I’ve had this whole idea for a blog post for quite some time that would be titled “The people that you meet.” I was very much drawn to this idea that part of what makes my travel experiences amazing, are the people I have met or with whom I have shared those moments. Especially when they are people who you have met because you traveled. It’s why I have always been a big fan of tour groups in the past. I loved exploring a place while getting to know someone from another part of the world that I otherwise would never have met. I know that all my Contiki mates can likely attest to this as well.
I thought for sure that Remote Year would add to that idea for me and within the first two days, the program had already given me that inspiring feeling of awe and amazement as I began to meet the people that I would be surrounded by for the next year of my life. Yet every time I sat down to write about this feeling and experience, I found myself staring at my computer screen. Words just really didn’t feel adequate to explain what I was feeling about these people that I barely knew.
The last few weeks leading up to leaving the country, I found myself terrified. To be fair, I was not terrified about what I was about to do but I think the stress of the past several months had caught up with me in such a way that my confidence was shaken. People had been telling me over and over how brave I was for embarking on this new path but I promise you, I did not feel brave. On the contrary, I was feeling completely inadequate. In a small way I was also feeling sad. I don’t know if I was more upset within this feeling of sadness or upset over the fact that I was feeling sad at all. This was not how I was supposed to feel at the start of my year. Maybe it was more about the fact that prior to leaving, everything is go-go-go and then suddenly you stop being busy. Your head space is no longer occupied with focusing on the tasks at hand and you have an opportunity to relax and grasp the full scale of changing absolutely everything about your life. Somehow you get so worked up inside of yourself that you struggle with self doubts. This is not how I wanted or imagined I would feel when I was finally transitioning into my new lifestyle.
When it came time to meet people, I found myself overcome with nerves. Usually I can give comfort to these anxieties by reminding myself that I’m typically really good with meeting new people for the first time. This time was different though. I felt awkward and shy. I didn’t know how to answer simple questions like what do you do and where are you from. Where am I from? I’d start to say Los Angeles and then hesitate and end up with Minnesota or vice versa. Both technically true but I do not exactly feel like I identify with being from either place. At least not in terms of thinking where is home.
Although I did get called out once or twice in my hesitancy to respond with where I am from, overall it did not seem like anyone noticed my awkwardness the way I imagined the way I would be perceived. Yet, even after meeting these people, I continued to feel major anxieties with #FOMO (fear of missing out). I had heard people talk about those feelings before but had never experienced the feeling myself. I can confirm the FOMO is real! In fact, I must go on record and apologize to my friends Amber, Andrea and Cheyenne for giving them a hard time about FOMO in the past. I now understand what you meant by it! Suddenly I became this person that needed to go to everything for fear that I would not make friends. It was like I was 13 all over again, starting in a new school, worried if people would like me. I even had a dream where no one wanted to have lunch with me. The logical side of my brain tried to tell myself I was being irrational yet I could not shake this fear. I tried to laugh it off and even shared my dream with others within my group though it did not seem to help rationalize a thing.
Three days in, I was at my apartment in the evening trying to wrap up a few assignments for my class. I wanted to get things done so that I could join my group for salsa night at the bar across the street. It took longer than expected and I was tired but I convinced myself that I needed to still show up. Walking down the hill, I started to feel nervous about showing up alone and considered walking back to the apartment and simply go to bed. When I walked in however, I was greeted with huge smiles and pure joy upon seeing me arrive. Hugs were had all around.
There was a moment that night where I found myself looking out at the group of people on the dance floor, standing quietly on my own taking in the surroundings and thinking about the people I was with, here in Split, Croatia. My new friends, my new family. Ultimately I joined them on the floor, showing off my sweet dance moves. My favorite part was when a Croatian song came on and all the locals rushed out on the dance floor doing some kind of choreography to go along with the song. Think “Cupid Shuffle” or “Electric Slide” only way better. We were all quickly able to pick up the moves and joined in on the fun, ending in a conga line snaking through the room. In that moment I felt absolutely confident that the choices I had made for my new lifestyle were the right ones. I looked around at all these other people and felt like I belonged with this crowd. That we were all here for different reasons but we all had some underlying commonality that brought us together on this journey. I realize that I barely knew these individuals at this point but I felt quite confident that I had found myself amongst my people.
The first full weekend here, we had a day of orientation to provide an overview of what to expect for the year. At this point, Travis, one of the Remote Year team members explained the idea of “tramily.”
Travel + Family = Tramily.
I know I am only on day 14 of my 365 with these people, however this word seems to be the most fitting. I feel like I have found my tribe. A group that I feel I identify with from a stand point of values, interests and desires. Beyond that, these people are going to be my family. A community of people who I can already say, support me and my goals for the year. Who encourage me to work on my creativity and develop my ideas. Who will pick me up when I fall down. I know that we will do all this for each other and more because I’ve already seen it. In the way that people have supported everyone in the ups and downs of the first two weeks. In the way that people have already done so much for one another. I know it will not always be easy and we will not always get along. What family does? In the end though, I know that I am here developing unique friendships and connections with people that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Unique to the lifestyle and unique to the individuals within it.
Before I left LA, my friend Marieve gave me a locally made bracelet with the following etched upon it:
“Our lives are storybooks that we write for ourselves; wonderfully illustrated by the people that we meet.”
Marieve said that when she saw it, she knew she had to get it for me as a parting gift. Upon reading it, I had to agree and I told her about the blog I had imagined writing for myself about “the people that you meet.” This blog entry is not at all what I imagined it would end up being when I finally got around to writing about this concept but I find it to be extremely fitting. I can imagine it being a continuing theme throughout my year abroad. I am going to see many amazing places and do lot of incredible things. I have no idea right now what my story for this year will look like in the end but I know it will be brightly enhanced by the people that will be by my side throughout the experience. Just as I struggled to answer the question of where I am from, the feeling of home or belonging has never been about identifying with a place but rather with the people that surround me and I feel incredibly lucky to be a member of my Veritas tramily.