Fighting Fear: EuroAfricAsia 2015
When I see a cheap flight, especially a glitch or error fare, I turn into an animal and pounce like it's my dinner and I haven't eaten in ages. Book now, figure it out later. Thanks to a rule by the Department of Transportation, you have 24 hours to cancel a flight with a full refund—so really, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain when an error fare comes up. That's how I found myself with a flight out from Portland, Oregon to London, England returning from Istanbul, Turkey back to Portland, from mid-November to mid-December for under $500 USD. That was less than a flight home for the holidays. (In the words of my friend, Kenna, #bookthatish!)
Thanks to a European tour we did as a family vacation when I was 9ish, I had technically seen more of Europe than any other continent out there, 12 countries or 21% according to my been app. I also spent a summer living here while I was in college, interning as a South Asian wedding planner (yes, it was as much fun as it sounds like it was!), though I spent my time that summer staying in London, trying to embrace life as a local vs being a tourist. This was my opportunity to revisit Europe, as an adult. To really understand and appreciate its culture and beauty, and more importantly, to be able to explore and experience it the way I wanted to.
As often as I travel, I tend to feel overwhelmed and anxious before my trips. As I began poring through websites and talking to people about their experiences and started to do the slightest bit of research, cue the familiar anxiety and feeling of being overwhelmed. Where do I go? What do I do? How do I get there? The days started to tick down while the list of questions continued to grow. (Thank goodness for pep talks, from others and myself. Breathe. Figure out the essentials, everything else will fall into place. It's okay if you don't do everything--if you like the place, you can always go back. Woosah.)
So I started piecing things together. I knew I would be flying in to London and out of Istanbul, so those two were givens as part of my itinerary. I have lots of family and friends in London, so London was mainly centered around seeing people and doing a few of the touristy things I had never done. (I think I take London for granted because it will always be a regular destination for my travels.) It's also been about 20 months of funemployment, so budget was a factor. One way to save some money would be to stay with family and friends, so I started thinking about where I knew people in Europe. London and Paris came up as options, with a possible stop in Sweden as well. In addition to saving some dollars, how far could I stretch my dollar? A friend just got back from a month-long European honeymoon and based on her advice on how far the dollar goes in Eastern Europe, I set my sights on Prague, Czech Republic and Budapest, Hungary! While looking up cheap flights (Ryanair has a Fare Finder feature where you can put in how much you want to spend on a flight, a time frame and see what comes up), I saw a cheap flight to Marrakesh, Morocco. I had never visited Africa before (I had plans in September to go to South Africa but had to cancel that trip) so I was jonesing to get there. I would barely be scratching the surface, but it would be a baby step in the right direction--I had to make this happen. Slowly but surely, my itinerary for this trip was starting to come together...
And then the Paris attacks happened. Three days before I was set to leave, a series of attacks plagued Paris killing 130, injuring almost 400 people and leaving an incredible number of people all around the world in a state of shock and disbelief. I was picking up a few things for my trip when my best friend messaged me to fill me in and express her concern as she knew I was planning on visiting Paris. Over the course of the next few hours, many people from my support system reached out with the same sentiment. This was the trip that was concerning them the most. "Be safe." "I'm worried." "Are you sure you want to go?"
My response? "I will." "Don't be (though I know that's falling on deaf ears)." "Yes." Someone I know has emphasized my safety on trips, domestic and international. At first, I would shrug it off, but when I sat to actually think about it...those words, "Please be safe," carry a lot of weight. I feel fortunate to have so many people concerned about my well-being, sometimes I think they care more than I do. So to those of you who worry (and will worry, no matter what I say), I hope this helps quell some of your concerns:
My head is high, my heart is full of love, my eyes are hopeful and my mind is as stubborn as it comes. I will be safe. I will exercise caution. I'll trust my gut. I'll check in. But what I will not do is stop. Whatever is meant to happen, will. I refuse to change my life due to fear. I will keep living, and pursuing, and adventuring until my last breath.
Now that I've made it to Europe (though I'm currently in Africa), I'm so glad that I did. Though I still haven't planned out the rest of my trip--if you have suggestions or are in any of these parts of the world, let me know! Here's what my tentative itinerary looks like
London, England - 11/17 - 11/23done
Morocco - 11/23 - 11/28
Paris, France - 11/28 - 12/1
Cologne, Germany (few hours) - 12/1
Prague, Czech Republic - 12/2 - 12/4
Hungary, Budapest - 12/5 - 12/7
Turkey (Istanbul and Cappadocia) - 12/8 - 12/15