Ok, my travel babes, take this as fair warning that this one's going to be a sappy one. A sappy, emotional story of ups and downs, a story of fears conquered and tears shed. A story of personal discovery and new found strengths. A story of low lows and high highs. A story of misery and joy. A story of friends gained and friends lost. A story of uncertainty and new memories... Consider yourselves warned.
I am writing this on my last day here in Rio de Janeiro with both an aching heart and a strengthened soul. As you all know, I have only ever traveled with people, and more specifically, Matt, whom I am now recently separated from. Although this came as a surprise to me, the aches and pains from this have pushed me beyond my limits. At no point in my life would I have thought that I would be brave enough to venture off to a new country on my own. And for you adventurers out there, I get that it's totally normal for you. But for the last 9 years of my life, I have not been on my own. I had been with him. Being 26 now, I haven't ever really been on my own. I don't even do grocery shopping on my own, let alone adventuring into a new country, foreign in language, culture, and life. But what I can tell you is that if you have never done it before, it is a must. As terrifying as it was, and God knows it was, you've got to do it. I contemplated even to the very last minute to cancel my trip and to take up my dear friend Rachel's offer of visiting her in Saskatchewan for a week instead of exploring Rio de Janeiro. And as much as I love Rachel and as much as I was shaking from fear, I now know that I had to come to Rio and I had to do it on my own.
Let me tell you- spending 7 days in a new land with new people and not a single familiar face around is scary. Especially if it's your first solo trip. Travelling is already full of emotions, let alone the roller-coaster of my mental instability and emotional state, and adding them all together is beyond overwhelming. I was most scared of coming here on my own and distancing myself from my friends and family back home - my support for getting through the most difficult time in my life so far. But I don't regret doing this at all. In fact, I'm glad I did this. I'm a strong believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. And I'm not quite sure what that reason is yet for all this heartache, but I do know that already, since arriving in Rio until now, I am different. I'm strong. I'm independent. And I believe in myself. All characteristics I didn't have before coming here. But being thrown into a whole new world forces you to leave your comfort zone and pushes you to be and do things you never thought you could. Take my trek up to Christ Redeemer for example. I've never been good with directions. In fact, that's putting it lightly. I'm terrible with directions. But on my first full day in Rio, I woke up with a plan to see the famous Cristo Redentor. Here's my instagram post after making it to the top:
THIS is the face of success. When you decide that a hike up to Christ Redeemer is doable because your maps app tells you it'll only take 1 hour and 50 minutes, but doesn't take into consideration that it's ALL UPHILL through a mountain forest, across rocks, water, stones, tree stumps, ditches, and mainly it missed that it takes FOUR hours to make the climb. And no, I'm not just slow, I ran a lot of the way because I came across multiple signs saying "Avoid Walking Alone". Not sure if it's because people hide there and jump out at you to rob you, or because if you fall, which based off how steep it was, is very likely, you'd need help. Regardless, I'm a scared little baby and sprinted every time I heard a sound (or saw a bug). When you get to Christ Redeemer (and civilization), you have to pay an entrance fee to get to the very tip top where the statue stands. And when I was given the option to take the escalators or to climb the stairs, I CLIMBED THE STAIRS LIKE A BADASS. My ass probably looks Brazilian now, thanks to the new found butt muscles this steep climb helped me discover 🍑
My two-turned-four hour hike taught me a lot about myself. And as grueling as it was, I am so happy that it happened the way it did. For one, it makes a great story. But every time I looked at my maps app and was told "only 17 more minutes to go", when really at this point, I knew it was lying to me because it took something like 2 hours to get from "34 minutes left" to "17 minutes left", I never gave up. There were countless thoughts racing through my mind that made me want to give up and just turn around and go back down. And there were moments where my legs and butt were so tired, I wanted to stop. But I had already come all this way, and even though I didn't know how much longer it would be, I kept at it. This is where I gained strength.
But strength isn't the only lesson I learned. I learned how to be independent. I learned that I CAN be independent. That I can make it on my own. As difficult as it was to come to Rio by myself and answer people when they ask if I'm here alone, I've had to come face to face with my new reality. My wounds are fresh, and there will be scars. And as strengthening as this trip was for me, I've had very low moments as well. Tears shed in bathrooms. Tears shed in front of people. Tears shed in my room. Tears shed in Rio. I get a lump in my throat and a nauseating feeling every time I think about the life I had but no longer have. I still do. And I'm told that's normal. But I hate it. I hate feeling this way. I hate how unpredictable my thoughts are. I hate the feeling of a broken heart. It sucks. And I want to cry about it non-stop. But I'm in Rio de Janeiro and I have no choice but to be okay on my own. I'm not okay just yet, but I'm taking it one day at a time until I get there. I have moments of thinking "Hey, this isn't so bad, I can do this", but in the next moment, I'm thinking "I can't do this. There's no way I'm going to survive". This roller coaster of emotions is exhausting, but I know that one day down the line, I'll be okay again. And the first step is moving forward. Moving forward isn't so easy though when you're lost in the streets of Rio de Janeiro on your own, with a terrible sense of direction and a maps app that you can clearly no longer trust. But it's in those moments that you realize that all you've got is you. YOU have to be the one to get yourself where you need to go. YOU have to be the one to get yourself out of a sticky situation. And it's in those moments that independence is found.
During this trip, I've had many firsts. Firsts that I wouldn't have experienced, had I not been pushed to come here on my own. And all these firsts are teaching me a lot about myself. But I'm also learning a lot about other people. I've never stayed in a hostel before this. And to be honest, I don't think I ever would have if I wasn't pushed to. I guess you could say I'm high maintenance and sort of a diva... I like staying in nice places. And I'm not saying the hostel I'm in isn't nice. I'm just saying I like luxury and privacy. But my stay here, in Oztel Hostel, has allowed me to meet so many amazing people from all corners of the globe that I wouldn't have, had I stayed where Matt and I originally booked our accommodations. I've bonded with some people I've met here and built friendships with others. And learning about other people's lives has opened my eyes to how big this world is and the endless possibilities that life has to offer.
While here in Rio, I came across a post on my Facebook feed with this quote:
Foreign lands never yield their secrets to a traveller. The best they offer are tantalizing snippets, just enough to inflame the imagination. The secrets they do reveal are your own - the ones you have kept from yourself. And this is reason enough to travel, to leave home.
- Graeme Sparkes
This quote speaks truths on so many levels that I am only now realizing during this trip. It spoke to me. It spoke to my soul. It's something I really needed and it couldn't have come at a more perfect time.