This is a story about risk. And how you take it.
I didn't even know where this city was on the map. In college, all I ever wanted was in two words: STUDY ABROAD. It was like the key to my freedom. It was freedom actually. I never knew how much I wanted to go when I decided to study abroad in Granada, Spain. I was so certain that I followed my bliss effortlessly. I'll admit I got caught up in all the excitement of my college friends wanting to go and I was so fascinated by the travel that I just said, yes, let me book my one way ticket. Where was Granada exactly I thought? Who cared! It's SPAIN! All I knew was that it was calling me and I COULD NOT IGNORE.
You see in college I didn't exactly listen to my calling which was entrepreneurship and fashion. I didn't really have a clue. However, business was calling me constantly and it took me awhile to listen to that natural part of my personality. That economics and marketing class was so interesting but I never pursued it for various reasons: practical scheduling, family pressures, societal expectations, mentors' expectations, and of course, my sense of who the heck was I anyway identity crisis. But it was much more controlled from the outside. It was something like I am here to study and be a good student. And get to graduation. Yea right...who was I kidding anyways?
The good news I graduated with flying colors and with most of my friends! The eh news was the only real bliss I followed during college was my study abroad experience in Granada, Spain. It was there I was able to really just be myself. I traveled with about 20+ students from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and I finally felt ME! It was much more than culture and the school experience. It was the experience of saying YES to me and only me.
We arrived to Madrid all jet lagged and then took a 6 hour bus ride to Granada, Spain. UGH. I was such a novice traveler. I had a boyfriend back in Washington University at St Louis in the Phd program in the department of immunology but I was more in his way. I was 22 and I actually took another year to graduate to study abroad. Did I have funds to cover the program, travel, and expenses? No. I had to take out a school loan. I didn't care. All I knew that it was calling me loud and clear and I never looked back.
You see I had all the naysayers in the world about who I was and what I wanted in life. But it was all silenced by the ultra need and commitment to the SELF. YOU see, it really takes guts to do this. It was the SELF that booked the airline tickets. It was the SELF that shared a flat with 5 other University of Granda native Spanish students. It was the SELF that got to know strangers in the market. IT was the SELF that took a native Spanish class at the University level alone without her college friends. It was the SELF that backpacked throughout Europe for weeks on end. It was the SELF that walked alone in the streets of Granada after celebrations at 4am. It was the SELF that decided to be me, to take the risk on me.
I was determined to make this experience my own and it was SO worth the RISK and 10000x more because I invested in the SELF early on and it was TRAVEL that gave me back love and power. I was able to see things more clearly as the SELF. TRAVEL allowed me to be simply, ME over and over. NO one was around to say anything else. That was truly empowering and that was worth gold forever.
That student loan? Paid. My travel experience never forgotten. Even though my family was supportive and wanted me to experience life, it was the first time anyone went abroad like truly abroad for a LONG TIME. So it was fun. I took pictures on a camera that was broken and never received one photograph from the experience. However, all the experiences Granada gave me will remain in my heart and has forever change my perspective and most importantly transformed my SELF, the most important person in my life.
P.S. This was part of the sustainable living series because Spaniards live each day with what they have in the moment. The second best part of my trip besides traveling and celebrating culture in every way was hands down, the SIESTA. The entire town would shut down for 2-3 hours. Yes to relaxation and slowing down.