the more i travel, the more i see how connected we all are. it's a shockingly beautiful thing. i recommend travel like my life depends on it, because i want everyone to experience that same magic.
lately i feel like i've been living some wild, happy, serendipitous dream. and meeting scarlett in amsterdam was a huge, pivotal point in it.
so scarlett went to florida state university (just like i did), but i never met her there. just like i never met noelle until that week in barcelona, even though she and i were in the same relatively small, competitive major!
noelle and scarlett met at FSU, but only twice. and very briefly. they were friends on facebook though, so when scarlett saw a status about noelle backpacking europe this summer, she invited her to visit amsterdam.
scarlett actually moved to amsterdam the very same week that noelle and i met and started backpacking europe. and she knew a familiar american face would help ease the transition into this drastically different world of the dutch.
i had a vague plan to go to amsterdam after paris. but i had no idea noelle would be in paris when i was there, so i wasn't even aware she was going to amsterdam, too. i was unsure about going alone, because i didn't have a place to stay. so i almost went back to barcelona with scotty and the girls and skipped amsterdam altogether. luckily, a very persuasive french boy convinced me to stick with my plan. and luckily, i stayed in paris a couple more days than i intended. because if i had gone to amsterdam sooner or if i had gone back to barcelona, i wouldn't have met up with noelle in paris.
and noelle just happened to be having issues with the couple she was traveling with. so when i learned THAT wasn't working out, i invited her to party with me in paris and stay an extra night, so we could go to amsterdam together. the initial plan was for this couple to stay at scarlett's with noelle, but when that fell through, i was invited instead!
and that changed the fate of the rest of my trip.
i ended up staying at scarlett's beautiful apartment in amsterdam for over two weeks. i celebrated my birthday with friends on her rooftop. she let me rest through an illness on her comfy couch. i was able to buy groceries and cook and save money... and if you've ever been a homeless backpacker before, you know those are pretty epic conveniences.
but more importantly than all that, i LOVE. THIS. GIRL. now!
scarlett and i bonded over coffee talks about past relationships. we had lunch time talks about parents and pain. we talked late into the night about the cosmos and all things metaphysical. we even went on a double date with dutch boys together ;)
after two weeks of sleeping on her couch, i learned more about scarlett than i know about many of my "friends" from back home... and vice versa. this serendipitous automatic openness bloomed into a real friendship. a dialogue that dug deeper than others. a connection that i hope transcends the space between continents.
and this incredible new friendship opened a door i didn't expect to walk through---a door i didn't know existed. (which then opened a damn metaphorical vault of sorts, but i'll get to that later ;).
scarlett's dad is a dutch pilot for KLM and an absolute joy. he stayed at the apartment in between flights a few times, so noelle and i got to know him over wine talks on the balcony. about sociology and culture and politics and family. i mean, doesn't everyone talk to perfect strangers about such relevant and intense topics?! not really, but it's my favorite thing in the world.
scarlett's dad doesn't really live in amsterdam anymore though. his real home is in malta... MALTA... if you're not sure where malta is (i wasn't either), it's an island country in the mediterranean, between sicily and africa.
well after getting to know noelle and i over a short period of time, scarlett's dad decided to grace us with the best gift i've ever received from a dutch pilot i just met... (jk, it's the best gift i've EVER received from a near stranger, and actually the best gift from someone who's not a parent of mine... although after getting to know him a bit, i sure WISHED he was my parent!)
so he told us that he and his beautiful dutch wife of 10 years were going on vacation for a few weeks starting at the end of july, and they needed someone to dog/house sit for them in MALTA. and since he knew we were planning on hitchhiking to berlin after amsterdam (and that berlin is too far from malta to hitchhike there... because it's an island near AFRICA), he offered to pay for our plane tickets to and from MALTA. so that we could dog/house sit at their waterfront penthouse for a couple weeks... IN MALTA... and then continue with our travels...
i mean... WHAT?! who does that, right?! anyone in their right mind would pay big money for that opportunity and we were getting it for free... i was literally speechless. speechless to the point of awkward because i did NOT know what to say. how to express an infinite amount of gratitude? what could i offer in return? i felt so unworthy of such kindness. and after all the hospitality they already showed me in amsterdam?! unbelievable!
and when it came time for noelle and i to leave amsterdam and head to berlin, scarlett's dad booked our plane tickets from berlin to malta and i about cried. but instead, i just laughed. it was a nervous, shaky, wide-eyed, hand-covered, i-can't-believe-this-is-real-life sort of laugh. because life has been so ridiculous lately. but a good ridiculous. a fascinating ridiculous. the kind that makes me want to dissect precisely why it's all happening.
so i tried. i tried piecing together all the steps that brought me to that place. and those all made sense. it was clearly meant to be. but why? what were we all going to learn from this? why did this stranger trust us and help us so much? what would i experience in malta? what would i have done if i hadn't joined forces with noelle in paris? i would've been volunteering on a quiet farm in middle-of-nowhere europe, like i originally intended before this whirlwind started.
but sometimes life takes you by the belt loops and thrusts you into situations you can't possibly say no to. sometimes to mock those plans you put so much thought into. sometimes to show that even though you thought you had it figured out, you got it all wrong. and sometimes to prove that happiness exists in the space between "that was insane" and "where the hell are we going?"