Remember that time I stumbled upon the winning NY Powerball ticket while simultaneously finding out I had 3 months off from work at Riverhead’s neighborhood Applebees?
Yeah, I don’t either.
I wish I could tell you that leaving home for the first time was that easy but let’s be real, that simply won’t happen. You will never find the perfect time and I would not rely on the 1 in 14,000,000 chance of winning the lottery. However, that does not mean traveling is impossible.
I was saving up for months, and I made that huge leap with the help of a rusty Jeep and a few strangers offering their couches. I packed some clothes, grabbed my keys and took off. I’m not going to tell you it was easy and I’m definitely not going to tell you I wasn’t scared. The first place I drove to was Richmond, Virginia because it was anywhere but home. I remember arriving at my first Couchsurfing house thinking “what the heck am I doing, I should drive back home.” Four years later, I still find myself in foreign places being inspired by the world around me to keep going. This time I was inspired by my own words.
“This is going to be a short trip, I’ll be back by November.. Errr okay December at the latest.” Me, September 2017
Fast forward to Slovenia: My bus got into town a few hours before sunrise. I spent the first 2 hours sitting with a cup of McDonald’s coffee mapping out the route to my hostel. By the time the sun was out, the over-roasted liquid in my hand was just as repulsive as my first attempt at pronouncing Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana.
I was greeted with warm tea and a couple enjoying their breakfast at the table. We began with the usual hostel small talk. Where are you from? How long have you been traveling for? Where have you been? Where to next? I summarized how I ended up in Slovenia and they started talking about their bicycles and their 6 month road trip.
“We left New Zealand to fly into Norway with our bikes because we wanted to experience the Norwegian summer before heading south to Greece.”
“I’m sorry, Norwegian summers? Heading south to Greece with your bicycles..? Can you please explain?”
This couple met while on working holiday visas in New Zealand and they decided to just buy bikes and go. They were not your typical bicycle buffs, they were just looking for a way to travel on a shoestring. Let me repeat: This couple bought bicycles and rode them from Norway to Greece without any prior long distance bike trips just to save costs on transportation.
Whenever you start feeling uninspired, just spark a conversation with absolutely anyone. Spark a conversation with every person you meet. Think about all of the stories from your own life, every single person is a wealth of personal anecdotes. I’ve met people who have traveled across the world by Vespa, spent their entire life chasing the history of Pan from country to country, and I’ve met a person who spent years making a nomadic living by juggling chainsaws on a 4 foot unicycle. (All 100% true stories btw)
Traveling never leaves you uninspired.
After ditching my plans of moving to Portugal, I found myself in Slovenia. I needed inspiration more than ever and I found it while sipping tea at the kitchen table of a hostel in a city I couldn’t begin to pronounce. As soon as they packed up their bags and left, I went into my room, unzipped my backpack, folded away my doubts, the creeping “what am I doing here?” thoughts and put my big girl pants on. Let’s travel the damn Balkans.
It may have been cold and rainy, but I wasn’t about to let some build up anxieties and bone-chilling precipitation ruin my time. I went out for my first wander that morning and that’s where I met another backpacker named Galen.
What a surprise… He was also from the Asheville area.
We aimlessly toured around the city, getting lost in all of Ljubljana’s rainy neighborhoods until the stark realization that we’ve spent hours tip toeing around (mostly left) corners on empty stomachs. That’s when I had my first taste of burek, a pastry that is native to the region. If you ever end up in this area, Burek will be your best friend. He spent the past few weeks prior eating burek while camping and hitching around the region. He tried to hide his excitement, but it’s impossible to hide that feeling while holding a beautifully greasy, crispy burek in your hands. He was slowly making his way south to Turkey and since we both had the same(ish) path, why not travel together?
That’s also another perk of solo travel, you’re never really alone.
The next day we left for Zagreb, Croatia.
P.s. All photo credit goes to Yoshiyuki Horiuchi (Insta: yoshi____44) I met him while staying at a hostel in Athens and he definitely saved the day with these photos. I wandered the streets of Ljubljana under an umbrella because it was POURING rain so… I did not take a single photo. Thanks Yoshiyuki! Travel safe, and keep on taking wonderful (blog saving) photos!