Here I am in Armenia, a small city in Colombia, lying down on my bed, listening to the surprising soothing sound of the thunderstorm outside. It’s the rainy season, and God it has been raining every single day. I’m talking with my friends on Skype and suddenly it got me… “I’m away, too far away from home.”
My close friends, those who really know me, even though may think I’m a bit nuts, have been supporting me. Other people, especially from my previous job back home, have been telling me that my decision moving here was a foolish one, that my everyday life wouldn’t be as satisfying as I initially thought it would be. “It is a poor country. The money that they are going to pay you is not enough. You are going to be robbed, even kidnapped” ,they said. And yet here I am in a small city, in the middle of nowhere, working for a public Colombian school. I have a completely new circle of friends and hundred of opportunities. Everything will be fine, as long as you be careful and “No dar papaya – Don’t give papaya” as Colombians say. Papaya is a small, sparsely branched plant, usually with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 m, according to Wikipedia. It grows some delicious fruit that people in Colombia love to eat with their breakfast.
Giving Papaya is a Colombian phrase for “Don’t let others take advantage of you.” If you are in a bar drinking beer and your cellphone lies on the bar unattended, YOU GIVE PAPAYA! If you have lots of money in the back pocket of your jeans in public places, YOU GIVE PAPAYA! If you flash your expensive jewelry, YOU GIVE PAPAYA! –you get the point.
Thank God, even though I have given Papaya a couple of times, nothing has happen to me so far. But in a place like Colombia you have to be careful. Especially when you have a white gringo face and blond hair, people automatically believe you are rich. And that’s somewhat true because you are probably richer than most of them.
Money is not everything. Piece of mind and Happiness is!! I’m thinking about the last two months, since I’ve left Greece and my beloved hometown Florina, two months since I’ve left my family, my close friends, my beloved cat Abby, my motorbike, my belongings, my lovely apartment and headed for the unknown carrying only a small 40L backpack. My mother was laughing when she saw the type of luggage I was planning on taking with me. But do we really need more? It’s been two months and I’ve been feeling I might have over-packed a bit. I remember the day I left home and said goodbye to everyone. I realized that for the first time in my life I was about to leave without carrying any keys, any key chain with me. I realized I was about to become a modern nomad! What a strange feeling!
It was a hard decision to make, but was a life-changing one. ” I knew I would had felt a gap deep inside if I hadn’t taken the big step out of my comfort zone. And I want to grow old knowing that I was brave enough to take my life in my own hands. “Why are you leaving”, my friend asked me. It’s not that I wasn’t happy with my previous life. I was extremely happy, had my friends, my family, my job, a city I love and a bright -possibly boring future ahead of me. Even my job, which I never liked, it gave me the opportunity to travel around Greece, form really strong friendships with amazing people and of course filled my pockets with the necessary money. It’s not that I was unhappy, It’s just… that freakin’ gap I’ve been feeling . The longing for new adventures, moving forward and growing as a person. I had been studying in Florina for the last 6 years in the university and recently completed my Master’s degree in primary education. Now I needed to put in good use all that knowledge, I needed a new challenge, I needed to reinvent myself!
I feel great, I hear my mind whispering. The human mind is an amazing yet very complicated organ. Sometimes it likes to play games and make people feel uncomfortable, terrified, lost, homesick, desperate. Movies and books have taught us to “Follow your heart”. It’s good to follow your heart but our hearts sometimes lead us to stupid impulsive decisions. There has to be balance between the mind and the heart, the soul if you prefer. For me the mind is the key to happiness. I followed my heart but my mind agrees and has been whispering to me that everything is fine, so I know I’m on the right way.
In the beginning my mind had doubts. I was afraid, I was torn , I was in front of one of the most important crossroads for my life. But as the journey carried on, and I was meeting new people and had new experiences, the fear was gone and my mind started to consent. One day in the road and I had no fear.
Fear plays an important role in one’s decisions. We are afraid of venturing too far away from our comfort zones. People keep hanging on unhealthy relationships because they are terrified they might end up alone. People, reasonable people, keep their dead-end jobs which they probably hate just because they experience fear, fear of failure, fear of the unknown. “It’s a stupid decision quitting a steady well paid job” ,you can hear them say. I kept my dead-end job I despised for 12 years, TWELVE YEARS! That was too much for me, I had to start doing what I really wanted to, I had to start living the way I wanted to. I don’t know what life would bring. “Mystery is important señorita” – says a character from a beloved adventure video game of the 90s.
And so the journey to the unknown, the longest journey of my life has just begun.