As I sat on a balcony of one of our couch surfers in Amsterdam, I'm hit again with a forceful wave. Surrounding me are little bricks upon bricks making tons of box houses laying atop one another. Everything around me is squares and rectangles and in the middle a small scatter of trees just tall enough to outgrow the house garden surrounding it. My thoughts and lessons ping into every lit window, glowing with a moody yellow light, each window and door peering into these houses is made up of all my little thoughts and teachings, making up their own personality and shining outside of it's foundation made up of all the little bricks. The inlet, where the trees are... Is the peace, the inner spirit. The outer body, where the houses lay, is my mind, trailing with endless thoughts and the riddles and the ego and all the clutter of the outside world. It is at this point, I feel another chapter closing and a new one slowly rumbling up. The past weeks have been madness, constantly moving every couple days, bouts of discomfort, and some of the little struggles and unsettling feelings of being on the road 24-7. The beauty of traveling bears her face just as much with little reminders of what you're doing and why you're doing it. That being said, and as expected, there's always a point where the novelty wears off and you come into a new transition point where you begin again, and renew yourself into a new state of growth.
I wish so much that I could put the past couple weeks into sentences, telling you every detail, every high, every low, all the magic and trickery, all the trails that lead you here and there and the steps, the turns, the paths, the alleys, the vines and branches of unlocked secrets. But that's another cool part, there's no real way to put these moments into words, they're real and raw and each moment rips through you fast, until you get hit with a wave of reality. It's all a giant sling shot, building momentum until moving you into the next direction, the journey following the last. But alas, I will try.
We have met so many amazing souls, countless challenges and faced a ton of fears, all teaching us the wisdom of life and the world. I feel so thankful to be doing this, every day, and I feel like a little child again discovering things for the very first time. Like trying to ride your bike without training wheels. Exciting at first, then scary, and fun again. You fall a whole lot but you get back on your bike and try again. My favorite thing about traveling never stays the same. Some days, it's waking up somewhere completely new, completely unexpected. Some days, that's my least favorite thing as I long for the comfort of my own bed. But this is my bed for now, the road, the unknown. I used to visit places and say to myself "I would like to live here someday." And now I tell myself "I am living here, right now, today, even if it's just for a day. This place is for now my home." Some days my favorite thing is all the incredible conversations you have with people, some days I don't want to talk at all, I just want to be alone. The reality is though, that these conversations are the one of the most crucial parts of traveling, one of the many things that unlocks so many parts of yourself and the unknown. To share ideas, or to be opened to new ideas, through others, is a beautiful thing. Being half way across the world, you're constantly meeting people who are either like you, or so completely different from you- but each offering you different knowledge or shining a light on something you’ve never realized before. It’s constantly humbling, because just when you think you’ve got it, or you’re on top- someone, or something, brings you back down to earth. (HOLY MOLY I HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN!) And just when you’ve hit a low- someone brings you back up on top of that mountain sharing these conversations and revelations. I can’t truly put any of these things into words, because it’s constantly evolving and shifting, as am I. Which brings me to this… something I am continuously learning, and keep coming to the realization of:
Nothing extraordinary in this life is tangible. Of course, the people and the architecture and the nature, the beauty surrounding you- that is all spectacular and awe inspiring.. But it is all those poetic feelings flowing through your body, it is all what you feel deep inside, not something you can actually touch with your body, not the things I can put into words, but the things that touch you with their spirit. Those are the best things, the greatest gift one can give and be given. Love. Compassion. Empathy. Wisdom. This is constantly instilled in me by the giving and sharing aspect of traveling. How important it is to share with each other, but the most special things that are shared are sincerity and wisdom and the feelings of being on the same wave length with someone. The connection of all. The togetherness.
Traveling is so brilliant because it becomes less and less about where you’re going and the things around you, and more about the people you meet, the spoken words you share, and as I stated… those feelings that freely flow through you and the fact that you never ever ever stop growing. The people that you meet, constantly, are the ones who help you and lead you on this path to growth, because they are the ones who give you those feelings, or share their knowledge, or help you hit a revelation…. Whether you are 10 years old, or 99 years old, we can all learn something from each other, and that is truly something special and grounding. We are all in this together, united by this earth and the human conscious and the ever connectedness of EVERYTHING. I never stop being utterly taken aback at how freaking cool that is, and even though I know it, I keep coming to that same realization every time I notice yet another thing being connected to something else. It is the proof that something grand is among us. Yet again, I wish I could better put this into the written language, but the best I can describe - yet in ONLY one way, is the example of this life being a tree. You start off as a seed, and keep growing from there. You establish your roots, where you came from and what grounds you to this earth. Then you establish branches. Each branch is another path, and there are branches among branches all creating where you are now, guiding your way to the next step… but you always keep growing, and these branches keep sprouting further and further. At the base, you can go back to your roots and always know who you are and where you came from, but it is equally as important to keep these branches going, reaching further into the unknown. Fear, holds us back from this growth. It stunts us and inhibits us from our true potential. Sadly, fear comes in all forms. Fear from money, health, government, our community of people we surround ourselves with, insecurity, jealousy, etc. Fear is a monster that will take the form of almost everything, to fight your spirit from growing. To fight it’s biggest enemy, LOVE. The more you let this fear grow, the less you grow, the more chained you become to all this unnatural anxiety and the more you project your fears onto others, trying to stunt their growth, because it is also something you fear. Day by day, I am working towards freeing myself from all these fears that are living inside of me, or being projected onto me. I know if I can unchain myself, I can truly be free as a bird flying and soaring among this earth. I can give the love inside of me to others, selflessly, all the time. That is my ultimate goal, but until then, I will cherish and embrace the wisdom others offer me, and hopefully give them back some of the love and knowledge inside of me as well. It is with gratitude and love that I grow, that we grow.
The hustle and bustle that is the city life was a grand experience. I am always star struck by the long nights and glamorous lights every time, but often I am hypnotized by them and have to remind myself to come back down to earth. I loved Amsterdam, but my favorite parts were not amidst the city, but on a boat along the river, where we stayed with a new friend Paul and his three cats. Waking up and seeing my view on the water, in my temporary home, was what inspired me most. Falling asleep with the lights across the water, casting their brilliance among that perfection that is the water, is truly what brought me back to myself. Knowing and seeing that all was in harmony. It is easy to get distracted in the cities…. There is this force of energy that hits you when these tall buildings are soaking in the energies of all the people walking back and forth on these sidewalks in their own little worlds. It can be equally lovely and draining at the same time, which is kind of wonderful in it’s unique way, because it reminds you to stay grounded in a haze of craziness.
So at this moment in time, I sit tending the desk of a beautiful Portuguese hostel in Porto, where we arrived today and will be doing our second workaway experience. It excites me to be in a smaller city, and I feel as if I can take a deep breath again to be staying here for longer than two days, as that was entirely too fast paced, mentally and physically draining for me. However, the two weeks of constant traveling were fun, exciting and enticing, I feel relieved to be able to settle in a little and actually be able to soak myself in the Portuguese culture. I myself found it difficult to be able to take in a culture when constantly moving around from place to place. I had a nice preview of Scotland (I must go back!) and a brief stint in the Netherlands, where I would also like to return, maybe with a few friends for a vacation. It’s strange how everywhere leaves a certain taste in your mouth, a certain imprint on your soul. I know some places I could stay and soak up their vastness for what could be forever, where as other places I know are too busy for me, but would be nice to visit again for shorter amounts of time. Some places completely swipe my heart, and others a piece of them instilled in me, carried around for the rest of my life. Certain places are like ‘bad boys’ stealing your heart for a moment and never giving part of it back to you, and others are like best friends- you know you’ll again pick up exactly where you left off, or a short lived romance that forever changes you, betters you. People and places certainly can give you the exact same feelings. Again… everything is connected.
I bid you adieu with my thoughts of gratitude for all the people we’ve met along our travels, and have graced us with their kindness, lessons, or whatever else they may have done to forever change a piece of me. I will always carry a bit of you with me, for every single one of the folks I’ve met along the way, has most certainly altered my view of life in some way.
Also, as if she doesn't already know this- I'm constantly thanking my lucky stars for my partner in crime, my travel companion and what I like to reference to our couch surfer requests as my spirit animal-- who bears with me in times of struggle, and balances me out. I think we make a pretty good team, and through all of our frustrations, rough edges, trials and tribulations- at the end of the day there's no one I'd rather travel with. (Something Paul reminded us, and I will continue to cherish as his best advice.)
To my people back home, reading this, and constantly giving me their love- I love you and I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season with each other. I wish I could fly home, just to give out hugs and smiles. I also give you my gratitude for being in my life, as I miss you and promise you are always in my thoughts.
For each one of you is truly remarkable, and I am so lucky to have you in my life, if even just for a brief period in time.
As I type these last sentences, I am almost brought to tears from love. I love all of you so much! I kept joking to Mel that I'd find love in Portugal... and I think I just found it for a moment, at the thought of all of you. Thank you again for always inspiring me. You honestly have no idea.
xoxo, mia laurén hall