2016: A Story in Three Parts

As another year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.

By global standards, 2016 was pretty much a train wreck.  Personally, though, it was a beautiful journey that I will tell in three parts.

INTRODUCTION:

A year ago, I was an unemployed college graduate with no idea of what I wanted to do with myself.  You see, for the majority of my life, my intuition has been my guide.  Until this point, early every major life decision has been guided by instinct.  College?  My gut lead me to the right fit.  Major?  My heart found home in the English Department.  Work at camp in the summers?  It just felt right.

The future, however, holds infinite possibilities and the prospective paths had me absolutely paralyzed.  I had absolutely no idea of anything.  My intuition, the little tug that pulls me in the next direction, had failed.

So, at the beginning of 2016, I felt my heart tugging me back to Europe and, against all logic, I followed. Continue reading

Traveling Solo: Thoughts From the Road

I’m about two weeks into my European adventure… and boy, is it going fast.  It feels like yesterday that I was preparing to leave L’Abri and now I’ve been to Scotland, Holland, and Germany.  There are so many posts I want to write, but every time I sit down, I’m too exhausted to find the words.

(On a side note, if you want more frequent updates, I post photos regularly on Instagram.  My username is ameliab648.  I keep my account private, so send a request.)

Maybe some day, I’ll tell you about the two days I spent in Utrecht with my Dutch friends, Jorijn and Petra.  Maybe someday, I’ll tell you about wandering the beautiful town of Heidelberg, Germany.  Maybe someday, I’ll tell you about all the footage I’m taking on my phone for videography projects.

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Heidelberg, Germany
Today, though, I’ll tell you that traveling alone is hard, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.  After months surrounded by people all the time, it is sometimes comforting to be alone. Sometimes, though, it’s not.  It’s lonely and, at points, I long for someone to share my adventures with.  Often times, I’ll go a full day without having a single conversation.  When I come to stretches of my journey where I’m staying with people, I find it hard to stop talking.  All the words that have been building rush out.

So far, I have only had one emotional meltdown and that was because I forgot to take care of my basic needs.  When you haven’t eaten or slept for a long time, your body tends to shut down.  In order to pay for all the museums and castles (and ensure that I’ll still have money when I get home) I’m keeping myself on a tight budget, so most of my meals have been supermarket food–sandwiches, yogurt, bananas, salad, nuts.  It’s healthy food and keeps me going.  I do like to splurge once in every country to try an authentic meal.

I’ve learned that half the battle is the hostel.  When living on the road, it’s important to feel secure in the place you sleep.  No matter where I am, I see my bed as a safe place, a refuge from the chaos of the world.  My bed is my temporary home. In it, I can relax, breathe, and have peace.  There are other things, though, that make or break a hostel: cleanliness, locker space in the rooms, plugs by every bed, good wifi, and a self service kitchen.  It’s important to know that my laptop and phone will have a place to charge, that my belongings will be secure when I am gone, and that I can cook a hot meal for myself.

As I journey from place to place on busses, trains, and airplanes, I usually pass the time with a book.   I’m reading That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, the final novel in his Space Trilogy.  It’s a pretty heavy book, so I’m taking my time with it. Being in the Scottish Highlands put me in the mood for Susanna Kearsley, who writes historical romances.  I’ve finished The Winter Sea and am close to the end of The Firebird.

Another important part of any adventure is the soundtrack!  Music helps me stay sane as I wait out long bus rides and navigate strange cities.  Since its release on Friday, I’ve been listening non-stop to The Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra. Here’s the title track:

I wish I could write more, but I’m off to catch my bus to Nuremberg… Until next time!

European April

Once again, I find myself beginning a journey.

Leaving L’Abri yesterday morning nearly broke my heart.  I don’t feel up to writing about it at the moment… partially because it’s still so raw.  Also, I stepped straight into another adventure and haven’t had time to process everything.

So how about we talk about my travel plans?  You see, for the month of April, Keep Your Feet is becoming a travel blog as I make my way across Europe.

I’ve been waiting my whole life for this trip.  Yes, I travelled as much as I could during my semester abroad two and a half years ago.  This is different, though.  I have no school holding me back.  In fact, I have nothing holding me back!  It’s just me, my backpack, and a small carry-on with wheels for the next month.

My itinerary is PACKED.  I’m spending approximately a week in Scotland, Holland, Germany, Austria, and four days in the Czech-Republic.  When I head back to America on April 29, I’m going to be two things: broke and exhausted.  It’s going to be worth it.

Technically, my journey began last night.  I’m currently located in the village of Portree on the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands.  Last night, I caught a bus from London to Edinburgh… which almost was a terrible idea.  The bus was supposed to get to Edinburgh at 6:30 AM.  Due to a series of delays, it actually got there at 8:40 AM–ten minutes AFTER my bus tour was scheduled to leave.  Thankfully, I’ve been to Edinburgh before, knew my way around, and was able to catch my tour.

Although I’m physically and emotionally exhausted from leaving L’Abri, I’m already having a marvelous time.  After spending three months surrounded by people, it’s nice to be independent again.  It’s also nice to have Internet!  The Highlands are absolutely stunning.  I’ve recognized several stops from my last time through, but there have been many unexpected surprises–such as a photo-op at Eilean Castle.  I get to tour it on Friday, so this is just a sneak peak!

  
Stay tuned for more #EuropeanApril

England Bound

Today is the day.  I’m still a mixed bag of emotions, but am ready for what lies ahead.

On the threshold of a journey, I can’t help but think of the quote that inspired the title of this blog:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

This quote goes with me not only in my heart, but physically.  I got a necklace bearing Tolkien’s words for Christmas (Pictured below).

It’s a dangerous, wonderful, messy, beautiful world.  As I go, I need to keep my feet, always remembering who I am and where I came from, lest I lose my way.

Sadly, I can’t promise frequent blog posts from this point onward.  Once I reach L’Abri, I’ll be relatively off the grid.  But, hopefully, I’ll be able to find ways to post every once and a while.

So, dear readers, wish me luck.  The time has come to step onto the road and begin my journey…

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The Last Full Day

Tomorrow, I’m getting on a flight to England.

In many ways, preparing for a journey is simple.  Make a list of all the things that need to be done, line up the details, and cross them off one by one.  Pack my bags, print out flight details, and marathon the final season Downton Abbey.  (I can’t go to the UK without knowing how it ends!)

However, there are things you can’t put on a list and cross off… like emotions.

In many ways, I’m really excited to finally be on my way.  For months, I’ve been dreaming, waiting, and hoping for this journey.  It boggles my mind to think that, one week from now, I will be at L’Abri living a completely different life.

But… excitement isn’t all I’m feeling.

I’m also nervous.  Nervous about travel plans, nervous about logistics, nervous about details.  In my head, I know everything will be just fine.  The last time I flew overseas, I missed my flight and they lost my luggage, causing me to hyperventilate in the middle of the Air Canada Customer Service line.  Even if the worst happens, I know I can handle it.  But that doesn’t stop the fluttering in my stomach.

More than anything, I’m sad.  I love my family and home so much.  I’ve loved living here for the past nine months.  I’ve cherished every moment.  There are a thousand of things I’m going to miss: family dinners, sleeping in my own bed, cuddling with my cats, going for walks in the orchard…  As thrilling as change is, it’s also really hard.  Whether I come home in four months as planned or in a year, things will never go back to the way they are now.  This time at home has been, in many ways, a return to childhood.  But I’m twenty three.  I can’t be a child forever.  It’s time to grow up and move on.

I’m thirsty for adventure, but adventure comes at a cost.  Striking out solo, getting on an airplane for the other side of the world, chasing the horizon is thrilling.  But it comes with the pain of being separated from people and places I deeply love.

Ultimately, I need to go.  I feel it deep within my very being.  If I don’t take this chance, I’ll always wonder.

I’ll end this post with a quote from the book Love Does by Bob Goff.

“Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, ‘Let’s go do that together.'”

This trip is me responding to this invitation.  Whatever happens from here will be bigger and more beautiful than anything I can imagine.

In Transit

I admit, this is not my first blog.  I’ve been blogging since the tender age of fifteen.  I am now twenty-one.

The thing about being a college student is that your life is never stable.  You’re in this weird in-between place where you’re not a kid anymore, but you’re not fully an adult.  You live in this weird scholarly bubble that includes essay writing, attending lectures, eating pasta constantly for dinner, and increasing stress as finals loom closer.  You can see the outside world, but it’s shrouded by the weird haze of “someday”.

Nothing stays the same.  You go back to your hometown over school breaks and the businesses on main street are different.  At home, your parents suddenly start making plans to convert your bedroom, that safe place and heart of your childhood, into a sewing room, home office, or guest room.  People you have known for years suddenly start getting married and having babies–often not in that order.  The ties that once held you to home begin to stretch and fade, leaving you suspended in “where do I go from here?” land.

Right now, my life is definitely in transit.  I just returned home to the United States from a semester studying abroad in London.  Living in a foreign country for three and a half months is a wonderful, but strange experience.  Although you try your hardest to stay in touch with people back home, life gets in the way.  So you build a new life where you’re at.  But then, just like that, the semester is over and you go back to your old life.  But, like with home, your ties have faded.  You know they’ll soon be reestablished, but until that happens, you’re stuck in this weird place where you’re not quite sure where you fit.

That’s why I’ve started this blog.  After spending three and a half months on my travel blog (which I put lots of effort into and you should all go read), I had planned on returning to my normal space, the place I’ve been writing since I was fifteen.  But I soon realized that wasn’t going to work.  I’m not fifteen anymore.  My original intentions for blogging are different from what they used to be.  I need to start fresh.

The title from this blog comes from one of my favorite quotes:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Metaphorically, Tolkien hits the nail on the head.  Growing up is stepping into the world.  You leave home, go to college, live abroad, get a job, etc.  The world is a big, sometimes scary place, filled with dangers.  If you don’t watch your step, it can easily sweep you away.    You have to know yourself, know your mission, and you have to stick to it.  You have to hold tightly to who you are.  You have to keep your feet.

But, despite its dangers, the world is also an incredibly beautiful place, filled with wonders to explore and learn.  If you keep your feet firmly on the path and your eyes set on the horizon, you’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.

So, feel free to join me on my journey into adulthood.  I can’t promise what this blog will bring, just as I don’t know what lies in store.  But, I suppose, that’s part of the adventure.  Let’s step onto the road and begin…