Sunday, September 29, 2013

When Things Don't Go The Way You Planned

When I first started planning my Great Escape, I had only originally intended to be away for 3, 4 months max. I thought that that's as far as my money is going to go as far as "touring" Europe.

I had also changed my blog theme from The 30by30 Project to a Travel Blog, with the original intention of keeping an online diary... to inform friends and family of my whereabouts.

Now, EXACTLY 6 months since I quit my job, I've been traveling for half a year, still within budget, and hopefully with enough funds to last me at least 6 months more... And this travel blog has done wonders for my trip, with definitely more use to me than just an online journal.


I'm a planner... but not an anal one. I like having OUTLINES in my head, not a detailed textbook. I at least would like to have a general idea of the direction of my travels, but once I get to a place - I like to keep things open.

At the first leg of my tour, from my trip from LA to Manila, all the way to the UK, everything was pre-booked and pre-planned. I went to 6 countries in 6 weeks because I was on a schedule --- I needed to get to the UK before Glastonbury. It was great because since I booked my plane tickets at least 5 months before, I got everything cheaper. The only downside to that was not being able to spend more time in New Zealand. I really would have wanted to change my flights just to be able to explore the South Island, but it would have been too much of a hassle.

6 countries in 6 weeks
Which is why on the second leg of my tour - where I currently am, I decided to keep things as flexible as possible. The great thing about being in Europe is that the flights from one country to the next are really cheap (for instance, my Ryanair flight from Italy to Greece only costs 14 euro), so I don't have to worry about booking way in advance.


I had this whole idea about my Italian adventure even before I got here... I thought I was going to work at a B&B for a few weeks, then spend the rest of the time touring up and down the country... From the Amalfi Coast down south, to Sicily, to Naples, to Rome, to Tuscany, and maybe a side trip to Juliet's house in Verona... That I would eat pizza and gelato everyday, and drive around the countryside taking photos of beautiful sunflowers.

Well, I couldn't be more wrong. What I ended up doing was soooo much better than what I have ever imagined.

I booked both The Shanti House and La Preghiera as my two volunteer opportunities through HelpX, and we all know how I absolutely loved both places for two very different reasons... (See previous posts here and here) After La Preghiera, my intention was to go to Naples to eat some pizza, and then go to Rome. But one of the friends I met at La Preghiera offered me a ride to Rome on the day I was leaving, and I'm not really in the position to turn down anything that's free - so I skipped Naples and went straight to Rome instead.

In Rome, I stayed for 4 days at a hostel. I was at a 10 bed mixed dorm, and all of us staying there ended up being friends, and toured the city together. I had such a great time with everyone, but I really wasn't enjoying being a "tourist" anymore. Yeah, sure... Rome is Rome... Beautiful city, great architecture, fabulous history... but it felt like just another big city to me... and I missed the day to day life at The Shanti House and the company at La Preghiera.


This was when I realized I probably won't last too long as a tourist anymore, and at this point in my travels, I need something more steady instead of hectic. And so - I made a command decision to skip Croatia all together, and go straight to Greece for another HelpX opportunity. (The original plan was, Italy-Croatia-Greece)

I figured, it's probably going to be similar to Greece anyway... and if it's really THAT beautiful, I can always visit it the next time I come back to Europe. If Greece is as amazing as everyone says it is, then I'd want to spend my remaining Schengen days exploring the Greek Islands (and devouring their food).

After Rome, I took the train up to Genova and spent a few days with two girlfriends I met at The Shanti House. Then on Friday, we drove up to Milan for a mini Shanti House reunion to see our musician friend, Alessandro Ponti, play. It has been SO great to be reunited with my favorite Italian people... It's like being at The Shanti all over again!

I'm leaving for Greece on Tuesday. October 1. Fresh start.
So, no... I never got to eat pizza at Naples, nor did I get the chance to explore the Amalfi Coast or visit Sicily or drive through Tuscany to see sunflowers (the sunflowers are all dead... they only bloom for 10 days in June apparently). But I think what I ended up doing was so much better... See, even if I wasn't able to do or see the things I wanted - I STILL ended up falling in love with Italy.
None of the BEST things that I experienced here were planned... and so now, I'm looking forward to more things that are unknown.


I'd say just go with it. In my case, pathways to greater experiences are just opportunities disguised as setbacks. A missed flight, a delayed train, getting lost, things not working out... I always imagine "The Adjustment Bureau" at work when these things happen... It just means that the universe is trying to point you towards the direction you're supposed to be in.
It helps to have a little faith. Everything happens for a reason... and wherever you are, there you'll be. ;)

I love you, Italy!
See you later, Greece!