Remember that time I fell skiing and tore my ACL, let it heal for approximately three weeks, then traveled to more countries than most people do in a year during a one-month span? I have extreme FOMO, y’all. There’s just so much to do and see in this world, I can’t help it.
In the last month, I’ve been to Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, back to Germany, England, and now Austria — in and out of eight countries in 30 days. I’ve averaged 20,000 steps every day.
In London yesterday, while doing a food tour, I met a girl who just graduated high school, and was traveling with her Dad. She complained about being tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. So I boldly asked her, “Is this your first time in London?” She nodded.
I asked, “First time to Europe?”
She weakly replied, “Yeah.”
I looked straight into her eyes, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”
The girl's eyes went wide.
I continued to tell her she might not get this opportunity again. To travel. See the world. I also told her a story I'm sure she didn't care to hear, about how I dragged my boyfriend to London when I was her age when my parents taught a study abroad program. How it changed his perspective. How he was then determined to make travel a life-long priority. How that boyfriend is now my husband. How we now live abroad and yeah, sleep is important, but so is taking the opportunity to see the world. The girl's father mouthed “thank you” behind her.
Growing up, my parents, especially my Mom, always tried to ensure we were seeing everything.
At age 16 I remember complaining about spending a summer in London because I'd be missing out on all the epic parties back home. I think about that and howl with laughter. Thank God my parents put their foot down and made me go to London.
Some of my most vivid memories are there. Heading down to the Tube on the escalators lined with posters of plays at various theaters (several we had seen or planned to see) or walking through Regent's Park and feeding the ducks with my little sisters in tow.
Watching the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace, going shopping at TopShop in an effort to dress like a posh Londonite, going to my very first bar at 15, being snuck in among the college students. All of this happened in London. It's where I discovered myself.
These happy memories are mixed with hard memories, too. On our last trip to London, when I was attending as a student, I took classes and had an internship at Amnesty International. My best friend happened to be studying abroad at the time in a different program and one night we got lost on the Tube and discovered a great pub where we planned a trip to Paris over pints.
This trip was thrilling and different since I was older and could explore on my own. That year, my sisters opted to do activities in Dallas rather than come along. They stayed home with a babysitter.
Before we left, my sister had been feeling ill. After multiple trips to the doctor, my parents were assured it was mono. But my Mom felt uneasy and kept insisting that the doctor do blood tests. He agreed but scheduled the test after we left to go abroad.
During the second week in London, we got a devastating call about the blood test results. She had Leukemia — the most terrifying news I'd ever received. And the worst part was being so far away, across the ocean. We caught the first flight back to the U.S. and rushed home in a daze, arriving at the hospital as her kidneys began to fail. Soon after, the cancer treatments began.
I remember standing on Millennium Bridge with my Mom with a view of St. Paul's Cathedral, breaking down in tears. Running back to our flat on York street, throwing stuff in a suitcase and heading to Heathrow Airport trying our best to hold it together.
Thankfully, that period is behind us. My sister is now a thriving young woman who gracefully survived two-and-a-half years of intense chemotherapy. I realized that life is about focusing on the things that make you happy. Of course, we all have things we need to do or struggles to overcome. But part of our journey is overcoming that and still choosing to live. Don't take the easy road or even the relaxing one.
Heading back to London this time brought on extreme waves of memories, reminding me of the importance to go out and grasp the world. Whether you get to travel often or you're making the most of a 10-day-trip, life can be fragile and short.
True, it can be hard to do it all, but we can never truly be sure of what lies ahead.
After I tore my ACL skiing in Austria at the end of March, I was in pain, of course, but mostly I felt discouraged because it affected my travel plans. I took the time to rest, yes, but then I had to get back out there.
I literally cannot sit still.
This past month I walked the cobblestone streets of Montepulciano in Tuscany with purple crutches I kept dropping while trying to balance as I took pictures.
I went home a bit earlier than Michael so I could rest my leg a few days before more friends came to town.
I ditched the crutches but kept wearing the leg brace while exploring our current home of Heidelberg, Germany and went strawberry picking.
Then we headed to one of my favorite places (the birthplace of Grimm's Fairytales) — the Black Forest. Next, we went to Strasbourg, France to eat croissants, and then Colmar for more charming streets and cheese.
Back in Germany, we spent time in Lake Constance and went to the most beautiful castle in the world: Neuschwanstein.
After pretending to be a princess, I went with Michael to Innsbruck, Austria and toured the palace of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Then it was onto another of my favorite places: the Wilder Kaiser region in Austria. After breakfast in the mountains, I went home to Heidelberg for a short break.
I finally went back to Greece, where I visited four years ago. This time I toured the island of Corfu, steeped in loads of mythological history.
With only one short day “home,” I stayed at a hotel in the Frankfurt airport before heading to London.
I spent four days gawking at familiar sights and some new additions to London's skyline. I stayed in an incredible hostel, Wombat's, a stone's throw away from Tower Bridge.
I have no plans to slow down anytime soon. Life is too short, as they say. And despite how it may look, my job involves a lot of work. It can be hard walking all day, stopping to edit photos or to work on a blog post or answer emails. I'm not complaining. No way. I choose this path. But I don't ever want to look back and say, “Oh I wish I'd seen this or ate that or experienced this.” After all, you can sleep when you're dead.