Counting countries and letting go
Several people I’m traveling with this year have a goal of visiting 30 countries before they turn 30. I was a late bloomer and didn’t start travelling until I was 30 so that goal wasn’t an option for me. But it got me thinking – how many countries have I visited since I turned 30?
As I reviewed the list – from Australia to Cambodia to Bali to Norway – I realized I was sitting at 29 countries. So close to 30!
Where should I go next?
Looking at the map, I was only an hour ferry ride away from Uruguay. That’s it – Uruguay would be my 30th country!
It was Thursday and no one was free to join me so I hopped in an Uber and headed down to the ferry terminal alone.
What should have been a ten minute drive turned into 45 minutes as we hit rush hour traffic. I was getting nervous that I’d miss my ferry.
As I checked the time again, I realized I was worrying about nothing. If I missed the ferry, then it wasn’t meant to be!
I believe things happen for a reason and in that moment, I decided to focus on how I wanted my day to go instead of being anxious about things beyond my control.
I closed my eyes, took a couple deep breaths and thought about how I wanted to feel.
I wanted a relaxing day, to stroll along at a leisurely pace, to stop and enjoy anything that caught my attention, to meet kind and trust-worthy people, to be safe and healthy, and to appreciate the beauty of a new country.
With the shift in my perspective, we soon arrived at the ferry terminal and I walked inside to get my ticket.
There was no one in line.
As I went upstairs to go through customs, again, there was no one in line.
I smiled at how quickly my surroundings had changed from chaos to peace.
As I left the customs area, I saw two women waiting for their passports, chatting about their plans for Uruguay. They saw me and smiled – “you speak English, right?” “Yes,” I replied. We had a brief conversation and I wished them a pleasant trip.
I sat on the ferry, looking over the water and memories of so many other solo trips flooded my mind. I decided to stretch my legs, walked around the corner and heard a friendly “hello again!” It was the mother-daughter duo I had seen in the customs area!
They invited me to sit with them so I sat down and we swapped travel stories.
Karen and Elizabeth were from Washington, DC and had lived and traveled all over the world, spending time in Africa, Australia, France and Germany to name a few. I instantly liked them – their casual nature, their positive attitude and the fun dynamic between moms and daughters, especially when travelling.
Our conversation continued as we got off the ferry and it went unsaid that we would explore the city together.
We grabbed maps from the tourist office and headed out on foot. We laughed and joked and stopped for photos, admiring the ocean views, the tall palm trees and the brightly colored houses.
We had so much fun!
Karen wanted to peek in every shop, try things on and look for gifts. Elizabeth encouraged her mother to move along and I laughed as I say the same things to my mom.
We posed for photos, laughing at how I was going to show up in the family photos when they looked back years from now.
Deciding we should stop for lunch, we found a cute café, sat outside and ordered a bottle of wine – why not?!
I learned about their careers, their family life, their beloved dog who had just passed, their future plans. The time flew by and I felt like we’d been lifelong friends.
We walked the cobblestone streets, climbed the lighthouse, ate ice cream, strolled through the church and museum, took numerous photos, bought souvenirs and thoroughly enjoyed the quiet town of Colonia.
Walking back to the ferry docks, I smiled at the amazing day we had. It was what I had envisioned…and more!
We exchanged contact information, said goodbye and had a group hug. It had been a wonderful day and I believe they enjoyed my company as much as I had enjoyed theirs.
Not only did I reach 30 countries visited since I turned 30, but I made two amazing friends and I know our paths will cross again one day.
That’s the beauty of traveling, of setting your intentions, of being open to how the day unfolds – sometimes you get even more than you asked for!
P.S. This also happens to be my 30th blog post – how cool is that?! Thanks for your support! xo