There’s nothing quite as magical as falling in love for the first time. It’s confusing, irrational, and entirely unexpected. When it happened to me for the first time, it hit me hard. I was floating in the world of unknown. I was entirely out of control, but everything felt just right.
Everyday seemed exciting and new. I woke up early, I stayed out late, and I went to sleep obsessing over my lover. I caught myself dreaming about our future together. I began to forget about my old life entirely. I couldn’t imagine a life apart.
But this wasn’t an ordinary run of the mill romance. I didn’t fall in love with a person. I fell in love with a place that led me to so many more. I fell in love with Thessaloniki. The second largest city in Greece, and my home for the better half of 2009.
Thessaloniki was the first city I would ever visit in Europe and for that reason, he will always hold a unique place in my heart.
Of course, his name was difficult for me to say… “Thess A Low Knee Key” in proper phonetic fashion. It took me four months to kinda sorta understand any other words in his language. His alphabet alone was torture…Greek is not easy, my friends. But despite the language barrier, I was amazed by how quickly we got along.
Don’t get me wrong, that first week was tough. When I first saw him, I didn’t find him too attractive. He wasn’t sexy or handsome. He was a bit dirty and uninviting. He left me in a room with a girl I didn’t know, no towel to shower, and no sheets for my bed. He left me for three days like that before taking me to IKEA. I sprayed to rid the tiny water bug looking insects that swarmed my room, and once they were gone, we started dating.
I grew accustomed to his cracked tile streets, the dozens of stray dogs, and a morning frappe. I got used to the inconvenient business hours and found myself enjoying our nine P.M. dinners. I always dreaded the overcrowded buses and the utter absence of deodorant during rush hour. I craved french fries in my gyros and bougatsa for dessert.
I somehow found myself falling wildly in love with Thessaloniki, flaws and all.
We found comfort in one another. We partied until sunrise. We drank so much we would forget to go to class. We laughed for hours over pizza and wine. We gained 19 pounds and grew out of our pants. We drank Ouzo while squinting our eyes and shaking our tongues from the putrid flavor. We climbed Mount Olympus and swam in the Mediterranean sea. We cheered excessively at our first European football game. We spent our first holiday away from home with one another.
During that semester, we fell in love. Thessaloniki and I made life long friends and memories. Thessaloniki was my first love and I will never forget him. I am forever grateful to him for introducing me to a world I never knew existed. Travel. Saying “goodbye” to Thessaloniki was tough that December, but I knew his friend Travel and I would be together again soon.
Falling in love for the first time is something that changes you for eternity. It teaches you how to be yourself, do what you want, and learn who you want to be. I am lucky I found my true love, Travel, so shortly after my first.
Of course, he has his flaws. Travel costs me nearly every penny I make. Travel takes me away from my home for extended periods of time. Travel keeps me out too late and wakes me up too early. Travel pushes me to my physical and mental capacity. But his goods outweigh his bads.
Travel is always doing the unexpected. Travel surprises me when I need it most. Travel introduces me to new people, places, cuisines and ideas. Travel causes me tears of laughter and passion. Travel forces me to smile everyday.
Most importantly, Travel gives me the gift of incredible joy. Travel blesses me with memories I will never forget and makes me live every moment to the fullest. The sense of euphoria I feel when I am with Travel are worth all the rough times, costs, and wonder.
Thank you, Travel, I love you.