Why Traveling Has Changed My Soul

After hours of late-night applications, resume checking, and carefully planned Skype interviews to account for the time change from Italy to America, I was feeling fairly confident that I was about to secure my dream job.


Although traveling through Italy has been wonderful, I was excitedly looking forward to the prospect of coming home to work in a field that I love. Then I found out I didn’t get the job. Not just any job, but the job. The one that is so closely aligned to the picture I have for myself and my future that it is as if I designed it myself. Like any twenty-something fresh out of college would be, I was torn up. Immediately I found myself questioning my degree, my talent, my desirability as an employee and a human. I thought, “this can’t get any worse, here I am stuck in Italy all alone, and I can’t see any of my friends to cheer me up.” With that, I resigned myself to a pity party (full of music, a whole chocolate bar, and jumping on the bed) until I was so exhausted I fell asleep in a muddy puddle of my own misery.

This morning I woke up and to my astonishment, the world was still getting along just fine. But hadn’t time stopped and happiness ceased to exist because of my misery? Trepidly, I climbed out of bed, made myself a homemade cappuccino (something I’m proud that I’ve learned here in Italy) and some breakfast. Just to be sure the world was still spinning, I stuck my head out the window and listened to someone’s conversation happening in the street (after all, it’s not really eavesdropping if you can’t speak the language). Looking around my apartment I wondered, “what the hell am I supposed to do now?”, asking both literally and figuratively. 

In my apartment, there is this spot where the sun shines through so powerfully at every time of the day, it’s as if the sun is centered around this small square. On the ground I keep a cushion comprised of towels and a pillow so I can sit and feel the sun whenever I want. Looking at that spot, it seemed so obvious that the next step in my life had to be to sit down in that spot and not move until something changed.

So I sat, kind of hating it and loving it at the same time, which led me to think about love. Not just romantic love, the tainted way we often only consider the term now a days, but love in all its powerful variations. There on that cushion I sat, going back to my earliest memories and scouring them all both for the most powerful moments of love, and the even the smallest ones I could remember. All twenty two and a half years of my life. Some memories were so intense I felt like I could be there again, like the love from those moments was still washing over me. Others were like small waves hitting the beach. I searched for the thousands of experiences I’ve had wrapped and smothered in love, both from within and received, until I felt so filled, so overflowing with pure love that I burst into tears. These tears turned into sobs, then loud crying, and finally laughter. I laughed and cried while the hot sun poured down on me and I said aloud, “I love this world, and this world loves me!” 

Opening my eyes, I looked out my skylight and thanked the universe for putting me here. Not just here, in this moment, but here in this place, in this experience. For placing me somewhere in the world that made me turn within instead of without for comfort. In a place where distraction is hard to come by and some days my only friend is myself. I thanked God (or the universe, or karma, or whatever you want to call it) up and down for putting me so far away from home that the only option I have is to find myself. When we are surrounded by what we’ve always known or come to know, it’s hard to see the picture differently. Our emotions become repetitive. Love is felt the same, hate expressed the same, fear pops up over the same things. But here, so far away from my element and out of all my comfort zones, emotion has to be different, I have to be different. Coping has to be done unlike any way I’ve coped before, and just when you think it’s awful and you will never learn or change, by golly, you do. In a foreign place, all alone, I have faced the depths of my misery and come out on the other side brighter and more alive.  This, all of this and so much more, is why traveling has changed my soul.

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