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I'm coming home

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I'm coming home

In just under a week I'll be on a plane back to the U.S., ending one of the most incredible years of my life. Trying to sort out a year of memories and experiences is futile, but here are a few things I've already realized: 

The people were even better. I got to meet some of the most playful and generous people on this planet. In the midst of reading about all that is going on in Paris, Beirut, Nepal, and Syria, despite all of the horrific things that have happened, I am still convinced that this world is full of good people. People whose kindness and compassion blew me away. I was given the benefit of a doubt from Vietnamese who suffered in the war. I was invited into someone's home that was the size of my bedroom growing up. I was given couches, equipment, food, directions, hugs, and so much encouragement from strangers. People are incredible and I can only hope to pay it forward someday when I have a home. 

The adventures were way bigger. Last week I ran with (okay, away from) a bull with flaming horns in Spain. I will never forget what it felt like to trek with a 15 kilo pack to 5,416 meters, or to wake up on a mountain in the Austrian Alps the morning of my birthday. I got to climb the longest routes of my life in the Dolomites and Arco, care for 433 wild dogs in Thailand, swim in waterfalls in Laos, jump off a moving train in Prague, compete and actually place in a climbing competition in Kathmandu, trek in the Laotian jungle, the high Tatras, the Alps, and the Himalayas, and volunteer with the most inspiring organization I've seen in a long time in Nepal. 

And the hard times were worse than I imagined. I struggled with being developing country sick, injured, exhausted, more lonely than I've ever felt in my life, and injured again. I've had bed bugs, wiped out on my motorbike, almost drowned in a tunnel in Vietnam, fainted a few times, had a lung infection (maybe altitude sickness, actually?) at altitude, left my purse on a train, slept on the sidewalk, cried every time my tendinitis kept me from climbing, unknowingly hosted generations of lice in my hair for a month, and shit my pants in public...twice. 

Even though there are always going to be more places I want to explore, I couldn't be more ready to see my family and friends again. Truthfully, I can't wait to settle down and have things like a toothbrush cup, mugs, books, a dresser, a bike, a garden, and heaps of chipotle. America, you're beautiful. 

I don't know what's next or where's next yet and that scares me. So don't ask about that yet, just for now join me in saying, holy shit this happened. Thank you for believing that it would happen and for encouraging me along the way. Thank you, thank you, a million times, thank you.

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this is empathy

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this is empathy

And you’re traveling by yourself? Aren’t you scared?
— pretty much every taxi driver, server, barista, person sitting by me on a bus or train

Scared? No. Wait, what? Crap. Should I be scared? What do they know that I don't? 

But then that same woman that asked me that question proceed to show me exactly I don't need to be scared, as they ride one extra stop on the bus to make sure I go the right way down the hidden alleyway to find my hostel in Prague.

And then the girl I sit by on the bus to Berlin tells me about BlaBla car, a cheap ride share around Europe, which ends up saving me loads of money. And then she takes out a pen and paper and writes out common German phrases and coaches me through the pronunciation for the rest of the bus ride.

And then in Slovakia I sit across the train from someone who sketches out a map for me with all of the stops on the train from now until my stop, so I won't second guess the Slovakian announcements. 

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And then when I miss my bus, this sweet couple change my Czech krona for Euro so I can buy a bus ticket and then brings me tea while I wait three hours for the next bus. 

And a hundred more moments like these, of people pointing out cool cafes, historical buildings, taking me out to dinner, to coffee, giving me rides, and connecting me with friends in other cities. And then several times, friends of those friends (who haven't even met me) let me crash in their apartment for a few days.  

And then I count the times I've sat on a bus in Minneapolis next to a non-English speaker, and helped them practice their English. Or sketched out a map for someone who is lost and doesn't speak the language. Or taken the time to stop what I was doing to help someone find the right bus. Am I even noticing these people?

Someday I will have a home, a job, a car, a normal life. And this trip will just be a memory; a collection of stories and photos. I want to store away all of these sweet little moments, these kind faces that have helped me every inch of this trip. 

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photos: slovakia trekking

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photos: slovakia trekking

Tucked in northern Slovakia are the High Tatras, the second highest mountains range in Europe. The hikes here are beautiful, well-maintained, and lined with wildflowers. My first morning in the Tatra's was spent hiking up a beautiful mountain near our hostel, The Ginger Monkey. The Ginger Monkey is one of those hostels that feel more like your friends cabin, where a rainy day just means hanging out on comfy old couches with endless amounts of tea and the full season of How I Met Your Mother.

Yeah, I'd say I lucked out in coming to Slovakia. 

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