The sun has long ago set, the shops have closed, city life is subsiding, but I can’t bring myself to go in. The night is too perfect, the weather too beautiful, and I’m acutely aware that my time here is about to expire. I sip my tea, aimlessly roaming the streets of Warsaw, mesmerized by the cobblestone, the perfectly lined colorful buildings, and find myself at a castle in the old town. I can still hear the faint music of performers in the old town square, also savouring every last-minute of the perfect Polish summer night.
I climb the castle wall and find a cozy spot to sit, to reflect on my journey. I was so afraid to go – afraid that I’d be lonely, I wouldn’t meet anyone, I wouldn’t make it, afraid of the unknown. I can’t imagine my life now without the experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met, and the places I’ve seen. I had no idea how far I’d get in the journey that unraveled from the pain of losing a job, and the freedom of not being tied down.
In fact, I have felt lonely, afraid, unsure, I’ve also felt happy, wonder, love, frustration, and many more things I can’t even begin to describe. It was all worth it, and even in the moments when I felt alone or afraid, they passed quickly and I was again surrounded by friends. The reality is that traveling isn’t easy! It’s messy, complicated, uncertain, confusing, but also incredibly rewarding. I constantly find myself in challenging situations abroad, and sometimes successfully (other times not so gracefully) navigate my way through them. I’ve cried, laughed, missed trains, had Typhoid, snatched my purse back from a purse snatcher, climbed, fallen, and learned a lot about the world and about myself.
Alas, I sit on the castle wall and I’m content. I know it will end soon, but I’m content. I can find this space of contentment just as easily in St Louis, MO surrounded by friends and family as I can sitting alone on a castle wall in Warsaw, Poland. So, how has this trip changed me? I don’t know. What I do know is that the places I’ve seen have left me in awe, but the people I’ve shared the journey with have made it magical. I cherish the moments I’ve shared with people from around the world and I’ll carry the feelings/ memories with me as long as I can. I slowly slip down from the wall, smiling at the night before starting a new journey. I laugh at my silly fears – I’m still just as unsure and afraid of the unknown.