Well the day has finally arrived. I am sitting in Dulles International Airport and my flight to Madrid boards in twenty minutes.
This is my happy place. The airport. I never mind getting to the airport early because I feel like I could find a million ways to entertain myself here. I like hearing all the different languages (sitting at my gate I'm hearing mostly Spanish and getting very excited, and nervous, to start improving mine). I also love seeing people reunited-- children embracing their parents, friends embracing friends, husbands embracing wives, etc. And I like seeing people alone too, and wondering what journey they're embarking on, whether they're going home or they're going somewhere new.
If I had been taking this flight two years ago, I would probably be feeling a mixture of excitement, terror, and anxiety, but today I am at peace. This is for many reasons-- one of which being that after I graduated from college in Delaware I lived as an au pair in Austria, and had only returned to the U.S this past March. Therefore, I don't feel like I'm really uprooting myself out of the blue. I just feel like I popped home for a quick break and now I'm back to living my life.
Great things come from horrible things-- the loss of a job opportunity, a friendship, a dashed dream, a broken heart, etc. but what is beautiful is when a person uses the experience to encourage themselves into something new. For me, my job plan for the fall fell through and after some brief consideration I just thought-- screw it, I'm moving to Spain.
It was something I never lost sight of ever since I studied abroad there in college. Have you ever left a city and thought you were leaving some unfinished business behind? Thought, "I'll be back."? That's how I felt when I left Madrid. I knew that one day I would move back there more permanently, so why not now? Whether before grad school or after, or ten years from now, I knew the ache would never go away until I finally did it.
I think I'm my best self when I'm traveling. I'm my most authentic 'Dana.' I'm happiest when I'm meeting new people and hearing different languages and frolicking about unknown streets. I've found it's very important to push yourself out of your comfort zone because if you don't do it regularly, you find your feet sinking deeper and deeper into the mud of your ways. I was worried about being home in the U.S for too long because I was scared I wouldn't be able to pull myself back out again. I would forget what it's like to be that happy, authentic, traveling Dana. It's like anything else, practice, practice, practice or you'll lose your touch. So talk to strangers and make them friends, tread new paths, and learn new things.
On my flight from Philly just a couple hours ago, (don't ask me why I would take a flight with the first leg from Philly to D.C instead of just taking the flight directly from D.C), I was sitting next to a United Airlines Pilot. He was delightful and we were talking about my plans and where we'd like to travel and he confided that through all his flights and his pilot career, he had never been to Europe. He was probably in his 50s I would guess. He said he had had opportunities, but he just never took the chance. He went on to say that what I'm doing is great-- that now is the time to do it. When you're young, you relish new experiences like this, but when you get older things get in your way-- jobs, kids, etc., he said, and it's not so easy anymore. You get stuck in that icky comfort zone that I talked about earlier.
When I got off the plane, the last thing he said was, "Take care. Have a wonderful adventure."