This year is going to be my year of traveling. After years of trying to find what makes me happy (as in really, really, madly happy) I’ve learned that traveling is one of those rare things that fulfills me. And after the last couple of months, which have been really difficult, I’ve promised myself to do a lot more of what makes me happy. The thing is though, I still have a job to keep; I’m not blessed with untold riches so I also need to fund my expensive hobby. However, my happiness is not in traveling all the time. I’m quite content with having an everyday life where I can put my knowledge to the test at my work, binge watch Homeland any given Sunday, cook food, pet my beloved cats and long home for the weekend just to be able to open up a bottle of wine. But I get bored quickly and need a trip to look forward to every now and then.
I have always been curious of the world, of other people and other cultures. I wanted to explore it all but always put my traveling plans aside due to insufficient funds and no friends who shared this passion. So it wasn’t until 2009, when I was 22 years old, that I fell in love with traveling. It was me, my best friend at the time, and a rented scooter in the island of Rhodes, Greece.
I had a rough year; I saw the end of a relationship, me suddenly living alone and paying all the bills, getting out of a depression and having almost daily panic attacks. All the while, I was running my own company and studied full-time at the university. Ambition is my middle name! So when summer came, I really needed a break. I took a week out of my schedule (which is difficult when you’re the one in charge of your own salary) and decided that I needed to get away. Badly. My sister worked and lived in Rhodes at the time, so me and my then-BFF decided to go there for a week. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I was single, had finally started to feel better and learned to handle those panic attacks and my finances were finally looking okay, so there was no stopping me. I was set on having fun. We lived in a pretty nice room with a huge terrace with the most amazing sunset (see picture below). We could see all the way to Turkey from there. During the days we hung out on the beach, read books and ate ice lollies. We laughed. We ate a lot of Nutella on white bread. We fought and made up. We Googled people we met the night before. We befriended the parrot in the hotel reception and tried to learn it dirty Swedish words. I guess it wasn’t appreciated though, because the parrot started to catcall men passing our hotel any time we were by the open windows.
One day we decided to explore the island and rented a scooter. I have no idea what kind of scooter they gave us because we were able to drive at more than 100 km/h, which we of course did all the time. She drove, I sat behind her holding on for dear life. Truth is, my friend did have a license for driving it, just not one that was valid in Greece. So we kindly begged someone with a real driver’s license to rent it for us while we hid around the corner. It worked.
We’d spot a little path somewhere and drive down it just to see where it would lead. Sometimes it was somebody’s house, painted in traditional white and blue, other times it was an olive tree or beautiful beaches where we went for a swim before we hopped on our little ride again, off to the next place we found. We’d slow down and say hi to the goats that were literally everywhere, wave to hot guys we saw. At one point a car came towards us, driving in the wrong direction and we had nowhere to go. I held on to my friend’s waist and thought that was it. We were going to die. But the car steered away and as we finally relaxed and thanked our lucky star that we were okay I said “It wouldn’t have mattered if we had died, because I finally felt like I would at least die happy”. That was the truth. There was nowhere I would rather have been than exploring a Greek island with my best friend at that time and it forced me to live in the moment and not to worry about what was waiting when I came back home. I still believe that living in the moment, as cliché as it may sound, is the key to happiness.
Whenever I go traveling, every problem, worry and bad thought seems to vanish and I only think about how I am going to make the most out of those days. Next week doesn’t matter. It’s all about enjoying life as it is right now, in the place I am right now. There’s something very peaceful about that.
Here’s to 2016 – my year of travels.