It was one year ago.
The day I traveled abroad for the first time in my life.
I was raised in a non travel friendly culture, how unfortunate.
I was trying to recover from a long term, hurtful, catastrophic relationship. I was desperate to find the meaning of life, a reason to wake up in the morning, to smile without a reason in the middle of the street.
I needed a change so badly.
I have always been a strong person, have always given energy and support to my loved ones. When people get used to see you with a permanent armor, it is a hell of a job to convince them that you can also become vulnerable from time to time. Listening to “Destiny’s Child – Survivor” 100 times a day is not always enough. Sometimes your self awareness level is also not enough. You might analyze your problems, come up with very scientific and logical explanations, set goals, but at the end you just find yourself staring at the wall like a flower pot. Sometimes you need a little push. A teeny-tiny push from outside.
So today I will tell you the story of transforming myself from a flower pot into a traveler.
It was November 2013 when I enrolled for a personal development training of my company. “Personal Effectiveness” to be exact.
I needed to develop myself and be more effective so it was jackpot. And you know what the best part was? The training was held in Amsterdam. I remember having a huge dilemma right after I got the enrollment email:
– Future effective me: “This is such a nice opportunity. Take some days off and enjoy Amsterdam wooohoo.”
– Current flower pot me: ”Just attend to training and come back with a bucket of duty-free chocolate.”
– Future effective me: “Don’t be ridiculous! Universe has given you a big cotton candy. Do not give it back before finishing it.”
– Current flower pot me: “Just attend to training and come back with a bucket of duty-free cotton candy.”
I am not one of those people who are afraid to be alone. In fact, I do enjoy my me&myself times. But when you are struggling with 5 traumas a day, being alone in the middle of Europe does not seem so charming. But universe was generous enough to make one of my dear colleagues my company. She approached me like a thunder ball after receiving the good news and said one thing:
-“We need to go there for the weekend before the training, you know. “
I just gave her puppy eyes and said yes.
This had gave me an opportunity to dream for more. I finally saw a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. And I did what a first time traveler would normally do, start to read about Couchsurfing. I heard it from a colleague who visited Malta and had amazing time there. I had no clue about hostels, B&Bs and all. And at least I knew that she returned safe and sound, so how bad it could be? The idea itself already sounded great (people hosting people, helping people, meeting people because they are all nice people).
I signed up and started to look for hosts in Amsterdam. I received quite lot of orgy requests as well which gave me sudden shocks but over all it was really fine. The system is based on references (which I did not have) so I was super happy when a host approved my request right after I sent it. He was an Irish expat living in Amsterdam (An Irish guy, how bad he could be?). So the plan was:
– Saturday –> Flight from IST to AMS, lots of sightseeing and touristy stuff
– Sunday –> Same as above.
– Monday & Tuesday –> Training.
– From Tuesday till Friday –> Me, in Amsterdam*.
*First time abroad
*First time in Amsterdam
* First time in Europe
* First time Couchsurfing
* And some other firsts
I carry the obsessive part of my personality with pride so I packed my entire room up into my giant luggage and hit the road.
I had a really early flight so I was basically sleeping during security check and passport control. I remember opening my eyes and and seeing the sun rise above the clouds. I do not care how cliche it will sound but at that exact moment, I FELT HOPE.
The weather was cold as hell when we arrived in Amsterdam (it took me some hours to embrace the feeling of being away) and I did not care even a bit. Seeing the birds dancing or random people smiling by themselves was making me happy, as it did in the good old times so I felt like “me” again. I will share the touristy part of the trip in another post so I will jump to the training.
Personal effectiveness! It is where they teach you to get to know more about yourself, distinguish your strongnesses and weaknesses, realize your core values and its effect on your daily life and decisions. Remember me telling you about the “push”? So this training become my push for both my private and professional life. I kept repeating the same stuff I had been telling to myself. But being with a group of people, hearing this from a professional had a significant effect. The best part of the training was the very end, where you have two pieces of paper. You write your strong sides on one them and your name on the other. Then you pass the second paper to rest of the group and everyone writes their impression about you at the end of a 2-days-intense-personal training. Finally you compare the results once your second paper reaches you and see if how you see yourself and how people sees you matches.
Below you can see what has been written on my second paper. It still puts a huge smile on my face.
The only scary part of this heart-warming story was the text message I received from my host: There is a chance that he wouldn’t be able to host me. I screamed, and screamed more and more and more and more. Because I did not have any plan B (which is reasonable since I did not even have a plan A). I still think of what I would do if I had got a big NO from him. But by the end of the day I got the green light and felt as light as a feather.
Have you ever been in Amsterdam?
Everyone can speak in English very fluently. So I was on my way to my host’s place, which seemed quite easy on Google Maps but was more of a challenge in real life (I will tell you my lack of map-reading skills later). And I managed to find 5 Dutchies who were not able to speak one word of English and got lost as a result. It would be fine if I did not need to carry a gigantic luggage all around.
And I was being late, and I hate being late.
I found the apartment after discovering quite some hidden gems of Amsterdam. It was one of those typical Dutch apartments on the border of a canal (so view was pretty good). I was there, standing in front of the door, thinking of what to do: “Shall I ring the bell, or send a text message, or do both, or just yell his name.”
I decided to ring the bell, seemed like a proper thing to do.
He came downstairs and opened the door, and did not seem like a serial killer so we made a great start. It was a small but a nice apartment (sponsored by IKEA). Our first moment was like this:
– Almost effective me: “Hey, my name is D, nice to meet you.”
– Host: “Hey, my name is J, hereby the keys to my apartment.”
Sharing the keys is a common thing within Couchsurfing community whereas it is not a must. And nobody has ever given me their keys that fast. How could he trust me? What if I was a thief, came all the way to Amsterdam to steal his L-shaped IKEA couch? What if I was after his custom made Belgian beer bottle? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH HUMANITY?
That day he had a party with his friends where he kindly invited me but I was exhausted from all of the previous tourist action so decided to stay at home and rest. I fell asleep on the couch while watching the canal and the boats floating by. I am normally a deep sleeper but naturally that night falling asleep was not as easy as before. I woke up to a mild sound of footsteps, his footsteps, approaching towards me. OH MY GOD! THAT WAS IT! HE WAS A BAD, BAD MAN. What I could use the defend myself? My Kindle? No. My pillow (his pillow)? No, it would not work. The coaster I used earlier? Naaay. So I just stood still and decided to #yolo it. He was so close that I could hear him breathing. He came and came closer…..then….. turned off the lights! OH MY GOD I KNEW THAT HE WAS AN ANGEL WHO CHOSE TO LIVE IN MORTAL WORLD BECAUSE HUMANITY ROCKS, PEOPLE ARE AWESOME. I switched to my heavy sleeper mood and slept like a baby.
In the morning I woke up to his noise in the most happiest way. He wished me a nice day being a tourist and I wished him a good day at work. I got up, freshened up and went by the door for my alone-for-the-first-time trip of the day. There I saw the sticker below on the door which I did not notice earlier as the lights were off.
I knew that after a long painful amount of time, I was on the right way. That day become a turning point in my life. I closed the door to walk steadily through my dreams.