16 weeks. 42 countries. And it is time to bid farewell to Europe - for now.
While I haven’t been as active in blogging as I would like to (it’s hard to keep up with when you are moving this quickly), one thing that I think I will put an effort into keeping up is my monthly reflection posts. It’s an opportunity to look back at where I’ve gone, what I’ve learned, done, seen, and experienced. Yesterday - as I entered my 37th country since my departure - marked three full months of being on the move across Europe so it’s time to do just that. So for this reflection post, I thought I would compile a list of 37 things that happen when you backpack long term and at a fast pace. Or at least 37 things that have happened to me.
A little over a year ago, the chilly fall weekend before Halloween, I made my first international solo trip. Sure, I had travelled solo within the United States many times and gone abroad a number of times with family or friends. I had even moved abroad - but I had an almost instantaneous support system thanks to my university and the nature of student life. Even with these past travel experiences, at that time even the prospect of travelling alone to a foreign country where I knew no one and didn't speak the language seemed absolutely ridiculous. I remember getting off the plane in Luxembourg City, feeling anxious about navigating the bus to the city-centre, where I would then get the train to Esh-sur-Alzette to meet my AirB&B host. What if I can't figure out how to buy a ticket? What if I miss my stop? What if the bus just doesn't show up? What if I get on the wrong train? What if my AirB&B host doesn't show? I was practically sweating I was so nervous.
When I told one of my friends who had been to Malta just a few months ago that I would be spending 6 days here, he told me I would be bored. It's a small country with not much to do, he said. And while it is small, and the sites are limited compared to other destinations, there is plenty to do and I was far from bored. Every day I spent in Malta my love for the tiny nation grew and grew.
Travel rarely goes as planned which is not always a bad thing. And the chances of things changing increases when you’re with a group and have more people to coordinate. Today we were initially going to split into two groups to go see the Radavc Caves and waterfall – one group leaving earlier in the morning and the other group (including me) would sleep in a bit and stay for a shorter period of time. But one thing led to another and we ended up all going together, with the exception of Calvin who stayed back to do his own thing.
We live in a world where, according to society, trans people don't deserve to exist. The basic act of being alive - of breathing, of resisting this societal standard - is in itself revolutionary. It took me a long time to understand that and realise the value in my own life. I spent too much time believing that the path which society has set forth for trans people was the only option. It took taking a leap of faith and going on a trip with ten total strangers across Siberia in the middle of winter to truly discover that there's more to life than what is expected of me.
Between jet-lag and a late night, most of my fellow Monsooners decided to sleep in this morning. I woke up at 9:00, which for me is still sleeping in, and decided to go for a run through the city. I haven't gone for a run in a while so anticipated a short one or two mile run. But once I got started, it just felt right so the next thing I knew I was doing a four mile run with some sprint intervals and hills training.