[Written in the fall of 2018]
I’ve found it super hard to write about a period of my life and express how it genuinely made me feel as to convey to my readers how it was in the right way. But, as I have done my best, there’s also a huge part of it that could only be felt, is super personal, and can simply not be explained!
Studying abroad was such a powerful experience for me I’ve been trying to blog about it for months, but for some reason it took so long to finally put how it really was into words.
The first couple tries I wrote about it was in more of a story-line sense, and I know some people might want to hear about it in that way, but then I realized.. In the long run, what I take away from the experience isn’t what I did and how it all went down, but instead it’s the transformation I went through, as well as the tremendous growth that occurred.
So here I am, about 6 and a half months later, writing about Europe for the third and final time.
When anybody asked me how living in Spain was for four months, I usually always gave the same response; “it was a crazy, fun, awesome adventure!”
It’s not that I was trying to be fake in any way, because the beginning really did feel like that, as seen in my first blog post – “Something feels right” that I wrote… but the reality was that I was so mentally exhausted after from it all I didn’t have the energy to tell you how it really was.
So this is where I’m really honest about how my time in Europe was.. because I have the time and energy in the right, mental safe place to explain the truth..
I was actually kinda miserable for the majority of the 4 months in Europe..
Shocked? You’re probably wondering.. how could your time have been so bad?
Here’s the thing, people expect travel to be something amazing… and beautiful.. not an ugly experience?
But that’s it, that’s the part of traveling some people don’t realize.. and I didn’t realize before either. THAT’S the beauty of travel; sometimes it is an ugly experience. I think that’s why we ultimately travel. We travel to get out of our comfort zone, to be somewhere different, and sometimes sacrifice what keeps us mentally sane.
That’s what Europe was for me.. I was stripped of everything that made me comfortable of who I was and how I lived…
Most of the time it got so bad I lost a lot of who I was, and who I wanted to be everyday. Getting up was exhausting. It was this weird, constant, mixed feeling everyday because I looked forward to my life in that foreign country yet I wasn’t exactly happy about who I became and who I was when I looked in the mirror.
I’ll put things into perspective;
We grow up in this life and place for what we call home and create this person and identity of who we are, who people want us to be, and who WE want to be. It takes years and years in the making, and over the years your family and friends watch you grow and become that person. Everyone knows that the reason you are who you are is the environment you were raised in.. the culture, the language, the weather, the food, EVERYTHING.
So what if you’re stripped of everything that’s apart of that?
Who are you supposed to be?
Without everything you know?
You can’t even express yourself in your own language?
Every aspect of your life is different.
No one knows who you are, who you’ve become, who you were, everything you’ve worked so hard on. Barely even matters.
You also have the freedom to be whoever and whatever you want, isn’t that kind of scary?
You have no protection or guard, your walls are completely tore down, and you’re vulnerable, 100% of the time.
I didn’t realize how damaging that could be mentally, with no comfort, mentally or physically. I genuinely struggled to find mental stability while abroad, and it got the best of me. I lost a huge part of who I was, and I didn’t know who to be anymore. I lost A LOT of my confidence in being me, because, frankly, I didn’t know how to be me. I was so open and giving to learn and absorb everything new around me I forgot to step back and find the stability in keeping who I was.
Apart of me was very frustrated at the same time, at myself. Why couldn’t I just relax and be happy there? I’m living in Europe for crying out loud, why aren’t I happy?
I got so lost in pain and sadness and the uncomfortable moments towards the end, I couldn’t figure out how to bring myself back to who I was. Being in such challenging situations taught me things I never knew about myself; my weakness but also an incredible strength.
I went from expressing myself so much, feeling all this courage and happiness and full of life and all the good energies within me – to feeling nothing, regretting everything, doubting everything, doubting my strength mentally and physically.
I thought I loved traveling? I thought I had found purpose in traveling, and that’s why I had come to Europe, to feel that purpose, to feel like the wanderlust Hannah I had always dreamed of. Why am I not loving this? I thought this was where my passion was driven?
And yet, there I was with no passion or drive to be me, living a life so many people dream of. A life I had dreamed of.
There I was, questioning everything again, questioning why I was actually there, why was I put into misery for so long? Why was my mental health being put at risk for this?
How was this negative experience benefiting my life positively?
That’s IT people, that’s the beauty, that’s the answer right there.
We’re put into these tough situations to grow, to realize what we really want for ourselves, what we appreciate, what we’re grateful for, and to know what true happiness is once we have it. .
So after Europe I started to restore myself for a couple weeks and tried to gain myself back, but as I was struggling to climb the ladder to the top, I was ripped from it and thrown to the ground again. Some traumatic life events occurred and my mental health hit the lowest it had ever been. My last, absolute straw had been pulled and it was like I shattered into pieces, and man was it hard putting back the pieces together. Even though it was separate from my life abroad it contributed to my mental health going down hill. Just as I was trying to recover from Europe, things just got worse.
I didn’t know what to do at that point, I didn’t know my life could ever become what it did and I sunk into some real sadness for a while. I was sad I lost who I was, and I knew she was gone for a while. I had been stripped of everything I thought that I had known, and here I was hopeless, and I mean I lost hope in everything.
After living in a lot of confusion and pain for a while, I was really sick of it and I finally pulled all the strength in my body to rebuild myself, on my own for the better. I wanted to live a life that would make me happy and comfortable with myself and who I wanted to be. Who my 10 year old self pictured herself in 10 years.
I packed up my stuff, left my hometown, and I moved in with my grandma to the South Bay, and then it hit me. After all of that, I’m actually living a life I had DREAMED of since I was a little girl, and I felt happiness again. Genuine happiness. God, I could feel it in every bone of my body, I am so freaking happy.
For weeks, I’d sit in my car, parked in front of Torrance beach, staring into the vas blue ocean, and I would ball. I would cry so hard, because the happiness felt so good, because I felt the pain for so long and it was finally gone….
THAT is why I continue to live by “No Mud No Lotus.” (The charm on my necklace I wear everyday)
I truly experienced that this year (2018). I really hit rock bottom, and then bloomed into something completely new and different.
So, moral of the story is, studying abroad wasn’t about learning a new language in a different country, it was the contribution it had to my overall growth as a person. It was a huge step in rebuilding myself and learning what I want to pursue in my life, not only to be happy and inspired, but also to be healthy mentally.
I am beyond grateful with my entire heart for you taking the time to read this. Writing means a lot to me and I write every word from the heart and depths of my soul. Writing is my outlet, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and I know it means more to me than I realize. I turn to it in the best of times and the worst.
So thank you, for coming here and being apart of my sacred space.
Till the next adventure 😉