Soundtrack: Stole the show – Kigo
We used to have it all,
but now’s our curtain call
So hold for the applause, oh
Wave out to the crowd,
And take our final bow
Oh, it’s our time to go
But at least we stole the show….
Earlier than anyone could have expected, it was already my last week on Maui. It was almost time for me to say goodbye and leave the island. I had met the best people, and some not so good at all, I had visited more beautiful places that I could ever have imagined, I had learned how to surf, I had healed from the hardships of my past. All things considered, I should have been ready to go, right? Yet… I wasn’t. Thankfully, my last week in Paia was filled with last minute adventures. Leo, Dan and I slept under the stars at the top of Haleakala and watched the sunrise before having brunch with Sabrina back at the hostel, we went to Hana through pouring rain and we camped one last time and saw for the first time how tropical rain could transform the landscaped we thought we knew so well, the waterfalls were raging and Venus Pool was overflowed with rain water, it was beautiful, amazing and scary all at once.
My last night in Maui coincided with Sabrina’s secret birthday party. April, a great friend of Sabrina’s and a member of our Aloha family organized a secret celebration for her and everything that could possibly have gone wrong that night went absolutely wrong. To begin with, while Sabrina was going with Pat and Jo, two friends of hers who were visiting her in Hawaii, to see the sunset, Leo and I wanted to go into town to buy her a present and get her card signed by everyone. I left my phone at the hostel charging thinking I would have time to pick it up before going to dinner with her, Leo, Pat and Jo. Unfortunately dinner was pushed forward and Leo and I ended up going with Sab to drop off Pat and Jo at the airport, with no phone and no way to reach April to give her a headsup. And trouble didn’t stop there. No no! United airlines decided to screw up the night even more by putting Pat and Jo on another flight, forcing us to stay for several hours at the airport to try and clarify the situation. In the end, Sabrina and Leo went to the party without me so Sabrina wouldn’t miss the entire celebration and I spent most of my last night in Hawaii stuck at the airport. By the time I reached the party myself, I could not hold my tears, I bursted at the second I reunited with the girls, making a fool of myself in front of everyone. April bought me a few drinks to make me feel better and what had started as a succession of missteps turned out to be a very fine night. We went back to the hostel around one and had a last drink that stretched until four am. And all was fine in my world again. It was so hard to believe that I would be leaving all these beautiful people so soon.
Friday was my last day and we organized a barbecue at the hostel as a farewell. Everyone was here to say goodbye and spend a bit of time with me: Sab and Leo of course, Dan, April, Jo, Andy, Jeremie and Laura, Devin, Erin, Aske and Mal. My Ohana. We had food, played board games, and spend the day all together. Leo and Sab bought me a journal so I could keep on writing about my adventure and in the cover they put a few pictures of our time together. The first one, my favorite of all, is a picture of us 3 with Lorie, in front of the surf boards outside the hostel. I look at myself on this picture and how utterly happy I look and suddenly I get scared. What if I am never that happy again? What if this is as good as it gets and I have to leave it all behind now? Isn’t love the most terrifying feelings of all? Love makes you so strong but at the same time so vulnerable because you know what you have and how fast you could lose it all. When the time to say goodbye comes, I am a complete mess, I am nothing but a ball of tears. In that very moment I feel my heart shattering into a million pieces and coming back together to be whole again. I am one of the luckiest for having known these people and no matter how painful it is to say goodbye, nobody can take that away. I was here, we all were and we lived this life together, we laughed, we cried, we loved and nothing will ever be the same after now. Because this will be a part of me forever. Dan, Leo and Sab drop me at the airport and we dry our tears promising that we will be reunited very soon.
To mend my broken heart, I focus on the next part of my journey, Orlando. I am going to visit Marine (my cousine) at Disney World for a few days. It will be great to see her again and to visit the parks. I fall ill on the plane and when I finally arrive I am already very tired. But Marine and I reunite at our hotel and spend our first evening together catching up on everything that happened since we said goodbye on Maui on Halloween night. For the next few days she has organized the perfect adventure for us. She knows Disney like the back of her hand of course since she works here and prepared everything for us to make the best out of my visit. On my first day in the park she tells me that there is only one simple rule, one job for me: DO NOT LOSE THE ENTRANCE PASS she gave me. So, of course, within the first our, I have indeed already lost the pass. We lose a bit of time looking for it and retracing our steps without success, but thank god someone finds it later during the day and hands it over to her manager. Crisis averted! We visit all four of the parks, and I do my best to fight through the bad cold I caught and find energy. Unfortunately, all my body seems to want is sleep so I tend to fall asleep everywhere; in the bus that takes us to the park, in the boat that brings us from one park to the other, in some of the Disney shows, any dark place seems good enough for my body to betray me and try to get some sleep. But it doesn’t matter really because I am having the best time. For a few days, I am a kid again, enchanted by the magic of Disney. Animal Kingdom is my favorite park of the four but the night show at EPCOT makes my jaw drop at the sight of all the fireworks and the special Christmas finally.
I visit Marine at her work and she invites me to see her apartment. I meet Ashley, one of her roommates and we go for brunch the three of us and after a few days together, Marine heads back to France for a week of holiday and I head back to Canada, for a week with Lorie. I am so happy to see her again and to meet her family, but also to get a glimpse of the life her, Leo and Sab lived in Victoria Ville. I get my first taste of Canadian winter, with tons of snow and temperatures reaching minus 15 degrees. The more time I spend with Lorie, the more I realize what a great human being she is. So smart and caring, always looking after the people she loves, always looking for the positive in life. Nothing seems to ever defeat her beautiful smile. She is patient and always kind, she is funny without ever being mean, she is passionate and dedicated, she loves without restraint and seems to only see the best in people. I spend a few days at her parents house and we go visit Quebec City, we slide on our bums in the snow and drink tea to keep warm, we eat crêpes and poutine and she drives me back to Montreal after a few days together. I spend the rest of my time in Canada staying with my serogate family. I am so happy to see Nadine, Yoak and the kids again. I go see their school show, we walk around their neighborhood a bit and I visit Yoak’s studio before leaving.
My six months aventure ends with the usual pain of traveling by plane. My suitcase is 7kg overweight when I get to the airport so I spend one hour reorganizing my carry on to reach the 23kg limit, all of this to be told during check in that my combined carry ons should only weight 10 kg. Needless to say that their current 18.8kg is an unacceptable overweight for the lady at the counter. The only option she gives me is to pay 80$ for an overweight on my luggage and reorganize everything again to reach 32kg with my suitcase and lower the weight of my carry on. I do as I am told and, pissed off, board my plane to Paris. I sleep a total of zero hour on that plane and reach the airport in Paris completely exhausted. Off course my trouble in only starting as I now have to take two different trains to get home. It takes me a total of two hours to go through customs and get my luggage back at the airport and after that I have to wait two more hours to take my first TGV: a 9 minutes, 27 euros ride from the airport to the Disney Land train station in an over crowed train. Once there, I have to wait two more hours for my final train. I can barely stay awake at this point and the moment I board the train, I fall asleep only to wake up tree hours later only a few minutes before my stop. I get down of the train with my 32kg suitcase, and my two backpacks and my mum finds me in the parking lot. This time for sure I AM HOME.
When I look back at these six months of travel, it is hard to believe how far I have come. Leo told me when she started reading my blog that it felt as if the first articles were written by someone else. In a sense, I think she was right. When this adventure started, I was a completely different person. A fragile little thing, broken by months of living with a broken heart, someone whose only piece of courage was spent leaving everything she knew behind in an attempt to start over. I felt nothing but pain and anger at the time. I was depressed and lonely and the simple idea of this trip was overwhelming. I remember I didn’t want to go really, yet it turned out to be the biggest, most life changing experience of my life. I learned so much about myself, about all the things I am capable of. I have accomplished so much in such a short time it sometimes feels unreal. I often feel as if I lived so many different lives, all of them independent from the previous one. Each time in a new place, surrounded by new people. So much changed from one life to the other it is as if they did not overlap. And when I look back at these moments in my life I get that “it feeks like a different life” feeling, as if these were memories of a different life all together, blurry, idealized memories of something that did not really happen to me personally but rather something I witnessed or heard about. I get that same feeling when I look back at my time in Canada. It was only a few months ago yet it feels more like years sometimes. I remember how I desperately wanted to move there to get a fresh start. Yet it feels now as if that wish was the one of a different person. As if it was something I witnessed more than lived. I wanted to run away so bad, forget about everything I had been through in Germany and I needed a place to do that. Yet, as soon as I started feeling better, I realized that I wanted to move to Canada for the wrong reasons. So I decided not to. Instead, I would move back to France, probably Paris, for a while. Funny enough, soon after making that decision, I got offered a work and travel Visa for Canada. I decided to follow my gut and say no and a few weeks later, when a second invitation came in, I said no once more. Fast forward a few months and here I am, planning to visit Australia and New Zealand, and no longer ready to settle back home. I know that my wish is greatly influenced by my desire to spend more time with my girls, but I have the feeling that this is a decision I will not regret.
There is a quote in Marine’s apartment that reads: “Travel as much as you can, as far as you can, as long as you can. Life is not meant to be lived in one place.” I guess you could say I live by those words. And I was not back yet that I was already planning to leave again. But first, it is time for me to spend some time back home, with my family and my friends from some of my previous lives. I want to try and be better at staying close to people, no matter how far they are. I wouldn’t be where and who I am if it wasn’t for them and I don’t want to forget that.
In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy holiday, surrounded by the people you love most.