One of my closest friends was living in Amsterdam, and I had nothing but time. In hindsight, I actually didn't have the time to do what I did. But oh well! New me, new year...it was time to explore! In January of 2016, I set forth on a journey to see Europe. At that point, I had been to Europe before but I had never really stayed long enough to actually see multiple places.
As I was reading up on different places to go and visit, I ran across a couple female travel bloggers who were promoting the "solo female traveler" concept. This piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. One: 2015 (see 1st paragraph). Two: I needed to get out of my environment. Three: I wanted to see what freelancing and traveling abroad would look like. And four: 2015.
What I found was that traveling alone is actually very safe in Europe. Probably even safer than parts of the United States., including where I lived, Chicago. I had always thought people who traveled alone were very weird and socially awkward, OR they were 40-something year old white ladies who had been recently divorced and were trying to relive Julia Roberts’ iconic character from Eat, Pray, Love. Either way, I never thought it was for me. But to be honest, traveling with a group of women and taking family trips had run their course. More importantly, the last 2 female group trips I had been on left me falling out with one of my friends in the middle of Amsterdam Central and locked out of our house in Nicaragua with no electricity.
I had toyed with the idea of going abroad alone before. I originally wanted to be a missionary in Ireland or Scotland. (I can’t even stop laughing as I write that.) My belief was: Why are all the missionaries going to Africa? Black people aren't the only ones that need to be saved. There is a whole continent of privileged white people who need the Lord, too. And I was going to be the person to bring the gospel to them. After much research on the mission’s journey, I found that you weren't allowed to drink beer with the locals. And you couldn't date. And then there was this whole thing about balancing the Christian lifestyle, in which I kind of got into a serious debate with the admissions advisor over. Needless to say, I didn't get in.
My second option was to go get my masters somewhere -anywhere- in Europe. But I was really stuck on the UK. I think it was the whole "they speak English, too" idea. I applied to 2 School of Design Masters Programs in Scotland, and another school in the Netherlands that I can’t remember now. I got into both School of Design Programs in Scotland, but they wanted me to be there for 3 years and that was a no-go. My goal was not to come back to the states at 35 with a red-headed husband and a mixed baby with freckles and red curly hair. Chic. But, no. So after I exhausted all of my options, I decided to hold-off and think of something that wouldn't be so expensive and long term. And then 2015 happened. Which pretty much solidified that I should go away for a while and regroup, figure some things out and come back with a fresh perspective.
I knew I was going over to Amsterdam again for 2 weeks to visit friends. But what if I stayed longer? What if I worked and leisured my way through Europe?! AAHHH!!! The excitement was killing me. I was too pumped. It was time to plan. I priced everything to a tee, read as much material as I could, and organized everything from country to country. I was ready. Europe would be my oyster.
I figured this could be an amazing adventure. I’d get to explore, eat, drink, work, and meet new people. Little did I know that this adventure would be the beginning of a heavy wake up call and a whole new way of thinking for me.
But for now, it was time to pack.