What are you running from?

3-years-old
3-year old me with my dog, Bobby

I love traveling. I could talk on and on about the way travel makes me feel and the huge part that plays in my life right now. However,  I guess a lot of you could relate to the perception of travel as widening horizons, knocking down walls and borders and bringing you closer to people from other cultures and backgrounds. This is what traveling is all about, right?

How did I get hooked on so badly? Sometimes I think I was born on the road and that’s where I got the travel bug from. Not far from true. I was 20 days old when my parents took me on my first road trip across the country. No diapers, no bottled milk.

Ever since that first trip, I remember being stuck in a car, listening to the same cassettes and CDs on repeat. The soundtrack of my childhood road trips includes Creedence Clearwater, The Beatles, Bon Jovi, Queen, Bryan Adams, Sting. I still know their songs by heart. Those road trips were quite an experience for a 3-4 year old. I remember a trip I did with my whole family in a hippie van in the summer or another one when I got car sick with my mom, my brother, my aunt, my uncle and 2 dogs in the car!

music

I was 8 years old when I flew across the Atlantic and stepped on another continent for the first time. I was so excited during the long flight. I couldn’t sit still. I was running up and down the aisle of the plane. I ate everything the flight attendants gave me. In the end I got terribly sick. Again! I don’t remember anything from those first days in the United States. In the next couple of years I often traveled back and forth between Europe and the USA. Still couldn’t get over the sickness.

Then, I had to settle a bit because of school. It didn’t last long though. I was 14 years old when I went on my first Europe trip – Venice, Verona, Milan, Monaco, Paris, Barcelona, Switzerland, and Slovenia. In Italy I would go on pizza and ice cream. I had coffee for the first time and real French croissants in Paris. Also bought 1 euro wine. I went to the beach in Barcelona by myself… I realized that there are so many places and countries in Europe that I haven’t visited…ice-cream

The following year my parents and I went on an Easter trip around Greece. I had never been there before even though it’s only a couple hour drive from my hometown. I had my 16th birthday there. I remember it was a beautiful sunny day in Thessaloniki.

In my senior year of high school I won a European project and got invited to visit the European Parliament in Brussels. It was raining all the time but I didn’t mind walking around the narrow streets, eating chocolate and waffles and listening to the people speaking French.

Next step in my life was going to university. Most of my childhood friends went to study abroad – Germany, England, and the Netherlands. However, my first year in uni I met some of the most influential people in my life. A bunch of friends went on a 4-5 months exchange program in Finland. One friend moved to London afterwards. I felt a little left behind with so many friends going abroad, so I couldn’t keep myself from visiting. Sofia already had some cheap flight connections at the time, so it wasn’t difficult to find myself drinking tea in the heart of London.

london
Hyde Park

Spent a week there in January. I would walk around the parks and play with the squirrels, get lost in the museums, eat street food and take pictures. It didn’t rain at all!

When summer came along some friends and I just decided to drive to Greece one day. I woke up on the beach. That same summer I applied for my exchange program from university. I received my acceptance letter in late July and in August I was already sunbathing on a beach in Portugal.

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Girls just wanna have some fun

I spent there the best 6 months of my life. I made true friends for live and had the most amazing time. Portugal was one big party. Lots of sun, sea, beach, dancing, good food, coffee, beer, travels!!!

During my stay in Portugal, I visited Madrid twice, I swam in the ocean in January, I slept in a real tipi in a hippie village that you can’t find on the map, and I ran up and down the hallways of one of the oldest universities in Europe. On New Year’s Eve I found myself surrounded by people from all over the world and each hour it was somebody’s New Year. To celebrate all the New Years in the world in one single night – priceless! I wished that in 2014 my journey will continue.portugal2

And it did!

Stay tuned…

Last summer I worked on a train in Alaska. Contrary to common belief, it wasn’t that cold at all. It wasn’t beach weather either. So, at the end of September a week in Hawaii had to make up for 4 months in the Last Frontier. The waiting was totally worth it and I had an awesome island experience, but I was left wanting more. I have a strong deficiency of vitamin ‘sea’Kaanapali (16)

My mom is from a city on the Black Sea Coast. I used to basically live there from May to October every year when I was little. Sadly, the last few years I cannot even get to the sea… Last summer it was Alaska. Summer of 2014 I spent at the office, previous one – working, studying, moving to Portugal and so on.

I came back home from the States in October. The weather was already chilly and cold. IMG_20088250268263I started daydreaming about sunny days, heart-shaped sunglasses, sandy beaches and flip flops… A friend of mine came up with a rescue idea – let’s plan a winter-getaway trip to an exotic island! Deal! I was all for it! We planned for February – we’d already be sick of winter, I’d have passed my exam and I’d still have the money… The timing was right.

Until one evening… just before a family dinner, I got a message from my friend. She was euphoric. One of the biggest airlines flying east had a huge discount – more than 40% off flights to Asia is A BIG DEAL, you know! My friend filled me in – her all-time dream destination has always been Japan and now she could actually make it come true. I was speechless for a moment. So…no beach for me, no sea, no sand, no bikini and flip flops, nor coconut cocktails and exotic fruit… at least it was still an island.

I kind of fell for the Japan idea though. Japan! It had never crossed my mind. What did I know about the country? Sushi, kimonos, ancient traditions, The Memoirs of a Geisha, not much. Yet I was thrilled. It sounded exciting, distant, unknown. Exactly what I needed! Therefore, I just said “yes”.

Japan (3)

In about 10 minutes I sat at the dinner table.

“I bought a plane ticket to Japan.”

“Oh good for you, darling, would like some salad?”

They never take me seriously…

 

Anyway, step number 1 – CHECK! We booked flights with Qatar Airways. We would fly out of Sofia, have a layover in Doha, Qatar and arrive at one of Tokyo’s international airports – Haneda. The dates were random; however, we hoped for warmer weather and did plan to catch at least a glimpse of the cherry blossom season. Every travel guide would tell you the best time to visit Japan is spring – March and April. Once more, perfect timing. So… the planning and waiting could begin!