I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than real, unconditional love. You can find it in a simple act of kindness toward someone who needs help. There is no mistaking love…it is the common fiber of life, the flame that heats our soul, energizes our spirit, and supplies passion to our lives.Elizabeth Kübler-Ross
As a child, I wanted to be indestructible and intimidating enough that nobody tried to find out whether or not I really was indestructible. I believed the key to success and happiness was to need no one and to do it all myself. I was also a big fan of crumpling up and quitting anything as soon as I made a mistake. I was not a particularly successful child.
It turns out that where I have succeeded in my life, it has been through a great deal of vulnerability and willingness to accept help. I am still very uncomfortable with both of these things. The child I used to be still pouts and stomps her feet and fears that my successes will not count, or worse, I’ll owe somebody more than I’m comfortable paying back if I accept any help. Fortunately, the adult I’ve become knows better. Most people like to be helpful. I do. I need to feel helpful.
Despite who I am, I’m trying to set up a life where I make it easy for people to help me and also easy for people to not help me, to whatever degree they are comfortable. Even though accepting help is still an act with which I am decidedly uncomfortable. I’m scrappy. I reckon I can survive without help, but I can do better, I can be better, if I let people help me. Where I can, I pay it forward because I know I can never truly pay it back.
I have been the broke friend for much of my life. It means I often turn down invitations because I can’t afford certain outings. I mean, I also have a lot of demands on my time, and I’m low-key, very introverted. It’s just that I didn’t want to be the shy girl or the broke girl in Portugal. I wanted to be in a position to say yes to everything my summer studying abroad had to offer.
Berkeley Study Abroad recommends setting up a Go Fund Me. I was fortunate to have enough financial aid secured to cover my tuition and basic needs, but there are a handful of people who often spend some money on me around my birthday; I decided to make it possible for them to give me money for my summer in Portugal. I was very clear that I had tuition covered and that I had housing covered. That the funding was the difference between studying in my room and studying in a cafe, not between going abroad or staying home.
The response was overwhelming. It got to where I had to turn off notifications because I was getting all verklempt in public settings. People who have never bought so much as a cup of coffee were contributing generously to my Go Fund Me. Friends and family also helped me out separate from the website, loaning me money for plane fare, buying me new luggage, giving me tips and tricks for my travels.
I worked hard to get into this school and I have actively pursued some of the best opportunities it has to offer. I am proud of getting myself into the position to study abroad. That said, it is the generosity of others that had me in a position to have a grand adventure. I asked for money for pastries and lattes, which I did, in fact, spend many of my euros on. More than the breathing room that spending money grants, I felt rooted for and supported, like my journey was being shared.
In her Ted Talk about The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer talks about her time as a street performer. Whenever someone put money in her hat, she would give them a flower, or at least try to. I have thought a lot about how to give a flower to each of my supporters but I don’t know how. I never know how to pay people back adequately.
I’ve always wanted to have a travel blog, where I write about the best gear, the best deals, and the things a person must see and do while traveling. , so I would have an excuse to learn about and test the best gear, the best deals, and the things a person must see and do while traveling. That’s not the kind of writer I am, unfortunately.
What I can write is something more specific, personal, and vulnerable. I can tell my story of what I did with my summer vacation. Like most of the stories I tell, it’s made more out of convoluted side paths, than anything straightforward. I’ll talk about luggage, and frugality, and things to see and do, but also about falling in love and falling ill, and silliness and tragedy.
This is not the story that anyone asked for. This is not the story that I chose. This is the story that I have, though. And the best of it would not have been possible without the most amazing support network a person could ever hope to have. I am so grateful, not just for the coffees and pastries but for the feeling that all y’all were rooting for me. I am loved.
Thank you ❤
Do you need anybody?
I just need someone to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friendsThe Beatles
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
With a Little Help from My Friends