Spontaneity is great if you’re willing to be flexible. From the start of my journey I was willing to hunt for budget flights around Europe.
I luckily landed a trip to Sofia, Bulgaria, for about 90 euros after the airline fees. I chose to go alone which turned out to be a bit nerve racking. This would be the first time I left Italy since I’ve gotten here and I wouldn’t have the support of my peers.
Most likely influenced from my economics professor, I wanted to minimize as much costs as I could for the weekend.
I chose to stay the weekend in a hostel.
It was a whopping 8 euros per night at the hostel. Not only was this the most economically efficient option, but it also compensated for me traveling alone. I had made no plans for the weekend.
I knew I wanted to socialize with anyone staying with me for the weekend and create some plans then and there.
My experience turned out to be one of the most enlightening, humbling, and invigorating experiences I have had traveling.
I met so many noteworthy individuals in such a condensed period of time that I decided to write many of them rather than just one.
My favorite three were
- Dragan (that’s right it sounds like dragon, I was amazed too!)
On my flight, I was met with a couple that sat right beside me.
Dragan and his wife (whose name I didn’t get catch as she didn’t speak much English), were coming back from a holiday they spent in Rome and making a stop in Sofia before they went home to Macedonia.
He was a huge burly guy with a heavy Slavic accent. He told me how he was a retired military veteran at the age of 45. One of the first questions I nervously asked was, “did I make the right choice flying to Sofia?”
With a straight face and extremely deep voice he replied, “How long do you stay?” When I had told him it was just for the weekend, and I was alone, he nonchalantly smiled at his wife and said, “Yes. Yes, you made the right choice.”
A wave of reassurance came over me.
When we got off the flight they helped me through the stagnant and tedious passport line, find a taxi, and made sure I got into my hostel.
He was my introduction to Europeans from the Balkans. And I have to say, they are some of the friendliest people in the world.
What resonates with me the most is the taxicab driver and Dragan. They were in a well engaged conversation (which was in Bulgarian) and the cab driver abruptly turned back to us and asked, “Can I ask you something? Is it okay if I smoke? Are you sure?”
Simple, and almost exaggerated, but his tone was so genuine and different from the tone I experienced in Italy and back home in the states.
It took us a few tries to get to the right address, and every time we got to a new stop, both Dragan and the cab driver would get out and walk up to the building, making sure it was the right address.
This was a lovely introduction to my solo trip I was initially antsy for.
In researching a little something about hostels, I found that their common rooms are raved over. So, the first thing I did when I checked in was throw my bag on my bed and came right back to the common area, which is just a living room really.
Spread along a little coffee table was camera gear. A GoPro, digital camera, and phone screen that I saw pictures being uploaded on. And there was my soon to be bud, Vicente.
He was a software engineer from Spain that took his holiday a week early to beat the crowds. His friends were all taking normal holiday so he decided to just go alone.
It reminded me of myself, since all my classmates went on an optional excursion to Venezia that weekend. I recall a lot of them saying I was “brave” for going on this trip alone.
Maybe I was, or maybe I was craving adventure. Regardless, I was nervous about the living environment at the hostel and the people I would have to sleep next to.
Learning that Vicente basically went on a trip for the same reason as I did was immensely relieving. He also rented a car and we took a road trip to the Rila Monastery in the mountains, it was breathtaking!
Jonathan was weird to say the least. He walked into the common area without a care in the world and bellowed, “I am going to check around and see if there’s a PAR-TEEE TONIIGHT!” as he plopped down on the couch.
It was off putting at first because it seemed like he really didn’t take notice of a new person in the room (me). Most importantly, his character and tone contrasted with the Bulgarians I had just experienced during the weekend.
However, after talking to him I learned that he was an America—I knew he wasn’t a Bulgarian—from Colorado. He had been traveling throughout Europe for the past 5 years. He caught my attention when I had asked him how he could afford to travel for that many years consecutively.
“I’m a digital nomad. I work remotely and am a web designer.”
I’ve always dreamed about this. I’m currently working on some web ventures myself that I plan to automate as much as possible. He was a living example of my endeavors and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
He shared how he believed in balanced his work life—which was about 50 hours a week—and going out and meeting people.
That was his major incentive to travel.
“It’s not about the money. If I wanted to make money I would’ve stayed in the states. Maybe moved to LA and focused on building a career there.”
He had months where he made $10000 a month and months where he made only a couple hundred. His whole experience was novel, rational, and yet, enlightening.
He had changed my mind completely. I once dreamed of having the capability to travel as he did. To not be bound to a metaphorical anchor we call home.
I want to build a career just as much as I’d like to build the relationships around me. If I traveled the way he did I would have a bunch of introductions to stories whose plots I may never get to see develop.
A nomadic life would undermine my values of cultivating deep meaningful relationships in my personal and professional endeavors.
I love traveling and I love the lessons that come with the people I meet.
But, I can’t forget that sometimes the best lessons are wrapped up in the ones right in front of you. Looking a little closer can get the details to unravel.