I wrote this almost a year and a half ago before embarking on my first big adventure. Then, it was titled ‘Five More Days’. Cheers to looking back and recalling emotions and tracking growth since then!
In just five short days I leave on my European adventure for two whole months. If you had asked me my feelings on leaving to study abroad just two weeks ago, I would have told you that I was super excited. I am still ecstatic and can’t wait for the new experiences that lie ahead, but something hit me in the last week or so… my life in Atlanta is pretty dang great. I have the best friends who are always down to have fun, I live in walking distance of all the best bars, (it’s summertime, who wouldn’t love that?), my job is great and pays well, and I have a pretty stellar internship. Not to mention my family isn’t too far away and I can see them whenever I want, and my dad comes by at least once a week for dinner and we go get our growlers filled together. So, why am I leaving? Why am I leaving this comfortable and excitingly amazing life for an entire summer?
In the words of John Green, “I go to seek a great perhaps.”
Nothing is permanent in life, and all of this stuff will be here when I get back… or it won’t. Either way, we cannot live life in just our comfort zone. One of the greatest things I have ever learned in life is that you grow the most in uncomfortable situations. Once outside of your comfort zone you are forced to see life from a new perspective and experience something different for once.
Not only have I never left the country, but I have never even been on an airplane alone! My first week in Europe will be spent in Paris, sleeping on two random guy’s couch that are so willingly providing me a free place to lay my head. From there, I have an apartment in the heart of Barcelona for a month and a half where I will be traveling around Spain on weekends. Then, I have no plans on where I will go for the weeks that follow after finishing up classes. I will go where the wind and good vibes take me. A new experience for me will also come while taking two classes at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Apparently college is different in Europe, who knew?
I can’t wait for the adventures that lie ahead and the experiences that will stay with me forever. I look forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and seeing life in a new perspective. Doing and trying new things will be a chore daily for two months. I plan to keep my American roots while seeking out new cultures. After all, I am not just a citizen of the United States or of Atlanta, Georgia, but a member of the world that belongs to all of us.
So, I go to seek a great perhaps. To learn new things. To see parts of the world I have never been. To meet new people. To be humbled. To carry the people I love always inside of me. To grow. To live in a new place. To not take as many showers. To become a greater member of the world community as a whole.
‘Two Weeks In’ [written three countries, and two weeks later]
Well, I left the states two weeks ago, but it feels like it has been so much longer. Learning to live only a day at a time does something interesting to time. You finally begin to learn to make each moment count and that living in the moment truly is a blessing.
I could tell you how beautiful London is, that the Eiffel Tower is just breathtaking, or that Barcelona is one of the most amazing places on earth. However, those are things you could figure out on your own and they really are just a surface to all that I have been learning abroad.
Alone: I would be lying if I didn’t tell you my first day abroad was long and filled with many emotions. It hit me all at once that I was completely alone in a country where I knew absolutely no one. I couldn’t make phone calls or send texts, and only had access to wifi when I was back at the hostel. So, I was completely stripped down to just Karley and was left alone with only myself and my thoughts. After a day of adventure alone and basically talking to no one, I headed back to the hostel to spend about 20 minutes in the bathroom crying like a baby. I was experiencing a feeling of alone that I never experienced before. I later discovered that breaking down like that was necessary on my journey, I had to know what it was like to completely rely on myself.
Being Still: I learned on the second day that I was going to walk miles and miles during this trip, and see amazing things. But, it would be in those moments that I was still that I could really take it all in. I discovered in London that it is one thing to look at the beauty around you, and another to actually connect and become a part of it. There are some monuments that I have gone and sat in front of alone for hours just trying to absorb all of the details and the life around it. I don’t want to be a tourist of the world, but a citizen of the world that belongs to all of us.
Survival: Going into this adventure I knew I had a brave spirit, but I also was unaware of some of the obstacles I would face. I arrived by train in Paris around 9:30 p.m. and three people tried to pick pocket me in the first ten minutes that I was there. I don’t speak their language, so it was hard figuring out where to go next. The trip to take me into the city and to the flat where I would be couchsurfing, that should have taken no more than an hour, took me almost four hours. Again, with no phone and a language barrier I got lost a few times. It was during this time in Paris that I learned there is always a way. Don’t give up hope and try everything you can… and YOU will make it. The feeling you get in the end, when you know you made it on your own, far outweighs the obstacles.
Love and Peace: In Paris, I fell in love with no one, which was according to plan. I did fall in love with myself, though, all over again. In my two weeks so far I have found so many times my heart light and a consistent smile on my face. I made a Canadian friend that makes me think a lot of myself, just ten years older. Even with such an age gap, we bonded instantly and were able to teach each other so much about life and happiness. Unlike many women today, we are both happy being single and free. Too many people wait around for that special someone, while we are out living life in the meantime. A lot of people spend their time worrying about people of the opposite sex, and although we did a lot of that, it was in the sense that we are extremely happy with ourselves in our current state. Cliche, but you can’t rely on other people for your happiness. You have to go out and find it yourself.
People: People come and go. I have realized this trip that although you may enter someone’s life for a short period, each second counts, and how marvelous it is when you truly make those seconds count. People have helped me so much along the way, and it was confirming that people are actually good and willing to help others. My second to last night in Paris I went to a dinner party with young Parisian’s in their late 20’s, and I was welcomed with open arms. The laid back mentality and light conversation of people around my own age really opened the door for me to see into their culture.
I have five weeks left in Spain, and wow, what a beautiful country it is. Living in the heart of Barcelona I am learning so much about their culture… and I love it! I am not alone anymore, but living with three awesome American roommates from all different backgrounds. I can’t wait to see what else is in store, stay tuned. Cheers!
‘My Second Home’ [written during my last days in my beloved Barcelona, five countries and almost two months later]
The number seven doesn’t normally seem that large, however living in an unfamiliar place for that many weeks is enough to make it familiar and feel like home.
After spending eight weeks abroad, and seven of that living and studying in Barcelona, while traveling Europe on weekends, I have fallen in love with Europe. It took only the moment upon arrival in Barcelona to know that I was going to experience a love affair with Spain. At first I was a tourist, but it didn’t take long for this beautiful city to become my second home.
People began to come and go, but it was all the same. I realized about half way through that I knew the hot spots around town and the nights that they are best. Barcelona is a city that really appeals to tourists, so the vibe from many places got to be all too familiar each night we went out. The music is the same, the type of people are the same, the prices don’t change, and you begin to realize the small things that make the city tick. As I started noticing this, I knew I was no longer an outsider, but an insider. I knew the feeling and the ways of a typical night out on the town in Barcelona.
I gained a schedule. Breakfast, class, lunch, class, siesta, dinner, homework, go out. Weekends: travel or stay home and explore Barcelona. I quickly became accustomed to the schedule of the Spaniards. Each day you wake up later, be productive for a few hours, eat a big meal, nap, have a semi-productive evening, then go out from 12-6 a.m.
Along with schedules is transportation. You learn quickly the hours of the metro and what time you should make all departures. You know when a taxi is trying to charge you too much, so you begin speaking Spanish and it all works out. I know the Barcelona airport probably better than anyone living here for just the summer would want to.
I knew the way of the hagglers and figured out the bartering system. After being around a time or two, you begin to know the actual prices of things. So, you learn to never pay more than you should.
The bakery down the street knew me and my typical order. The café by school was my hideout between classes, and they never stopped asking me if I wanted coffee. (Duhh I was only there for the beignets and free wifi) I will miss these two places dearly.
Barcelona is my second home. It will forever hold a place in my heart. I studied International Business…internationally. I studied art in the city where many of the most famous artists gained their inspiration. Not many people can say they went to Dali’s house, saw the rocks he was always painting, and kayaked in the cove that was one of his big sources of inspiration in paintings. I lived by one of Gaudi’s biggest masterpieces. I have seen many artists’ work first hand, and now have enough knowledge to interpret these magnificent pieces of work. I learned some Catalan, attended celebrations for one of their largest holidays, and now know much about their culture and political system. The experience of living with females for the first time ever…well, it was an experience. I tried and saw many new and marvelous things. I have lost so much money, but I guarantee I am returning way richer than I could have ever anticipated. While abroad I finally learned the importance of being present, and my how I wouldn’t have changed a minute of this great adventure for anything.