I had been traveling for almost 3 months and the end of my journey was quickly approaching. As I walked towards the last hostel that I would stay at in Europe; I was fully accustomed to life on the road. Searching for hostels late at night, living out of my backpack and trying to live each day to the fullest had become commonplace. Strangers seemed to become friends with the smallest effort, and cultural differences disappeared quickly and casually.
I was not ready for my trip to be over. I initially thought that after 3 months on the road I would be eager to return home; back to familiarity. That was not the case. I dreaded my return flight back to America and I continued to put off any serious thought as to what my plans would be after returning to America. All I knew was that I had found something in traveling that I had never found before and I wasn’t eager for it to end.
With those thoughts, I walked up to Hostel One in Barcelona, Spain. It would turn out to be my favorite hostel in Europe and the events that took place there dramatically altered my future in a positive way. I originally planned on staying in Barcelona for 4 nights. Because of the people I met and the atmosphere at the hostel though, I extended my stay for the remaining two weeks I had in Europe.
Barcelona is a favorite amongst Europeans. From what I can tell it is where Europeans go on vacation and it is not hard to see why. It’s sunny, has awesome beaches, famous Gaudi architecture, cool parks, famous fountains, and everything else you might expect from a vacation destination.
While I was in Barcelona I met a handful of memorable people. I can’t name all of them but they are people who changed my life in many different ways. Maybe I enjoyed Barcelona so much because it was my last big hoorah in Europe; or maybe I was just lucky to show up when so many like-minded people were visiting the hostel. I don’t think that’s it though. I think Europe changed something in me. It was nothing overly dramatic or even visible, but something in the way I viewed the world had changed. My perspective on life was different, I was quicker to laugh, more optimistic, happier living in the moment, even willing to tell a story in a group (as an introvert that was a big thing for me)!
In Barcelona I met an English guy who told me that, “a good story is in the details” … It’s just something that stuck with me and I took that advice with me. I discovered the craze surrounding international soccer by watching Messi and FC Barcelona play at the Barcelona Stadium. I saw the greatest fountain, architecture, and beaches I had ever seen during those 2 weeks. I hung out with people from England, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, Korea, America, Brazil, and of course … Canadians (see below).
I remember talking to my dad on the phone shortly before leaving Europe. He said, “Well, it sounds like you had the trip of a lifetime!” … At the time I remember thinking, ‘It wasn’t the trip of a lifetime, it was the trip that started a lifetime.’
- Meeting Jess -
There is kind of an unspoken rule amongst backpackers and travelers. You will meet some of the coolest people you will ever meet, have experiences you will never forget, and then part ways. People say they will stay in touch; sometimes they become facebook friends and chat for a few weeks then stop. Other times they exchange emails and stay in touch for a couple months. The fact is though, when you make friends on the road you will rarely stay in touch with them. More times than not, you will only be left with your memories. It’s unlikely in the first place, that 2 peoples’ paths can intersect and intertwine so well when they are traveling. But, people are their best selves on the road; once they return to reality their personalities can change abruptly.
Her name was Jess and she was traveling for 2 weeks with her friend in Europe. She was staying at the same hostel as me and we discovered that we had quite a few things in common. Over the next couple weeks, we ended up sight seeing, hanging out, and wandering around Barcelona in the middle of the night. Like most traveling stories I imagined we would part ways after a couple weeks, stay in touch for a bit and then stop talking all together. That said, I met a Canadian girl in Barcelona!
This time proved to be a bit different though. After my last two weeks in Europe I returned, less-than-enthusiastically, back to America and reality. As I frantically tried to ease back into normalcy and at the same time, resist the acclimation process back into every-day-society; I managed to stay in touch with Jess. She had gone back to Canada and me back to the US; but we continued to talk on Skype and Facebook. Eventually she decided to come and meet me in Tacoma. It was a rare and somewhat daunting thing for both of us, but we quickly realized that we got along just as well in the real world as we did as travelers.
Eventually, I went to Canada to meet up with her as well. Things were going well, but at the same time I was getting anxious to get back on the road. It took me a month or two back home to realize that I would never ease back into “normal” life again … at least not without a fight. It was then that I started interviewing for jobs Teaching English in China …
On a long shot I decided to ask Jess if she wanted to go. It was all pretty crazy and things were moving ridiculously fast, but she seemed to be into the idea and I was into her … so we went along with it! She was Canadian, I was American, we met in Spain, and were talking about moving to China after a few months… That could never work out, right?
I ended up accepting a teaching job in China and started working September 1st, 2013. I fixed up my house, signed the selling papers from Canada, and had some good friends clear out a storage unit in Texas before flying to China (I told them they could keep the money from selling everything, if they were willing to clear it out). Jess quit her job in Canada, found someone to take care of her dogs and moved to China to meet me after Christmas. We have been in China since then! It has been unpredictable, exciting, taken us to 3 continents and we are creeping up on our 1-year anniversary this summer… we’re excited to see where the 2nd year takes us.