friends in the lobby with an Australian woman who loves Jane Austen as much as I do and a handsome Irish doctor. A week later I found myself an apartment and started my inspiring internship at Tender for the following three months, in which time I visited the National Gallery almost every other weekend.
I continued moving forward through Paris, Ireland, Amsterdam, northern Norway, Belgium, Spain, my first two-month stint in Tangier, Cyprus, and Italy.
What’s incredible is that trip was only the beginning. After a bleak summer at home in Minneapolis trying to figure out what I was doing with my life, I booked a one-way ticket to Iceland and spent two weeks there on the most breath-taking tour of the country.
From there, wanting to find a new dance scene, I moved on to Berlin. I stayed aimlessly for three months, feeling like a lost child in a cold forest of grey and graffiti, and finally the longing for sunshine brought me running back to Tangier.
Four years ago today, how could I have known that I was starting a hurricane? A whirlwind of emotions and events would follow, swept along into the eye of the storm, shaking my core and making it stronger.
Four years ago, if you had told me that in 2016 I would be living as a choreographer and dance teacher in Tangier, Morocco, married to a wonderful Moroccan man who was one of my first dancers in a project here, and continuing to travel and have adventures, I would have laughed and made some indignant comment about marrying young.
Never say never.
As I was flipping through that old, weatherworn red moleskin today, I also stumbled on something I wrote near to the end of that first trip. It said:
There is a purpose for everything. You may not know why you’re making a decision at the start of it, but by the end there will be a reason. Everything is a life lesson, an experience, a blessing in disguise, or just a damn good story.
I still firmly believe this. Call it fate, call it destiny, call it whatever you want, but it holds true.
A hell of a lot can happen in four years.