What I Learned from My Trip to Europe
After reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, I decided to travel alone and discover another version of myself. I went to Europe and stayed there for six months. Here are my findings and learning.
The choice is mine; my life is my own.
Before I left for Europe, I wasn’t in the ideal state – I just ended a highly stressful relationship; I was looking to change my career; I desperately needed a break from the reality.
Well, when I married my partner in 2011, I was young and still trying to figure out myself. My partner was also young, and he also didn’t fully understand himself at that time. About 2 years into that relationship, we knew something was wrong. But we didn’t have a word for it. Towards the end of that marriage, we realized that my partner is actually homosexual and I am asexual. We were both living in denial. Now we have accepted these facts. It has been a philosophical and intellectual realization.
The divorce happened naturally and we don’t hate each other. Neither of us consider our marriage to be fraudulent – we were still young at that time and didn’t have a good understanding of ourselves. Now we are mature enough to figure things out. Therefore, we have made a rational decision: we broke up.
In order to feel better, I booked my flight to Europe. It was a one-way ticket. My first destination was Ukraine. I just wanted to see a foreign country which fascinates me and Ukraine didn’t disappoint me – its food, culture, people and scenery are great. It was a wonderful, eye-opening and memorable experience.
I met several tourists in Ukraine. We talked about life, work, relationships, and so forth. I realized that I must have the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life other people expect of me.
I always knew there was something different about me when I was a child. I just didn’t have a word for it. I couldn’t relate to my friends’ love stories, and at last, now I understand why my reality is so different from others’ reality.
And it’s okay.
I don’t judge myself for being different anymore. I’ve accepted myself unconditionally, fully.
I was thinking about coming out as an asexual person, but I find it difficult to tell my family and friends about it. So far, I haven’t shared this secret yet. But I think when time is right, I can tell people who I really am, and it will be okay then.
I’ve been single for several years now, and this period of time is the happiest time ever in my life. Now I can understand why I feel happier when I’m alone. This is a legitimate feeling; there is nothing wrong with me.
I need to remove myself from my usual environment in order to think clearly.
When I was living in my old environment, I felt stuck to some degree because things became stagnant. Hence, my trip to Europe changed the dynamics fundamentally. I’m eternally grateful for that experience.
Sometimes when you feel stagnant, confused or depressed, you should totally change your environment. This can be a very enlightening experience for you, too. Trust me.
Tosha Silver wrote a book called Outrageous Openness in which she talks about the importance of surrender – in order to let old stories go, we must surrender first. That’s why changing my environment and going to Europe gave me the opportunity to let my old story go – I embraced the new path.
Even if people don’t understand me and I look strange or mysterious in their eyes, I’m completely okay with that. It’s not about what others think of me; it’s all about how I interpret what they think of me. As a matter of fact, most people are probably not even thinking about me at all because everyone is thinking about themselves and their own problems.
When I was living in Europe, I felt lonely in a good way. Let me explain.
Because nobody knows me in Europe, the entire trip was very liberating. I could be whoever I wanted to be; I could reinvent myself; I could be totally free.
I read a book called The Alter Ego Effect (written by Todd Herman) a while ago. In this book, the author introduces a new concept which is tremendously helpful: the best alter ego is the one I have the deepest emotional connection with – emotional connection trumps everything. I can choose to be the person that I want to be. I can breathe life into my alter ego.
How my trip to Europe changed my life forever:
When I was living in Europe, I used the alter ego effect to my advantage because nobody knows me in Europe. I literally reinvented myself completely.
First of all, I changed my appearance. The way I show up has become different. Also, I think about the skills, knowledge, actions, behaviors and reactions that my alter ego would have.
Second, I decided to change who I was and became a different person, a new person, a changed person. Yes, I have become someone else. My alter ego has new beliefs, values, attitudes, expectations and perceptions.
Last but not least, I have chosen some totem / artifacts as emotional buttons that remind me of my alter ego: 1) a golden pin that I wear on my jacket – I bought this pin when I went to a Dita Von Teese’s show where she sold her signature pins before the show started; 2) an ancient coin that I keep in my wallet – it reminds me of the fact that everything has two sides (whenever there is a negative, there is also a positive). I found this old coin in a flea market while traveling in Europe.
Apart from that, I’ve clearly changed my mindset. Now I embrace the challenge by saying this to myself, “Bring it on!” I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not living in fear anymore.
This new attitude has desensitized my fear. I’m thankful for that.
I find my trip to Europe extremely therapeutic and joyful. For those who are struggling with anxiety / depression / relationship breakdown, here’s what I’d like to say:
Forgiveness and kindness are a great starting point. Not just to other people, but to yourself, too. Forgiving yourself is a necessary component for this journey. Without that, you will add fertilizer to the existing bad seeds in your headspace by being so hard on yourself. Yet self-forgiveness and kindness eliminate those bad seeds. Plant healthy seeds instead and become stronger.
The bravery to change your life and reality is easier to find when you are kind on yourself. Appreciate the time you have on this planet by valuing all of the gifts in your life right now.
“Be who you are, speak honestly, find balance, allow yourself to be happy and value those you love – if you do this, you will transform your life.”