I believed that I would not be able to travel this summer for a number of reasons.  However, I just recently realized that only thing standing between me and a flight was myself.  I kept telling myself that travel just wasn't in the cards in spite of the fact that I woke up every day and went to sleep every night with an insatiable craving for the unknown.  The more I grow and become self-aware, the more I realize that I need to learn how to distinguish the opinions and beliefs of others from my own.  And it was that realization that I found the courage to make my own travel plans, to carve out my own path.

While I could wax philosophical for hours about my recent epiphanies, let's just say that if I had not listened to my heart I would have never had the experience of a lifetime.

Travel never ceases to amaze me and to not only teach me about the world outside my bubble, but also an infinite amount about myself.  Although I would love to share everything I learned on this trip, here are a few lessons that I recently discovered somewhere between London, Paris, and Barcelona.

Lesson #1: When a French man with a moped says that he has an extra helmet, don't you dare bat an eyelash.  You strap on that helmet and brace yourself.  I will never forget the rush of cold on my teeth as the wind brushed past the smile plastered on my face because I could not stop grinning or the glamorous glow of the Louvre at night.

Lesson #2:  Order one of each flavor of the best macarons in Paris (Pierre Herme IMHO).  Immediately eat a couple and save the rest for dinner.  Macarons > Chicken.

Lesson #3: Speaking of food...I always say I travel through my stomach.  And when you visit 3 different countries in a matter of 12 days, throw all caution to the wind and just eat anything and everything.  Life is too short not to experience your first Parisian baguette or flaky British scone at tea time because it's not "Paleo-friendly."

Lesson #4: Don't hesitate to take an absurd amount of pictures.  In fifty years it won't matter who was watching me take a goofy picture, I'll just be happy that I have tangible evidence that I climbed the Eiffel Tower, for example.

Lesson #5:  Don't be afraid to wander.  Having traveled to Europe several times now, I have developed a desire for being independent that makes mothers shudder.  I truly believe that travel is best when shared with others.  However, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to navigate a new, foreign city with solely your brain and two feet.  I love having the freedom of exploring a random side street if I want to or being able to discover a market at my leisure.  As long as you remain conscious of your surroundings and recognize your limits, the most beautiful discoveries happen when you put down the map and trust your intuition.  You never know what you might find.

Lesson #6:  Make friends.  I am a born introvert.  And as much as I love being to do/see/eat exactly what I want, I have learned that travel is the sweetest when shared with others.  There is something about the being on the road that ignites a fire in me to meet new people. The friends I make when traveling never cease to amaze me.  Maybe its the common thread of a passion for travel that we share.  Or maybe its the intoxicating excitement of the unknown that makes everyone just a bit more friendly and outgoing.  Whatever it is, it is truly special to meet people that you would not have otherwise met if you had not made the brave choice to travel and to make memories together, even though you may not see them again any time soon.  Experiences shared overseas are not easily forgotten.

Lesson #7:  My appetite for travel is insatiable.  This whirlwind trip made it clear to me that I am a born traveler.  I am happiest with a plane ticket in my hand and my bum in an economy seat.  The smell of a new city when I step out of the airport and into unknown territory is one of top five favorite things in the world.  I have only been in the States for five days and already I can feel the burning in my heart for travel beginning again.  Wherever my travels lead me to next, I know that my passion for adventure will continue to flicker even as reality sets in and the memories of my recent trip begin to fade around the edges.

"You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself." -Ella Maillart