Why I Love it on My Own: 30 Years, 30 Tales, 30 Countries

RT2010: Transylvania

RT2010: Transylvania (Photo credit: jas_gd)

I am 29, less than six months shy of turning 30, and suddenly, the thought that I have done nothing, and accomplished naught, is catching up to me. A quick search on Google have also established a 30 by 30 lists, indicating that the need to have done something by this age have grasped several other bloggers reaching the Big Three Oh: after all, we are no longer considered “young” as soon as we reach 30.

We may not be old, we try to convince ourselves, while trying to suppress that memory of our eight year old selves thinking a quarter century would fulfill everything we wanted out of it, but we simultaneously realize that we are old enough to have done “something.”

I had my quarter century crisis a bit earlier than most. A sennight after my 24th birthday, I found out I was hypoglycemic in a cruel accident where I had to be given 243 stitches in a four hour surgery at Columbia’s Presbyterian Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I fainted on the stairs, spiraled backwards, fell, and had to spend the next 3.5 years recovering by going to the surgery room 11 times for “reconstructive purposes.”

Professionally, I shifted careers from high profile events planning featuring the likes of Salman Rushdie (who I personally detest), to working in the burgeoning field of transitional justice while the financial crisis gripped New York, and the organization’s European partners, started to troll out on them.

Life suddenly seemed too intense (Little did I know what was waiting for me in Bangladesh, but that comes much later).

While I was being reconstructed, my mind began to grasp on to anything that I found that held any shape of “normalcy.” It took me a while to realize normal isn’t what others decree of you, it’s about having a level of mental and physical health that allows you to question, set, and define the boundaries of what you will allow in, and what you keep out. Along with this new found revelation and fascination with boundaries, I was also fast developing an irrational fear of desertion: My nearest and dearest friends were always moving away.

Add this to the lisp I had to spend months fixing, and you can quickly grasp that the plot thickened.

I kept things in perspective by visiting every single art show I could spare time for, at various museums, and scoured their permanent collections looking at ink paintings, drawings, anything that made some sense to the nonsensical mess that was my face.

One very late night, two college girl friends and I shared a bowl of matzoh ball soup in our favorite Romanian diner, and suddenly, I said, “I’ve always wanted to go to Transylvania.”

Both the lovely ladies chimed in agreement.

I wouldn’t make it to Transylvanian parts until about two years later, but we quickly drew out a map on a tissue and made plans to do our own rendition of the Eurotrip.

August 2010 turned out to be the year I cemented my love for a continent that has never since, failed to captivate me, either in euphoric love, or complete reverence to utmost shock. I moved back a year later to live in Budapest, leaving behind my challenging, rewarding, and rather cushioned job and cushioned life.

In roughly 400 days since I left New York, I have been to 20 countries and completed a Master’s degree in the process, and visited approximately 76 cities, towns, and villages across three continents. I hiked in 3 mountain ranges, saw 3 oceans, and basked in the sun of 6 different beaches, 2 gulfs, and 1 bay. To do all this, I took 43 flights, went on 3 roadtrips, used 1 EurorRail pass, and took countless trains, while emptying out my hard earned cash.

And life has never seemed more incredible.Some of these trips took place without the presence of others too, notably Puerto Rico, a side trip to Salzburg, the time I got my passport stolen during a layover in Brugge. But despite the thefts, things do look up. And add this to the eight other countries I had previously visited, and I can proudly claim that I did it on my own: 29 countries, in 29 years, and the 30th, which should hopefully be Nepal, is in the planning process, to take place before my 30th year takes over.

More on all this later: My new goal is to write it all down before I turn 30. I just wanted to pat myself on the back for starting with a pledge, after so long. I’ll let you pat yourself for getting through it all.



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