24 hours from now I’ll board a plane headed for Heathrow airport. From there I embark on a journey unlike any I’ve ever taken.
I’ve seen some beautiful places in my 29 years, and I’ve done some pretty neat things, but none of them have been for me. Not to say I didn’t enjoy these life-changing experiences but they weren’t on my life’s bucket list. This trip is.
I start out in Barcelona. My friend Esther lives there. You know those people you hit it off with immediately? In your first conversation it feels like you’ve known each other for years? Esther is one of those people. I met her in 2008 while driving to a Wings and Ribs restaurant. She was a foreign exchange student staying with a friend of mine and her English was atrocious. Maybe not atrocious but bad. My Spanish, however, was atrocious. Somehow through gestures and limited knowledge of each others’ native tongues, we were able to communicate. It was clear from the get-go how much we liked each other. She lived here almost 5 months and became one of my closest friends. She even came back to visit the following summer. Over the years we’ve gotten pretty bad at keeping in touch (it’s now mainly birthdays, Christmas and the odd WhatsApp message) but Esther and I just get each other. She is the Nectarine of my Belly Button and that won’t make sense to anyone but her. I’m going to Barcelona not just to see the sights but to be around someone I love. Life is fragile and unpredictable. We should spend more time with the people who matter.
After Barcelona I fly to Paris. At least I hope I fly to Paris. Vueling airlines charged my credit card but did not provide me with a ticket and I’ve been trying for weeks to resolve this. Worst case scenario I lose $70 and hop on a flight with a different airline. Roll with the punches, baby. Paris will be the first city I’ve ever travelled to alone. I’m staying in a hostel which I’ve only done once before. It was one night in Costa Rica and I was with 6 of my friends so this experience is going to be entirely new. I’m not really sure what to expect. Hopefully not a murderous psycho (seriously, everyone I tell I’m travelling alone says, “Wow…good for you. Hopefully you don’t get raped!” Ummmm…thank you…?) but it would be cool to make a friend. Paris has been a place I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl. I’ve wanted to see the Eiffel Tower for as long as I can remember and I’ve wanted to see a show at the Moulin Rouge since Ewan McGregor belted, “My gift is my song” with those piercing baby blues. Of course I know he won’t be there (I’m not an idiot), but seeing a Show at the Moulin Rouge has been on my life’s to-do list since I watched Christian and Satine fall in love.
When I first started planning this trip, I was at the beginning of a transitional phase in my life. At nearly 29 it was becoming clear to me what I’m looking for in a partner might not actually exist. And that’s okay. At the end of the day, even if you’re married with kids, the only person you can really rely on 100% of the time is you. Don’t argue with me. It’s the truth. Your loving and devoted husband or wife could get hit by a bus and then who would you lean on? Said partner could also change their mind about you. Or you could change your mind about them. It’s shitty but it happens. Having reached these conclusions I decided I needed a better relationship with myself. So I’m taking me out on a romantic date. I’m going on a cruise down the Seine River where I will be served dinner and wine while I gaze at the city lit up at night. Next I visit the second level of the Eiffel Tower and continue to watch the city’s sites. After that I’ll see a show at the Moulin Rouge. I even bought a new dress and everything. I know how to treat a lady.
After Paris I fly to Berlin. Germany is significant for two reasons. One, my dad went to school there and so much of his identity is wrapped up in that country. Two, my biological sister, Shermin, lives there. I have three. I’ve never met any of them. This is both exciting and terrifying. Shermin just had a baby and when I called to congratulate her, we had one of the best conversations of my life. She talked very quickly (like moi) and candidly about everything. Immediately I felt a connection. The three of them grew up together and were old enough to remember our mom before she passed away. I have so many questions to ask but I’m just excited to be around her. This will be one of those moments that changes me. Not to be all dramatic and stuff but it’s kind of a big deal.
After Germany I fly to Rome where I’ll be alone again. Of course I won’t actually be alone. I’m staying at The Yellow, Rome’s party hostel. The tag line claims that if you want to sleep you shouldn’t stay here. I entered my credit card info as soon as I read it. I plan to party the whole weekend and then try to calm down a bit to do some sight seeing during the week. My must-sees are the Colosseum and the Vatican. My must-dos are drink red wine and eat gelato. I’m also going to Capri for the day which I am really excited about. One of my favourite parts of all-inclusive vacations is the shuttle bus ride from the airport to the resort. I love watching the scenery and imagining I live in the homes/farms/apartments. Now I get to do that in Italy. Brilliant. From the photos I’ve seen which apparently don’t capture half of the magnificence, Capri is stunning. I’m a sucker for water and beaches but I’m a little sad I couldn’t squeeze in Tuscany. This does give me a reason to go back to Italy, though, which is far from tragic.
After Rome I fly back to Barcelona and get to spend more time with Esther (I’m only there a day the first time). What’s really awesome is I’ll be there for her birthday and it even falls on a weekend. The stars aligned to make this happen! The weather here in Toronto where I live is kind of cold and gloomy most days. In Barcelona it’s currently 24 degrees. Did someone say beach?
This concludes my Eurotrip…but wait, the vacation isn’t over yet! My cousin Gloria recently got married and moved to Connecticut. I’ve been planning to visit her since she moved there but couldn’t find a flight under $400. After I booked my main Europe flight I realised my return had a stopover at JFK. For shits and giggles I checked prices for a one-way from New York to Toronto a week after I land on this side of the pond. $117. Sold.
Gloria is good for my soul. My favourite parts of my trip to Mexico were when she and I spent one on one time. She has such a good head on her shoulders and she’s so loving and nurturing. She’s also been through the wringer when it comes to having a sick parent so she gets it. And me. I feel grounded when I’m with her and I can’t wait to spend the week with her, telling her all my Europe stories, dissecting things that are important to me but seem irrelevant to others and hearing all about married life and moving to a new city. As I said before, life is too fragile and unpredictable not to spend time with the people who matter.
So those are my Eurotrippin’ plans. I know things can change at the drop of a dime so I’m also ready to go with the flow. See where life takes me. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up in Tuscany after all. Or Greece. Or Belgium. Okay, probably not Belgium but you get the point. Roll with the punches, baby!