The Long Pause: Finishing a Year of Traveling Alone

Well hello! It’s been a while – three whole months. Three big months too. I finished my trip, headed back to Boston for the summer, and now I live in Greece. What a time to be alive!

Obviously there’s more in there – the beach combing with my nieces and nephews, the sadness that comes with the end of a life-changing year, the joy of summer in New England, a new job and new apartment in a very old country. But there’s time later for all that.

From solo travel to so many questions

To be honest, when I finished my trip a big rest was in order. I didn’t entirely get one – I think I still packed a bag every single weekend I was in Boston to go visit my grandmother or my friends or to a wedding or our annual family reunion.

Kathleen O'Donnell, writer and traveler, drinking a coffee
Me and my one true love.

The restfulness came from being back around familiar faces, in a language I can actually speak, in a place where there’s a Dunkin Donuts on every corner (damn I already miss that sweet cool iced coffee that tastes like home).

A taste of an old life, as I sat on the neighborhood dock at my parents’ house sipping a Negroni and watching the sky over Boston Harbor shimmer into a warm orange glow and fade back into silky dusk.

And it was wonderful. I learned a lot being back – that sometimes, there’s really no going back, at least not to a place or to a life.

I felt the difference this past year made inside my bones, riding on the same old broken-down T, going to the same bakery after a session with my therapist, fielding the constant questions of “What’s next?” from well-meaning friends and former colleagues and neighbors and the checkout guy at Sephora.

What I felt was a widening of the possible – if I could do all that in a year, handle all the changes and the fear and the wildness and the sweetness and the shifting of my whole worldview all by myself – I could do anything now.

But a few paths had been closed off. I loved seeing my former colleagues, but I have no desire to go back to the corporate world right now.

I still love Boston, but I don’t feel its pull at all right now either (maybe it was the constant sitting in the worst traffic in the US or the endless daily frustrations of the decrepit MBTA or looking at the sky-high rents that have gotten even higher since I left or the chill in the mid-September air I dread so much).

So here I am on the L-shaped cream couch in my vast cool Athens apartment, 2.5 weeks into living here.

It’s a Wednesday, which means normally I’d be working. But my new freelance job has been quiet this week so I’m free to wander the streets, stop for a freddo espresso at a cafe full of beautiful cool young Athenians, wander into a bakery for my third spanakopita of the week (or maybe a tyropita, the cheese-filled version, this time?), bask endlessly in the soft warm sun that makes my whole body feel alive.

For now, I’m home.

Sunset over the Greek island of Aegistri solo female travel blog

7 thoughts on “The Long Pause: Finishing a Year of Traveling Alone”

  1. I always think it’s nice to come home until I get there then realise it’s out on the road that’s making me happy. I find it hard talking to my old friends that don’t travel it almost feels like your bragging about this time in Paris or when I was in Canada.
    They just want to know when I’ll be like them again in a 9 to 5 job.
    So congratulations for stepping outside of the square and traveling the world an saying no to the normal and boring.

  2. “…watching the sky over Boston Harbor shimmer into a warm orange glow and fade back into silky dusk.”.

    Beautiful. No matter what you do or where you go, Kathleeen, you’ll always take your extraordinary ability to write…and that’s great for all of us.


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