2 weeks. 4 countries. 7 cities.
I’ve recently returned from Europe — my first trip to Europe! A European getaway has been a long time coming, a dream that’s almost manifested many times before. In fact, this one was supposed to happen a year ago, but I reluctantly postponed it due to a relapse into the depths of chronic fatigue. I’m not one to let my illness get in the way of things, nor do I use it as an excuse to avoid doing things that are scary and new to me, so it really hurt to admit to myself that I needed to fully devote myself to another phase of my healing.
I’ve been fighting against the urge to downplay my travels — the perpetual pushback against the stereotypical feminine construct as meek and unvalued — because it seems like these days everyone goes everywhere. But no matter how many world travellers and wanderlusters I follow on Instagram, I have to remind myself that not everyone lives like that. We all have our own paths and our own moments of unabashed elation. So yes, this trip was a very big deal for me, and I’ll highlight a few of the major reasons why.
Firstly, from the most tender and personal place, this was — alongside attending a couple of punk shows in the last year, reuniting with my beloved bicycle, and officially starting up Vegan and Beyond Lifestyle Coaching — another inch out of the quicksand of chronic illness. Here’s something I wrote on Instagram that I feel perfectly captures my sentiments:
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Spanish Civil War bunker in Barcelona. #antifascist Almost exactly 5 years ago, I lay in bed with vertigo so bad that I couldn't even look at a computer, read a book, get up to get water. My stomach was so messed up that I couldn't eat and dropped over 40 pounds, looking skeletal and sickly. My breathing was so compromised that every night when I went to bed, I, terrified, asked my partner if I was going to die in my sleep. #moldexposure ✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨ Five years later, life is still no piece of 🍰. I still have days that require more self-care than usual. I still have days that I need to stay in bed. I still say no to social events way too often because of how I'm feeling. And I'm still confronted with a medical system that doesn't believe in my body's sensitivities. 🙅 But, my life is infinitely richer, I live with a purpose, I have passions that refuse to be shut away.🙌 I am happier than ever, and I'm beginning to fulfill dreams long held. I am finally, finally, finally in Europe, my 3rd continent so far. I am in countries where I get to practice speaking my favorite languages. I'm redeeming the past chances I thought I'd get. This is a big deal and also it isn't…Because it's who I am; the explorer, the questioner, the one who always keeps her eyes open on a roller coaster, at a haunted house, in those moments in which you just *know* you're not strong enough but you just keep them open and when you get to the other side think to yourself "well, that wasn't so bad.". When I landed in Spain, I shed tears for all I'd lost as well as all I was soon to gain. Life, man, it's heavy stuff. It's beautiful and tragic and worth every second. ✌💗🙏
Secondly, through my travels I’ve gained perspective in more effortlessly owning my authenticity. Anyone who struggles with a long-term illness will relate to how parts of ourselves are often dulled in fight and recovery processes. We struggle with feeling not ourselves because we have to set pieces of ourselves aside for one reason or another. For people like me who value authenticity so highly, it can feel like we are being fake or acting like a stranger even though it is the illness robbing us of our full spectrum of self. Several synchronicities have occurred recently that have let me know it is time to reclaim some of these neglected pieces and have guided me in reintegrating these lost parts of myself, and travel has pushed these synchronicities to elephantine proportions.
Lastly, my Euro travel has cemented all certainty that I am doing the purposeful work that is meant for me. Because this trip was a celebration of my illness, struggle, resilience, and vitality, I gave myself permission to sideline the blog and the business for the sake of fully immersing myself in this momentous event. Even so, my brain flooded with project ideas, and I was jotting down one inspirational thought after another. It’s crazy to me that activities that don’t have anything to do with my calling can still solidify the path that I’ve chosen and inspire my creative self. I have so many new ideas and directions that I want to incorporate into my work, and being in these different settings has given me a clearer — not crystal, but we’ll get there! — vision of how that can be done. Travel is powerful.