So here we are in Edinburgh, Scotland.
You might be wondering why the hell we’re in Edinburgh, Scotland and not in Italy.
Here’s the deal. During our original planning and researching period, we were looking up visas and the laws about traveling in & out of all these countries, and we came across this thing called the Schengen area. Have you heard of it? No? Well let me fill you in.
The Schengen area is, truly, a fabulous thing. It allows most of the countries in Europe to function as one big country, more or less, meaning that those with European or UK passports or visas can travel through the area easily. Doesn’t it sound great?
It is. But not for us rather naive set of travelers. For people with American passports and no visas, it means that we cannot be in any combination of the member countries for longer than 90 days. So we couldn’t be in Spain for 2.5 months, then go to Italy for another month, and THEN go to Iceland for one more month without a visa. They’re all member countries and we would have been there for closer to 150 days, and then get kicked out and banned from entering the area again for five years.
So, anyway, we read about this thing early on in our planning, with enough time to apply for and get a visa – had we done that. But we were a little confused about this area and what it really meant for us, so we asked a travel agent friend about it. Through some possible miscommunication and/or general confusion, we somehow came to the conclusion that this thing wasn’t actually going to be a problem for us.
Oh how wrong we were.
A few months later, literally days before Amelia and I were set to leave for Spain, we revisited our Schengen research and, not really to our surprise, our original fears were confirmed. Our original travel plans were to be thrown out the window. Since Amelia & I had committed ourselves to these families in Spain, we couldn’t get out of spending 2.5 months in the Schengen, and there was no way we were about to get a visa in time, of course.
So we were presented with a new challenge, to completely reconstruct our journey. One thing we did do right in this situation was that we only had two tickets purchased – our ticket to Spain and our ticket home from Iceland, but everything in between was open, so we didn’t have to worry about canceling any tickets.
For me, Izze here, this challenge was more exciting than anything. There was a moment of fear at the beginning when we first discovered our new fate. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to do any trip. Plus I felt like a total idiot. But what is a journey without a radical change of plans? Amongst these three jolly wanderers.
After the brief wave of fear and uncertainty moved over, I got excited. We now had another chance to make our trip into almost anything we wanted it to be. We got to create a new journey with different destinations and possibilities for adventure. How cool is that?
I’ve always prided myself in being incredibly adaptable. I can sleep anywhere, eat almost anything, and remain content. I find it much better to roll with the punches and see what experiences I can gain from saying YES to things, embracing change, and taking out of it what I can find or generate on my own. (This has created an interesting relationship with myself and my ability to say no and ask for what I want, but that’s another post).
In one of my favorite movies, Across the Universe, there’s a dinner conversation happening between an uncle and a nephew. The nephew is explaining his reasoning for dropping out of Yale, and the uncle is telling him about how that’s a horrible idea and his ruining his future and blah blah blah. Eventually it comes down to the Max, the nephew, saying “Isn’t it about who I am and not what I do?” To which uncle Teddy replies “No, Maxwell, what you do defines who you are.” And Max coming back with “No, uncle Teddy, who you are defines what you do.” After which he turns to his new, English friend Jude and says “What do you think, Jude?” And after being put directly on the spot, he very sheepishly answers “Well…surely it’s not what you do…but how you do it.”
This interaction can be applied too many parts of my life, and may aspects of this journey, as well, but for now I’ll make it about this adaptability talk.
Basically, I believe that the way which we are inside of a specific situation has much more influence than the situation itself, in terms of how we will experience it and what we will get out of it. The energy and intention we bring into an experience, whether it be a relationship, a new job, a family dinner, a five month trip around the world, literally anything else, is just as important as what exactly it is we’re doing.
I agree with Jude – it’s not what you do, but how you do it. And I’ve decided to be intentional with the way I am doing this journey. If I am able to bring the energy and values which I want to ultimately get out into a situation, then it has a much higher potential of actually generating that energy and those values.
This doesn’t mean I have ultimate control of what happens on a day to day basis or of how I will react to something or deal with something. This doesn’t mean that my intentions and values won’t change and alter and shift as the world does around me. But it does mean that I’m conscious of what I am bringing into my everyday life at the beginning of the day, that I am in constant interaction with the ‘how’ of my life.
And this is what has opened me up to the possibility of intense adaptability. I know that I can be content in many situations because it’s not about what I’m doing, but how I’m doing it.
So I knew wherever we were, whatever we were doing, I am there to learn, to explore, to expand, to challenge myself, to practice what I had already learned so far in my life, to generate new relationships with others and with myself, and to find out a little bit more about my personal ‘how.’
Anyway, this meant that we had to think about some new places we wanted to visit which are also outside of the Schengen area. One of those places is the UK! Good ol’ Great Britain is not a member of the Schengen area, so I chose to bring us here. It has been beautiful and grey, full of music, history, art, and tons of tea.
If you’re ever planning a trip to Europe, make sure you know what the Schengen is and how it works. And if you’re ever planning a trip anywhere overseas, make sure you do better research than we did.