Two ferries, one plane and three trains (one that boarded a ferry itself), were my modes of transportation these past two weeks. Since Natalie left Helsinki, I have been traveling solo. In the past two weeks I explored a part of the world I only imagined, and now it seems my dreams have come true. I’ve seen Finland, Sweden, Denmark and now I’m in Amsterdam!
I walked the streets of Helsinki and saw the cathedral and visited the stalls in Market Square.
When I arrive in Stockholm I celebrate Midsummer, a holiday second only to Christmas. I find myself at Skansen, an open air museum in the center of the city with thousands of other locals and visitors. It is an amusement park with cultural history along with an aquarium, zoo and so much more.
In Copenhagen I found the famous Little Mermaid statue and also took a stroll a long Nyhavn Harbor.
The beauty is amazing and I am loving the weather. The average temperature has ranged from the high 50’s to the mid 70’s. There might have been one day in the 80’s in Stockholm and I was warned to be careful with how hot it would be, ha ha. I received reports from my family in Alabama that temperatures have reached 100 degrees already. I have to say I am pretty happy where I am right now. That’s not to say that there is not a rainy day or two, but those days are perfect for visiting a museum or reading a book.
If you asked me one year ago, let alone six months ago if I would travel abroad by myself I would have said “I would love to think that I could, but I don’t think I would.” Well, that has all changed in the past month. Part of the appeal to being part of The Great Enlivening was that I would be with two other people, two amazing women with a sense of adventure and the means to take time off from life to explore the world. Though we had not been through all the same life experiences, we all felt a need for something new and different.
Both Rachel and Natalie took this time as a source for healing, but for me, I believe it has been a way to break out of my shell. There have been so many firsts on this trip, the biggest by far is spending almost a month traveling around Europe solo. I left all the stability of a good job with benefits and a family that loves and supports me for – uncertainty. But with that uncertainty comes the chance for growth that I think I needed for a long time. I believe that I have grown up these last four months. I was pushed from my comfort zone and put myself in situations that I am not always comfortable with.
I love getting out and experiencing this amazing world that we live in, but usually I have someone with me. My sister or brother are the usual suspects who accompany me. Now I have taken day excursions alone on trips or flown solo to visit friends in different cities, but never a weekend let alone 4 weeks without knowing a single soul.
So I have had to put my smile to good use and meet people, strike up conversations with random strangers, like in a line at the Rijksmusuem in Amsterdam that lasted about two hours. It was worth it to see two Rembrandt paintings that have not been seen in public since 1956. Also I got into the museum for free since it was opening day, hence the queue.
Or trying to figure out the quirks of an electric stove at the hostel in Copenhagen. I have learned that backpackers are some of the friendliest travelers, always willing to lend a hand or tell you the tricks and quirks of kitchen appliances. Who knew a morning tutorial would lead to an evening at a Biergarten with a fellow American and an Aussie.
I have had my days when I miss Rachel and Natalie. I pass a cafe and imagine the three of us sitting outside enjoying a glass of wine and sharing our thoughts on our day or our experiences in the past. But I know that their departures and my decision to stay are no coincidence. I truly believe that God was preparing me for this adventure by myself. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to travel alone from the start. I am also reassured by the amount of people I have met throughout this journey who are traveling alone as well. There is a certain amount of freedom that you are allowed because of it.
My journey is not finished yet and I know I still have more to learn. But I do know that I have grown through this Great Enlivinging. I am stronger than I think and can do much more than I ever imagined. I know that these are facts that I must take with me on my next adventure in life. What am I going to do when I get back to the States? But luckily I am not quite there yet, I still have a little time to see the world and find out more about myself.