Travel Made Me Who I Am Today
I was only 22 years old with the burden of an unfinished college, a new boyfriend, and no plans for the future. Being born and raised in a communist country has endowed me with a humble attitude, but never with the chance of crossing the border, although that didn’t seem to bother me.
For a simple girl growing-up in a small town where everybody knew everybody, there weren’t so many possibilities out there. I had big dreams, but most of them were limited to a successful career, a beautiful house with swimming pool, and an enviable wardrobe.
Then one day it all changed.
I came up with this crazy idea of visiting Ibiza. I barely knew it was an island in Spain, but I had been told it was a heaven for fun. I don’t know if I was drawn in by the island’s fame or by the fact that my new boyfriend’s dream was to get there, but I remember that once I proposed the idea to him, he agreed, so we started to develop a plan.
Our enthusiasm made the plan a reality in less than a week. Everything was set up: an apartment waiting for us in Ibiza, a couple willing to take part in this adventure, and a piggy bank waiting to be broken! We were prepared for the incredible road trip meant to take us to the island that never sleeps.
The road trip begins
On a hot Sunday evening we jumped in the car and took the road to Ibiza with a trunk full of clothes, a crazy mood for fun, and no idea about what was going to happen.
First stop – Italy. After one night and one day of driving through Hungary and the spectacular Austrian mountains, after miscellaneous moments of wonder, laughter, nonsense, and sleeping in the most uncomfortable positions, we finally made it to Italy. We spent the night somewhere in a beautiful small town around Lago d’Iseo soaking up the Italian gentle wind, drinking beers, and eating pizzas in a traditional trattoria. I enjoyed the Italians’ way of life, and I enjoyed their beautiful country. This was my very first step into another world, a world I didn’t know anything about, but which I suddenly felt that I wanted to explore.
I’ve always imagined Italy as a beautiful romantic country with lovely surroundings, good food, music, and kind people, and so it was – lovely, colorful, and with a particular charm. If somehow we have been stopped there, I would probably have loved Italy more than any other destination in the world, because when you have lived an entire life without sweets and someone gives you jelly, you don’t dream anymore about Crème Brule, you just take the jelly and make it part of your life.
This was my very first step into another world, a world I didn’t know anything about, but which I suddenly felt that I wanted to explore.
However, my journey was just at the beginning, and I was already feeling overwhelmed by the diversity of our world. Constantly thinking about the last 22 years, I was amazed about how my happiness was summarized before with noisy Saturday evenings in the club and boring afternoons at the mall.
While sitting in the car, I felt the road expanding and my tiny world with it. I was having a strange feeling – I guess my perspective about life was changing.
And just when I thought I could not be happier than that, I saw it, rising from the left, proud, elegant, and incredibly blue, disturbing my thoughts like a first kiss stolen in the dark. The Mediterranean was gorgeous, almost surreal compared to my gloomy Black Sea.
Despite my constant overwhelming mood, I was experiencing a sensation buoyed by adrenalin and curiosity. The only familiar part of this incredible journey was my father and his frequent calls. I’ve always been famous among my friends because of that. My father calls me at least 5 to 6 times a day, so you can imagine how often my phone was ringing when I was abroad. However, I don’t blame him. I probably would have done the same if I was home, so those annoying calls were slowly becoming a sort of little pleasure.
It’s so sad to watch people around you having no dreams, no hopes – and it’s even sadder to know that you were one of them once.
I was so enthusiastic to share my indescribable happiness! I actually wanted to call everyone I knew in order to tell them about how beautiful Europe was. In fact, I did call most of my friends, but that did nothing except leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth, realizing that this meant nothing to them since their priority was what to wear in the disco. For the first time in my life, I felt sorry for them. It’s so sad to watch people around you having no dreams, no hopes – and it’s even sadder to know that you were one of them once.
I was already feeling like another person after just a few days of being gone. Trying to figure out where on the road I had lost the old me, I understood that neither that picturesque corner of Italy, nor the fabulous Cote d’Azur I was seeing now, had been able to steal me. My journey was actually not the road, my mind was not in that car, and I was not overwhelmed by the Fashion TV yacht parked in the beautiful Bay of Angels in Nice. The real journey was developing itself somewhere inside of me, with my childhood as a background.
Who knew that by this point my adventure was just at the beginning?!
I fell asleep after a long day driving through three countries. I woke-up in Barcelona, hearing my boyfriend teasing about how my sleep prevented me to be part of the most beautiful moment of this trip. He was right. Barcelona was far beyond my dreams. Once I saw the palm trees exquisitely lined-up along the way, the buildings’ old facades mixed up with a lively atmosphere, I fell in love with its cosmopolitan vibe right away.
We spent the night eating ice cream, walking on the beach, and sleeping a few hours on a bench in the port. We left in the morning after buying the tickets for the ferry. We had one day to find Denia, catch the ferry, and head to the island. We finally arrived in Ibiza. Mission accomplished!
Who knew that by this point my adventure was just at the beginning?!
What was supposed to be the end was only the beginning
Ibiza was wonderful, just like in my dreams. We had plenty of fun, we didn’t miss any club, any beach, any hidden corner. We were young, restless, free, and we were just about to discover the world.
The last two days in Ibiza were a bit quieter, and that made me think a lot about my life, about who I am, and about how much I would like to stay, not particularly on this island, but somewhere on the road. I knew how crazy this would have sounded to my parents. I calculated all the possibilities and realized that I had more chances to die of hunger somewhere far from home than to succeed in this crazy attempt of mine of seeing the rest of Europe.
The last two days were a bit quieter, and that made me think a lot about my life, about who I am, and about how much I would like to stay, not particularly on this island, but somewhere on the road.
One week in Ibiza and I was already tired of clubs, electronic music, and offshore parties, but I was eager to discover the island’s hippie flair, instead. Two days before leaving, I took the plunge and went to explore what was left of the island, hoping to clear my mind a bit in order to make the right decision. I don’t really remember exactly where I went those days – all I know is that I spent an entire afternoon on a beach, watching people jumping from a rock into the blue waters of the Mediterranean, and I did nothing but think.
I knew this was the trip of my life no matter what was going to happen. I realized that I was no longer that little girl who jumped in the car in a hot Sunday evening, and half of me was thankful for that, but what about the other half? What about my life in Romania, my parents, my friends, my old dreams? Was I ready to leave all these behind? Who was I?
The sun was going down slowly, sinking in the waves, and I was just staring foolishly with my mind locked in a fog. I decided to take my bag (painted with the American flag) and leave, with some fleeting footsteps in the golden sand.
What about my life in Romania, my parents, my friends, my old dreams? Was I ready to leave all these behind? Who was I?
I took a random bus without caring too much about where it would lead me. I must have been waiting for a sign or something, so I got out of the bus. It was late, almost dark, and I was sad and alone on the road, in some kind of strange village.
I saw a bar on the right side of the road and I went inside, driven mainly by a terrible hunger. It was an incredible cozy atmosphere, compared to the other bars on the island. I met Juan there, a very nice old man who was kind enough to share with me some amazing stories from his youth, mostly spent in this particular bar. The conversation was delightful; I found out so many interesting things.
This was not a usual bar, it was the essence of the island, the genuine Ibiza where people were living only with dreams and hopes. Back in the 50s, both locals and travelers came here in order to share their freedom and to contemplate life. The tavern was also used as a post office for nomads, a home for loners, and a love sanctuary for the romantics. I was discovering the most beloved place in Ibiza, I was hearing priceless memories, and I was finally discerning the sweetest Spanish vibe, that neither Bora Bora beach, nor Pacha or Amnesia, were ever able to offer me, and all these inside of an old bar where I actually came in by chance. After many shots of “liqueur de hierbas” and the best chat of my life, I went back to my friends and our apartment, happy and full of dreams.
I told my friends about my journey, and we made the decision together, deciding to take that chance and let the road guide our blind adventures. In the end, we left the island the same way as we came, with a trunk full of clothes and a crazy mood for fun.
The freedom of the open road
I’ve learned that a road trip involves so many difficulties, but that’s nothing compared to the freedom that it offers you. It’s not easy to spend weeks in the car, taking turns sleeping in the backseat, trying to grab a shower in a shady parking lot or melting yourself at 40 degrees because your car consumes too much gasoline with the air conditioning on. But, despite all the drawbacks, I would always choose a road trip instead of a dull flight that just takes you from one place to another without giving you the chance to actually see the world, to learn and to experience it.
I’ve learned that a road trip involves so many difficulties, but that’s nothing compared to the freedom that it offers you.
We kept going on and arrived in Madrid, where we discovered the culture of tapas, we made friends and attended a wedding completely uninvited. We took cooking classes in Paris, we did crazy stupid things in Amsterdam, we visited some of the finest museums in the world, we spent a few hours with the police in Germany because of a box of “souvenirs” from Holland. We called home for money, we paid some traffic fines in Hungary, and then, we finally came back to Romania, exhausted, broke, and happy.
I woke up the next morning, confident and with a completely different perspective about life. After my “Eurotrip,” an interesting year has come and gone in the blink of an eye. I got a job but it didn’t last, so I took my backpack and I went to scour the world. I spent six month in Andalucia, two in Barcelona, and one in Milano. Then I came back home, I found another job but that didn’t last either. I bought a one way ticket to Greece, but after several weeks I bought another one to London and then I came back to Spain, my first love. There, I started to write. Now I am in Romania, still writing in order to save money for my next trip, dreaming about far-off destinations and wondering what India could do to my soul, if Europe managed to change me like that.
I got a job but it didn’t last, so I took my backpack and I went to scour the world.
This one-of-a-kind experience taught me to dream big, and it didn’t change me as I thought in the first place. It created me, expanded my horizons, shaped my beliefs, released my inspiration and my wild thoughts, and it made me who I am today- a traveler.
To read more transformational travel stories and get inspiration to help get you on the road, check out the following articles and resources. If you have a story of your own about how travel has changed your life, feel free to pitch it to us!
- Why You Should Forgo the American Dream and Let Travel Transform Your Life
- How a Dog Walk Changed My Life Forever
- Getting Outside The Box: One Family’s Journey to Full Time Travel
- 11 Reasons to Stop Dreaming and Start Planning Your Round the World Trip
- Check out our RTW Traveler Profiles