The Travel Itch

Under the sea exploration in San Andres, Colombia

My Genetic Makeup: Free Spirit

I almost felt as if I had this force field deep inside me, waiting to erupt. It was becoming so nagging that if I didn’t exert this energy somewhere I was about to seriously go crazy. This is how I describe my burning desire to travel the world and the feeling I felt everyday walking into my waitressing job. The most unfortunate part is that I couldn’t do anything about solving my little problem until I saved enough money for the day that I could quit my job, hop on a plane and give North America the ol’ “hasta la vista baby”. My genetic makeup tends to be quite complex because on one hand I’m spontaneous and free-spirited and on the other I’m worried and cautious. These conflicting traits have been battling for years but at this point in my life, I feel that the latter description of myself had received enough attention and the free spirited side of me deserved to take the drivers seat. This all came to head with a little help from a stranger…

The Push

By this time, almost two years had passed, and I found myself in the dreaded jaws of routine. Nothing was special about this particular day.  I was talking to the same customers, cleaning the same bar and stalking the same beer fridge when a man I did not recognize sat at the bar. He had a doctor’s appointment near by and wanted to check out the restaurant because his wife’s work party was scheduled to come the following week. I started small talk like I do with any unfamiliar face when the topic of travelling came up. I told him how I was hoping to one-day travel with the money I had saved from working. He looked up at me like he’s heard my story before and said, “That’s exactly what my twenty-four year-old daughter is doing at this very moment.” I thought he was going to say something like “oh, she’s in so and so State doing so and so non exhilarating activities.” Boy was I wrong!  He handed me her contact card and wished me luck. As soon as I walked into my house that evening, I could not take my shoes off quick enough to run upstairs and type the words hopscotchtheglobe.com into the internet search engine. After reading every inch of Kristen’s website, I decided to email her with some questions. I was nervous about the potential of travelling alone but she reassured me that you only “choose” to travel alone as there are so many other single travelers in the same boat. After reading her encouraging response, it gave me the push to put my two weeks in at work and head out on “my” own journey around the world.

Making friend in Ronda, Spain (Mandi on the left)

Leap of Faith

So here I am, no plan, no job and a nervous Mom. I decided the smartest action for me was to book a one-way ticket to Fort Lauderdale and stay with my best friend until I had my next move mapped out.  I was hoping that if I spent enough time with my thoughts and without life’s responsibilities that it would lead me to a light bulb moment. Well, that is not exactly what happened; I guess you can say sheer coincidence and luck kick started my journey. I was surfing the web for possible TEFL positions in Europe when I received a Facebook message from an old high school friend. We hadn’t spoken in almost a year so when he asked how I was, I jumped at the chance to tell him about my plans.  Remarkably, it just so happened that he had also quit his job and was presently in Colombia traveling and visiting family for fivemonths.  After some more chatting back and forth, it eventually led to the “hallelujah” offer that went a little something like this, “Quitting your job to explore the world is the true spirit of a traveler!  If all it takes is an invitation for you to come than you are officially invited to Colombia!”  So there you have it, two weeks later I was headed to South America on a forty-day trip to explore the beauty and culture of our Latin neighbours. I felt like I was in a trance the entire time I was there. I never felt such happiness and passion in my whole life. I can still feel the sweet rhythms of reggaeton and vallenato coursing through my body.

Experiencing the culture in Tangier, Morocco

Discovering Lisbon, Portugal

Making memories in Grenada, Spain

After the experiences I had with the people, the food and the culture in Colombia, I knew that I would never look at life the same way again. Don’t get me wrong, prior to this I had splashed around in numerous Caribbean oceans and danced the night away all over North America.  However, when you dedicate yourself to truly immerse yourself into the country and take chances off the beaten path, I believe that’s where the true revelations occur. While I was in South America, I also learned that I have a passion for the Spanish language and decided to move to Malaga, Spain for two months shorty after. While I was there, I tried to live the life of a Southern Spaniard. This consisted of eating late and enjoying the little things; as opposed to us Westerners who never slow down to take a deep breathe. After getting my nose deep into flamenco and delicious paella, I packed up my backpack and continued on my journey. Along the way I was blessed to see the majestic Moorish Castle in Portugal, experience the legendary truths of Amsterdam, drink cherry beer and eat decadent chocolate in Belgium and visit a Moroccan Souk.  The entire time, I knew I was doing exactly what my heart wanted me to. I must add that Kristen was absolutely right.  Although I went to Europe alone, it never felt that way.  The amount of other single travellers out there is astounding. In addition to my experiences, I am ecstatic to report that through travelling I have met the love of my life, made life-long friends, and feel like I finally received my long overdue introduction into my inner self.

Just Fly

Every traveller has a story unlike any other and experiences and feelings all of their own yet, one thing is certain.  There is so much that we can learn from one another. I feel like my wings have finally emerged and until that energy source I feel inside me vanishes, I will never stop flying.

Free-spirited Mandi in Colombia

This post comes from Mandi Courteau of Ontario, Canada.  Thank you so much for writing this beautiful piece.

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3 Comments

  1. Bettina
    January 14, 2012 / 11:33 am

    Mandi…this post is incredible. You should totally write more about finding love 😉

  2. Rosiec
    October 16, 2011 / 11:44 pm

    Wow! that sounds soooo awesome. You make me feel jealous and I am sure you will sway other fence sitters with your story.
     

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