‘Cause when you take the easy way, you miss all the best parts’ (from the movie ‘Our Life in Make Believe’)
I had been traveling by myself for almost 6 months. I had overcome fears, I had challenged myself, I had passionately lived every day. I had possibly seen and experienced enough to keep my mind busy for the next 1-2 years trying to process everything. How does one manage to accept that the time has come to return home?
Arriving in Miami
I didn’t have to think about that just yet. Luckily, I had one more stop – I was going to meet with a friend from home in Miami for the last part of my trip. First, I had planned to go see the Bahamas as well. When almost pushing the confirm button I decided against it…simple gut feeling. A good decision since I am dying to go there now as a more experienced diver to swim with the tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks. The first night we stayed at a fancy private apartment building since one of her friends lived there. I definitely felt a bit out of place when I entered the building in my cozy travel backpack look while the doorman was greeting us. The same morning I had just received a look from the State Security Guard when checking my passport like ‘yeah you must have been trying hard to look good on your passport picture’. ‘Well Mister State Security Guard, I haven’t freaking had any sleep for 30 hours…excuse me if I don’t quite look like myself right now’.
Accommodation in Miami Beach
In MIAMI, you might want to get an accommodation right at Miami Beach Ocean Drive. We found this awesome hotel right next to the beach which is very affordable: Lorraine Hotel. We just booked the first 2 nights and checked with the receptionist (ask for Juan, he’s the best) for availability for the next nights when checking in. It will probably save you money since they can make you a better offer once you have arrived in person. We were so lucky that Juan gave us a higher category room for a discount price (it was Miami Yacht Week so all rooms were overpriced).
The next days were spent relaxing, exchanging stories and philosophizing about what turns our life could take from here on. My friend had just graduated and I was returning home from my big trip. We weren’t scared for the future but excited for all the opportunities we had. 6 out of 8 days we hung out at DIRT which is a restaurant/café with all kinds of vegetarian, vegan and paleo choices. And a tip for all the ladies when you start going crazy shopping at Victoria’s Secret stores, just go several times so the bill won’t seem so high at once. I really don’t spend much money on clothes except for VS. It’s remarkable, once you’re traveling you realize how little clothes you actually need and I still had enough variety in my ‘closet’. I got rid of so much stuff once I got back home to Germany and this attitude still hasn’t changed.
Another thing I always need to have when I am in the States is a big fat piece from the Cheesecake Factory although I almost always feel very sick afterward. One night was Super Bowl Night which obviously is a big night in the States. Of course, we were way too late and our plan to just watch it in an Irish Pub didn’t quite work out so we ended up in a restaurant which turned out to be even more fun – Señor Frog’s. The American style diner had us excited (I guess it’s a German thing). Later on, the waiters put plain pop corn on the table. While my friend and I already started eating they were explaining that the rather old pop corn was intended for a so called pop corn fight. After counting down everyone was going crazy throwing pop corn at each other. Later I learned that it’s definitely not a typically American thing to do. Well too bad, we had fun anyway and felt so American doing it.
Key West Trippin’
Another day we did a day trip to KEY WEST. I might have to come back to spend more time around here to go diving actually. That time, unfortunately, my dive with Miami South Beach Divers was canceled due to bad weather conditions. Around Miami, there are a lot of artificial reefs (e.g. Neptune Memorial) which would be interesting to explore. A day is definitely enough time to walk around Key West. Of course, make sure to walk to the Southernmost Point of the United States (Mainland), I had already explored the real Southernmost Point which is in Hawai’i. Definitely try the infamous key lime pie in all its variations – I preferred frozen key lime pie on a stick coated with chocolate. Also, there is a great store (Key West Aloe) that offers all kind of blends made from Aloe with a signature key lime scent. All their products are cruelty-free.
On our way back we saw a dog casually chilling in the sidecar of its owner’s motorcycle…because why not? Miami actually didn’t treat us with the best weather. We weren’t expecting to bring warm clothes so we actually had to wear our track pants every day. A couple of evenings were spent having a “Big Night In” since it was so cold outside and cozy indoors which kind of became a joke over time.
Before leaving we treated ourselves to a fancy sushi dinner which was made possible by two sweet angels I met on my flight over from Hawai’i to the Mainland. Back then, we were chatting throughout the flight and said a sweet goodbye when arriving at the airport. I didn’t get far when sweet old George came running after me to thank me again for the interesting conversation. If that hadn’t already been cute enough, he shook my hand, left and when I looked up I saw that he had placed a dollar bill in my hand – a 100$ bill! I was shocked and ran after them only to find them both hiding their hands behind their backs, giving me a big smile: ‘No darling, please keep it, you are traveling on such a low budget and we want you to treat yourself and your friend to a nice dinner. It was such a pleasure for us to meet you…keep doing what you’re doing and keep spreading that positive energy of yours!’ Protesting against it didn’t get me anywhere. I’m still speechless when I think back to this moment. George and Jackie, you are the sweetest!
Coming Home from my Round the World Trip
Miami with my friend was my safe harbor before returning home. A harbor where I had the time to get used to the idea of COMING HOME. A traveling partner all the way was my little paper crane my brother did for me before I left (he kept his own paper crane so we would always feel connected). Something that I also did throughout my travels was writing postcards home from everywhere I went, not only to my family but to myself and not written by myself but by people I had met on my trip (I wouldn’t read them until I returned home). It was so cute, my parents had postponed Christmas for me with our tree still up and a home cooked Christmas dinner.
The first excitement wave of seeing everyone again would soon be followed by first struggles to fit back in which would then be followed by the acceptance that there is no coming back from such a big trip, at least not to how your life used to be. These experiences change something deep inside of you that lifts you up to new levels. I wanted to leave and work abroad right away but being a graduate fresh out of college with little work experience doesn’t get you a foreign visa. In the past, no matter what idea I had in my head I had found ways to make it work. I was now presented with a situation where it wasn’t in my hands which made it really frustrating. On top of that, I had to accept that not everybody would understand those struggles and what was going on inside of me…and it took me some time to see that it’s something that just happens.
What I have learned through all my experiences is that in the end, you will have to learn to listen to your own beliefs and to your gut anyway, to then start acting on that inner drive, to follow your passion and your very own ideas. And it’s okay if it’s not clear what every single step is going to look like. That’s the thrilling thing about life. In the end, the most important thing is simply putting together the tiny bits…and piece after piece it should all make sense. It sounds so basic but it’s true. Thinking back 5 years I never knew I was going to go on a round the world trip, I didn’t expect that so many amazing things could be happening to me, I lacked the capability to truly imagine the number of endless possibilities I had in life. But with every step I take, I keep learning that simply every weird thought, every crazy idea can be put into action in the blink of an eye…and if not that then over the course of time. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?