I’ve often thought about writing a book of my travels. I even started one last year. But, I decided I liked the blog style of writing much better and shelved this idea for the time being. However, if I were to give it another try, here’s how it would start…
[I take another sip of champagne. It’s warm and sour, bringing a grimaced look to my face but I don’t care. I’ve been saving this bottle for a special occasion. As I sit, resting on the kitchen floor with my back against the refrigerator, I shake my head in disbelief at the day’s events. Spring is in full bloom outside and the sunlight pierces through my windows to illuminate my little college apartment. I look down and take notice of my cap resting on the floor beside me. Next, I shake my head and inspect my arms and body, cloaked in a black gown. It looks so goofy but the cap and gown are tradition and I’ve earned it. Today, I graduated college.] Not bad right!?
I graduated from the University of Central Missouri in the spring of 2009. All of a sudden I saw my whole life ahead of me and thought, “What the heck do I do now??”
I know I’m not the only one, but after school ended, I was at a loss for what to do. “I’ve been in school since I was 6!” I hadn’t planned anything, or looked for work; it never dawned on me.
All I knew in my heart was that I wanted to see the world. Of this I was certain.
I needed a place to think and to decide what I wanted to do with my life. So, I left for Europe! At this point in my story, my mother was living in Germany and my father in England. In my mind, it was the perfect opportunity to both travel AND clear my head.
I landed in Germany and was met by my mom, stepdad and younger sister. It was really great to see them. They had a small house near the Rhine River, outside Wiesbaden. The summer was alive with vibrantly colored flowers and the sounds of biergarten goers! I was in Heaven!
We kicked off the summer holiday with a trip to Burg Eltz castle. This castle is unique in that it sits hidden, in a mountainous valley that rises in the middle; no doubt a defensive strategy but also makes for a great photo op!
One of the more interesting sites was Berchtesgaden Salt Mines and Underground Lake. You dress up in miners clothing and tour this old salt mine using various slides, trains and even a boat to cross a flooded portion of the mine… ALL underground! Very cool tour though not a place I’d want to be when the lights go out. (Like a mix between those movies The Descent, Sanctum… and that episode of Scooby Doo where they get chased by the ghost miner.)
Over the course of a few weeks, I split my time between touring with my family and relaxing at the house trying to figure out what I wanted to do after the summer.
I feel at the time, I was far too excited about being in Europe and distracted in general, that I couldn’t think. Subconsciously, I gave up and fell back on the main habit I picked up from college… drinking. So, Hefeweizen and watching dvd’s consumed my days. This created great friction between my parents and me. They saw me as a new addition to the “adult” world who should be financially stable and career driven. And I just finished school FOREVER; my world turned upside down and was very confused and unsure of my purpose in life.
I desperately needed my own space. I needed to be alone. Somewhere with no sound or movement and where I could be the master of my own decisions (and not rely on my parents).
I don’t know why, but for many years I felt I needed to run; as far and as fast as I could, away from everyone and everything I’ve known.
But I had no money. No job. Or even a semblance of a plan. But I could feel my spirit screaming inside of me and urging me to seek solitude and independence.
After some research, I landed on the idea to walk the Rheinsteig hiking trail. A 320km path along the Rhine River, through beautiful wine country and roaming hills. I thought, “Yes! This is it! Here is my destiny. I’ll just walk for miles, clear my head and feel alive for the first time in years!”
That desperation to fly free but chained to the reality of no money to do so, struck me once more. I weighed the options and fought with my parents who totally disagreed with my trip. The struggle between trying to understand and grow my own self-identity and making my parents proud was too much to bear, so I left.
I purchased a map of the hiking trail (I don’t remember if I said goodbye), and left with a backpack, a tarp, some clothes and water. I had no food, no cash but was armed with an iron will to prove my independence.
-Some photos courtesy of Pixabay.com