When the word "surreal" can be used to describe your life in the present... or you have to question whether or not the experiences you're having are panning out within a tangible reality, are you doing what people mean by "living out your dreams"?
I pondered this question as I sat out on some rocks scattered along the Rhine River at sunset a short distance from where I'm currently staying in Düsseldorf, Germany last night. This life I'm living right now is definitely not what I expected I'd be experiencing just a couple short months after walking across a stage to receive my hard-earned college degree. Surreal is the only word I can think of that accurately describes what I'm thinking, feeling, and living right now.
So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to write about for my first blog post abroad. There is so much running through my mind. I've also taken more images than I know what to do with (no surprise there). I don't really even know how to adequately or neatly process anything and everything I've experienced so soon and fresh out of college in such a short amount of time.
When I accepted this job with Rustic Pathways just three short weeks before flying to a foreign country for the first time on my own, I knew I would be changed. I knew this summer would be transformative...
...but I didn't know it'd be THIS transformative.
In just one month I've been to Casablanca, Marrakech, the Sahara Desert, and now, Germany. I've ridden camels through windblown dunes, driven an ATV down the coast of Essouaria, waded through rushing gorges of Tinerhir, Morocco, gone swimming near the waterfalls of Cascade d'ouzoud, ziplined over small red rock covered canyons, meandered through winding streets lined with souks of lanterns and artwork and rugs of every color under the sun, stood in awe and amazement under the ceilings of the biggest mosque in Morocco, sipped on mint tea on high terraces overlooking the buzzing square of Jmaa El Fna at dusk, among so much more. I've learned more about Muslims and and the Moroccan culture than I could have ever anticipated, cultivated relationships with some amazing people a giant ocean away from where I grew up, and experienced the lifestyle of what life might really be like as a traveling photojournalist. My eyes have been opened to a whole new way of living.
This summer has been one of many firsts and many adventures that I will cherish in my memory for a lifetime. I've grown as a photographer, a leader, a traveler, and on more personal levels than I can count. I've been watching my dreams become reality and it has given me a new hope, a broadened frame of mind, a new mindset on soaking in culture, and an even deeper passion for travel. The wanderlust inside of me is alive and happy and eager to experience even more cultures and places.
So it sounds like all fun and games, but trust me when I tell you there have been times abroad when I have felt scared, alone, and uncomfortable as a minority in an unfamiliar land. It's not always easy settling into new places with people of a culture so drastically different from your own. It's also not easy taking on a big job while experiencing new places as a solo female traveler new to the nomadic lifestyle of living out of a suitcase.
There are times when I want to cry and there are times when I long for home; but here I am, abroad, living out my dreams and growing as a human being in more ways than I can count. I'm young and alive and blessed. It's not always easy out here on my own, but what would be the point if it were? I'm being challenged and tested in so many ways and I couldn't ask for more.
Those moments of lowered courage, fear, and temporary loneliness are definitely worth it if it means gaining these priceless peaks of adventure, excitement, and views of God's incredible creation before my very own eyes.