It all started before I even boarded my one-way flight to Rome, Italy. I was at home, planning and researching on all the possibilities, which by the way were so many I felt overwhelmed at some point. How do you choose where to go when you have limited money but a million incredible places on a growing bucket-list and you basically want to go everywhere? I was constantly asked “why are you going there? what are you gonna do?” and gave the same answer every time “because I want to.” or “because I feel I need o go there”, or my favorite “I don’t know”. Totally fair answers if you are a person who had almost never traveled before and out of the blue decided to travel alone for as long as money would last. Some dream of becoming doctors, to have a big shinny home with a backyard and a cute dog, I dream of seeing every country in the world. What’s so wrong about that? I just dream a little higher than most. I always have.
So, when I started planning my crazy adventure across Europe, I wanted to go all the way to Estonia. I had this idea that if I could go all the way from Italy to the Baltic countries, all by land, I would feel amazing and like I’d accomplished something incredible. Still, this was just an idea, and after news coming up about Russia/Ukraine conflicts, and being the Baltic countries right next to a possible war zone, I dropped the idea and boarded my flight with no intentions of going there.
After a month in Italy, I was suppose to get a flight straight to Poland, but the flight got too expensive last minute and I had an inner voice yelling that I wasn’t suppose to go that way. After a lot of crying, freaking out and being scared of the decision I was about to make, I bought a bus ticket from Bologna, Italy, to Ljubljana, Slovenia, and that’s how I ended up on a mission to go as north as I could, without planning too much ahead. I would keep traveling up as long as I would have money in my account.
On the day I was leaving Budapest I got the very first sign, that got me thinking I wouldn’t be complete if I went home without fulfilling my dream to go to the Baltics. I was in the common room of my hostel, when a guy working there started talking to me about all my plans for the next few weeks.
He was the very first person I was actually honest about all the obstacles I faced after leaving home. I told him how hard everything was for me, and I didn’t know if it was just with me or everyone had a bunch of crap happening all the time when they traveled solo. There I was, in Budapest, about to catch a train to Bratislava in Slovakia, just because, and hearing myself I noticed my self-esteem was gone. I had no idea what I was doing and whatever I did I would mess it up. That’s when this guy asked me what I really wanted to do, about my ultimate goal of this adventure. I told him about my wish to go all the way to the Baltics by land, and for the first time in months, he didn’t ask me why I was going. He simply told me “you should go“. I looked at him in shock, and then I explained that I was too scared to go over there alone, that it was the first time I was travelling alone and I just didn’t feel strong enough to pull it off. And what he said next was what got stuck in my mind until today.
“Can you imagine if you go? You could write about those countries in your blog, and there’s not that many people who go there, so you would have something new to tell! I think you should give yourself more value. From what you told me everything is going wrong in your trip, and everything is hard,but you are still here, you didn’t run back home! Are you going to give up now?”
And what came out o my mouth was me actually making a decision without realizing it, but I do now. I told him “No. I’m not giving them the satisfaction. I’m going to travel as long as I have money“. Notice the “them” I was talking about were all the people waiting for me back home, those who from day one never thought I could do it, the ones who even made bets on how long I would last without going back home crying and asking for my old job back. To all of you, I would like to thank, because it was because you didn’t believe in me that I made it all the way to the end, because I was not going back home a failure.
He smiled back at me, knowing he had done his good action for the day, we said goodbye and we never saw each other again. So, to the Canadian guy who was volunteering at Avenue Hostel in Budapest back in the Spring of 2015, I’d like to thank you for telling me what you did. You were one of the people on my way who gave me the courage to pursue what I really wanted, despite fear and all the shitty stuff on the way.
I kept travelling my way up Europe, but after falling in love with Bratislava, and having booked only one day there, I decided to go back and spend to more days there. Making this decision to go back would be a turning point in my trip and in those two days something incredible would happen that would lead me to make my dream of going to the Baltics true.
As I was taking a nap in my hostel, this group of two guys and a girl came into my dorm, making a lot of noise and waking me up. We introduced ourselves after I heard them speaking in Portuguese. They said they were sorry about the noise and I said “I’m Portuguese”. From that moment on, for the next two days, I would get to meet these amazing people and they would be my travel partners in Bratislava. After a lot of talking, the Portuguese girl told me she and her roommate were travelling to the Baltics for a week, which made my eyes sparkle in excitement. There was the possibility of me going with them if that was what I wanted. Now, all I had to decide was whether I wanted to go with them or have the courage to do it alone. We said goodbye to each other and the Portuguese girl said she was living in Warsaw and that if I went there I could stay with her.
I was again in Vienna trying to get a cheap way to get my ass to Krakow, Poland, but things weren’t working out very well. I went to the train station where they wanted to charge me 80€ for a train from Vienna to Bratislava, which I thought was way too expensive. The worker told me that was as cheap as I was going to get, and I accept the challenge. I had to leave the next day, I had nothing booked and no idea how to get to Poland without spending all that money, but I ended up on the Polskibus website. I remembered hearing that Portuguese group talking about how cheap it was to travel with them, so I decided to give it a shot. I found a bus from Bratislava to Warsaw that would cost me 30€. I knew going back to Bratislava would be less than 10€, so there it was! I had found my cheaper way of travelling to Poland.
I immediately sent a facebook message to the Portuguese girl,hoping she would see it. I told her I had a change of plans and that I was going to Warsaw the next day on a bus that would arrive at night, and asked if I could stay with her. She was really nice and said she would pick me up at the bus station! Arrived in Warsaw and met her housemate and another Portuguese girl on that same night. We then booked a trip to Krakow on a fifty cents bus, and after getting back to Warsaw I told them I wanted to go with them to the Baltic countries. It was my chance to make that dream true, to go back feeling fulfilled, and I knew I would be travelling with two great girls who would made my time in the Baltics unforgettable.
So, if I hand’t met that Canadian guy in Budapest, I would never even reconsider going to the Baltics, I would have kept feeling bad about myself and how much I sucked travelling alone, I would never have believed in myself, give more value to what I was trying to pull off. He was the very first sign that I was meant to accomplish what I really wanted. And, after him, if I hand’t met that group of Portuguese people in Bratislava, only because I decided I had to go back, my trip would not have been the same. These people were the ones who changed my adventure into what she was. They may not have realized it, but it was because of them taking the time to talk to me, to believe in me when nobody else did, opening their home to me, accepting me as their traveled partner during almost two weeks that my three months in Europe were the best thing I have ever done. It has now been a year since I returned home, and I still get tears in my eyes remembering what I did, and all because I miss it so much, but mostly because I’ve never EVER been prouder of myself as I am about those three months. And I have these people on my way to thank for.
If the Canadian nameless guy ever reads this: I DID IT!