Below is a photo of my passport. Originally issued in 2009, it expired two months ago, in April, having reached its 10-year maturity date. Inside are two stamps, one from Nice, France and the other, from Amsterdam. My first and only visit to Europe was when I was a 21-year-old college student, apprehensive and distracted and unconvinced the trip was a good idea.
Easily swayed at the time, a new friend convinced me the trip would be an experience of a lifetime and an easy way to earn college credit. Seeing her perspective, I started to agree, believing this could be the experience I always hoped I’d have in college.
Given my personal struggles throughout my college career thus far, I started to see this trip as a chance to turn it all around, though as the date of the trip approached, fear started to mount.
Suddenly nothing was right; my luggage, clothing and mindset. Worries and fears started to swirl within my mind and all I wanted was to cancel my plans. Though reluctantly, to Europe I went, carrying with me the deep-seeded apprehensions and fears. Stuck in the Heathrow Airport in London for 12 hours, we finally made it to France. Beyond that, those few days I spent in Europe are a blur.
Last night, as I read before bed, my memory of this very trip was sparked at mention of France between the pages. For the first time in years, I realized I’d been so far removed from being emotionally present at the trip that I hadn’t a clue the name of the hotel where I stayed or really anywhere I ventured during that brief time.
Days after arriving, I purchased a plane ticket home much to the shock of others who couldn’t seem to understand my impulsive choice. The truth was and still is, it wasn’t FOR THEM to understand; it was my choice and for me, only. We all have a small voice inside of us that I truly believe will never steer us wrong if we listen to it. At the time, I was not taking care of me and by remaining in Europe at that time, it only would have exacerbated my lack of self-care further.
So I flew, across the country on my own, first flying from France to Amsterdam, then to New York City’s JFK airport where my mom and sister, Hope drove the two hours to pick me up. The only thing I could think of in that moment was being home. When I arrived home and several days later drove by myself down familiar roads, I was never so grateful to see the familiar signs and landscapes. For the first time, I started to appreciate all I had and realized I could be and was brave.
The moral of this European trip? It taught me my strength, my ability to adjust my sails in the wake of personal turmoil and to listen to the voice that stays with me every day: my own. Your journey is yours and yours alone; don’t let anyone try to walk it for you. Pave your own way and know, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”