50 DAYS TO FIND MYSELF

W  hen we decided to host Fernanda for a couple of nights, I didn’t expect a girl so adventurous, so full of energy and good vibes, so eager to learn and to try out everything in Vienna. And the first impression only materialized in the permanent image that I now have of her. After the first four hours of laughing, sharing stories and drinking beers, I got to know a little bit about Nanda’s world. And it was truly uplifting.

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Nanda had been working in a Medical Conferences Organizer as a Project Manager for the last couple of years. Although this job provided her with a very good social status on one hand and a pretty good salary on the other, she needed to work like crazy every single day and felt it was a dead end.

“It was getting me very stressed and I couldn’t have enough time for myself or to feel alive. I felt that I wasn’t achieving the expectations I had idealized for me. I felt that there was a huge gap between the life I desired to live and the life that I was actually living.”

All this frustration turned into something bigger. She was soon fed up with all the hassle and pressure at her job and in her relationship, so in a moment of despair, she decided to change everything in her life. Quitting her job and breaking up with her boyfriend was only one part of her plan. The second part came as a response to the feeling of being trapped. She wanted to be happy, content and empowered again, but realized this could only be done if she took a step back from the world that she knew. Without much ado, she bought a ticket to travel Europe for 50 days, enough time to immerse her in every culture she will experience.

“I just woke up one day and I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. One decision came after another and that is how I ended up backpacking in Europe in this summer.”

Extremely thrilled about the trip and pleasantly surprised about her spontaneity, she started looking into the itinerary. She had a rough idea about the cities she wanted to visit, but that didn’t matter that much. Europe is beautiful anyway, she thought. More important was the determination to open her heart and mind to other cultures and thus grow and change from inside out. With the ticket in hand, she realized that she is actually free to live her life, on her own terms, discovering it day by day, step by step. She boarded the plane in Porto Alegre on June 16th without looking back.

“My first city in Europe was Lisbon. When I got there, I walked up the hills of the old city neighborhood, where my hostel was located. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I got up to the Santa Catarina point view. I could see a big part of the city and the river. The warm breeze was blowing my hair, the sun was warming up my body and the view was just amazing. I felt so free, so comfortable with myself, so happy. It was the first time in years that I have had that sensation: a simple happiness for the power to be able to decide whatever I want to do without taking anyone in consideration.”

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Hitting the road by herself was something she had never imagined doing. Her friends and family in Brazil surrounded her like bees on almost every occasion, so embarking on a journey with no one but her backpack was definitely a challenge. It felt kind of weird at first, but as the days passed, she started learning how to enjoy being by herself. It was her decision after all, so she made the most of it. In the journey that followed, she chose curiosity over fear and opted for discovery and amazement over security and routine. She grew both strong and confident.

“I started talking and laughing by myself. I bet the people who saw me thought I was crazy. I didn’t care at all if they did, I was feeling so confident and happy and I was enjoying every detail of my trip.”

Every single day was special, she had a different plan for each one. It would have been impossible to say this about her life in Porto Alegre, even though her work offered some variety when it came to tasks and responsibilities. Her new life meant enjoying herself again, finding new ways to cherish time, exploring new places, learning new things, finding new shortcuts, and most importantly, meeting so many different people.

The last part brought the most wonderful experiences on the trip. As she was alone, getting to know a lot of people and talking to strangers was the norm. So, she embraced the idea of not having any friends by her side and got in touch with fellow travelers or locals whenever she had the chance. That enabled her to meet wonderful likeminded people from vastly different backgrounds and with fantastic stories of life, who taught her so many things that she will keep with her forever.

She ultimately visited ten countries and each one was unique. Being able to travel for less than an hour and then arrive in another country with a different language, culture, architecture and people was something new for her. She got lost walking around Lisbon’s little streets. She fell in love with Italian and Spanish cuisine. She enjoyed walking over the Tower Bridge in London. She discovered a great boat party in Paris … and so she savored every single moment that her first backpacking trip provided her.

“It was an amazing experience that opened up the way I see the world. Traveling makes you a better and happier person. I’m so glad I had this opportunity.”

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On a sunny afternoon in Porto Alegre, Fernanda listened to the moment that struck like a match, creating a spark in her life and took a leap of faith. She embarked not on an adventure though Europe, but on a road of searching what makes her feel alive. She leaned into a new way of seeing her life, and she still enjoys the fruits of her travels every single day.

“I feel blessed and more confident to move on with my life.”

After spending 50 days traveling, Fernanda feels she found what she was looking for. By cutting out what made her dead inside, she took a journey of self-discovery and was reborn again. Through traveling, she got her priorities straight by learning what it is that makes her feel satisfied and confident. It opened up her eyes to new opportunities and endless possibilities. Traveling teaches you the secrets of a fulfilled life, if you were only to take that step…

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