God had a plan and I was in it. I experienced Him, felt His presence, and knew He was there for me throughout my whole trip.While I was reminiscing, I realized that things were thoughtfully planned out by Him. Of course, I did not see the whole picture while things were progressing, thus I cried many times because I felt abandoned. Now that the trip is over with, I took a step back and I could see how much I have gained and that God never took His hand off of me. This is when I know... It was all in His plans. It all started in Santorini, Greece. On the longest day of my life, I met a friend, Alejandro, at Murphy's. No one could have imagined how this friendship would grow and eventually save my trip. He and his friends were rare gentlemen who protected my girl friends and I at Murphy's, and consequently, left an inerasable impression. A few hours later, the mesmerizing, vibrant, orange sun captivated us. My girl friends and I stood in awe trying to capture the moment.Even though I did not voice it, I was clandestinely searching for our late-night foreign rescuers all over the beautiful island. Just when I was giving up, we got on the ferry to head to our next stop, Ios, I turned around and said to my girls, "I wish we had the chance to thank the guys who saved us last night." Then, that was when I looked up, there, stood THE three gentlemen, with their mouths wide open, pointing at us, looking as shocked as we were. What would you call this? Faith? Luck? Pure coincident? .... No, I believe it was the beginning of a beautiful journey that He has written for me. The next 7 days for me were close to what I envisioned hell would be. In another word, I went through something almost humanly unbearable within a very short period of time. First, crisis began with a long term friend who was supposed to travel with me in Europe. (With all due respect, I am not going to use their names). He decided to lose the $1000 he spent on the tickets and not come anymore. A couple of days later, more disaster occurred, this time, between my ex-boyfriend of almost 3 years and my best friend of 7 years. With no time to waste, another catastrophe was on the way. All hell broke loose when an old high school "friend" of 10 years, who was also in the Greece program and whom I was originally supposed to travel with, came into my room at 3 o'clock in the morning on the last day of the program, and said to me, "Sel, plans have changed and this is probably the last time I will ever talk to you."I felt I was left alone in a foreign country, without any friends or family. I broke down and tears started pouring down my face.While my heart and eyes were covered by the dark clouds of the unexpected revelation and sorrow, He brought light into my life. My light had names, Grace, Jill, Linda, Sarah, Magnus, Samuel, and Alejandro. They stuck by my side, prayed for me, cried with me, and made miracles happen. They might not even realize it, but they were my angels sent from above. True gratitude and love from the bottom of my heart.Yes, plans changed. Now I believe, all for the better. When I was about to change my flight to come back home, a person whom I was never really that close to during the whole program suddenly appeared and became the most important key player in my plan making. Jill, the most beautiful and amazing woman, showed me and helped me take the first and hardest step. Her encouragement, love, and patience were what got me through the first couple of days. When I later on traveled on my own, her words of kindness and her believing in me gave me confidence and made me a stronger person.I first went with Jill to Sorrento, Amalfi, and Positano (S. Italy). Amalfi and Positano are both incredible places. The beach in Positano made me speechless. Jill and I just took it slow, spent time and chilled at the beach, and went to the markets. We really had a great time and enjoyed ourselves. Without her, my trip would not be possible. She is such a blessing to me.
I took with me Jill's advice and faith in me, I parted with her, hopped on the train, and went up to Rome (Roma) by myself. The first night I arrived, it was pouring rain. With my heavy backpack and my duffle bag, I aimlessly searched for the hostel, Alessandro Palace, soaking wet in the old and dark city. The rain reminded me of home a lot. Refusing to use my umbrella, I walked around the city in the rain for hours. When I finally found the hostel, another miracle took place. I met a British guy, Samuel, who worked at the hostel. Sam was extremely nice and helpful. He took the time to show me the Vatican City and the museum the next day. The most memorable place was the Sistine Chapel. The artwork was merely fascinating. I spent hours in there just captivated by the remarkable work Michelangelo did. I spent a couple of nights in Rome. I made so many great friends while I was in Rome, friends from all over the world. I chatted and bonded with the girls in my room and I partied with the other travelers I met. This memory will never be forgotten. On a side note, I almost got kidnapped by some Italian guys. Fought them off. Got bruises all over my arms. :( It is miraculous that I am still here safe and sound. God definitely was watching over me. Then, I took the train and went up to Florence (Firenze). Sam changed his plans and followed me to Florence. It's such a beautiful place, very artsy. There were many talented artists. The city has so much to offer. It was here where I acquired the painting of the Creation of Adam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:God2-Sistine_Chapel.png
After Florence, I went to Milan (Milano). I met up with Ale who flew in from Barcelona, who was kind enough to keep me company. We visited different sights. Milan didn't really impress me that much because it's just another city, a lot like NY or Seattle. I wanted to see more of the traditional Italy.
After Milan, I didn't have anything planned. I looked at the map and saw Cinque Terre, Nice, and Paris. I would love to go to any one of these places. I also thought about going to Ancona and taking the ferry back to Greece to visit Magnus as he had offered. However, when I got to the train station, nothing was available. All the tickets were sold out. So, I was stuck there in Milan and didn't know where to go next. Luckily, I found a train heading to Venice and there was one spot. I took it! I hopped on the train and there I went! I did not have any reservation or any room booked. I wasn't sure where I was going and didn't know anything about Venice. Nevertheless, I was really excited. It was an adventure! :) When I arrived and walked out of the station, the first thing I saw was water. I was astonished by its beauty! Apparently, Venice is a city composed of 118 bodies of land in a lagoon and is connected to the mainland by a thin causeway. I asked around and found an internet café to look for a place to crash. It was already 11pm. The task was stressful because all these places were booked and the time was ticking (if you ever thought about going backpacking, I wouldn't recommend doing something like this!). Finally, I was lucky enough to find a hotel across town, with Ale's help. So I booked it and rushed to a taxi and off I went. I spent 2 nights in Venice. It's the most beautiful and romantic city I've been to so far. Talented musicians filled the city. Every corner you turn, there's music. I strolled around the first day to get the feel of the city. The next day, I took the water taxi and went through the Grand Canal and passed under the Ponte Scalzi, Rialto, and the Accademia bridges, then off to an island called Murano. There, I visited the glass factory and bought some nice jewelries for my mom and girl friends. I had a marvelous time by myself. However, I did feel a little lonely seeing all these happy couples. =)
I had always wanted to go to Belgium, for the chocolates! So, I took the night train to get to Paris and then hopped on another train to go to Belgium. The train arrived in Brussels (Bruxelles, Brussel) around 8 in the morning and then took another train to go to Bruges (Brugge). I heard that it's a beautiful little town! And.. It's true! In Bruges, I ate so much chocolate and so many Belgium waffles... my stomach was hurting SOOOOOOOOO BAD! LOL!! You know me, I am a little crazy like that! So I took TUMS (medicine for stomachache) and ate more chocolate and gelato! HAHAHAH! And now my stomach hurt even more! But hey, who can say no to Belgium chocolate?? I bought Belgium chocolate and desserts to bring home to my family and friends. I filled up two duffel bags! Can you imagine how heavy my bags were??? Man…! Those of you who got sweets and gifts from me, you better appreciate!
London was my next stop. It was raining so hard when I got there, but I instantly fell in love with it! I hung out with my roommates for a little bit at the hostel the first day. We went to the bar and met some really cool Australian guys. The next day, I took the tour bus and visited all the major sights! It was so amazing! I truly love this city! So much history here and the buildings are just gorgeous! The British people are very friendly. Plus, the accent is just to die for!!! =) I took a lot of pictures.
From there, I flew to Barcelona. By the way, at the airport, my bags were examined at the security point. You should have seen their faces when they opened up my bags filled with chocolates! They were like…. ARE YOU SERIOUS?? Hahahaha~ Too funny! They almost confiscated the sweets because they wanted them themselves! Anyway, I finally arrived in Spain (after repeated delays) and took an hour bus ride to get to Barcelona. Ale was there waiting for me. The following days he showed me around and I honestly had a great time in Spain! I was quite surprised by how clean the city is! I was taken back by the stunning Spanish buildings, especially Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece! Amongst those tall buildings, there were temples and old castles! It was a very interesting sight to see. History and modernity mixed together on the same block. You will never see anything like that in the States. This city is full of stories. I particularly loved the market and the street performances there. The fruits were exceptionally sweet because of the warm weather.
After my long vacation in Spain, I flew back to London. Luckily, the weather was quite nice. I took the underground and went to The Tower of London and took a nice long walk to the Tower Bridge, the London Bridge, and the London Eye. I met a NY girl, Heather, on the path. We kept each other company and enjoyed the scenery. We had a nice conversation and exchanged info. =) It's great traveling alone. You just meet people! =)
Overall, my trip was absolutely amazing. I would not change anything at all. I had an incredible time and made so many friends from all over the world. I have learned so much along the way and gained priceless experience and knowledge. If I had another chance, I'd do it all over again.God kept me safe. He sent me angels at different times and different places when I needed them the most, ensuring that I would have the best trip ever, and I did. God never left my side. I am truly blessed.