I looked over at my husband and said… Never. Ever. Will we do this again.
Just 8 hours earlier we had boarded a beautiful bus full of individual TV’s, vanilla ice cream cones, and a friendly bus attendant handing out hot towels. We snuggled in to enjoy the long ride from Istanbul to Bulgaria.
Bulgaria was never originally on the agenda, but so many people (mostly Brits) had told us along our travels that it was the “must see” place, so we decided it would be our wild-card location of choice and booked the bus tickets.
Within a few hours of leaving Turkey we had been re-routed to the winding mountain roads due to riots, and were shortly thereafter forced to get off the bus at the wee hours of 1am in order to flash our passports at the border, and then push our way through a crowd of grumpy, riot fueled citizens to grab a seat back on the bus before it left without us. Just as we thought the worst of it was over the sweet doe eyed child in the back started wailing a cry louder than I knew was possible to come from a human body, which triggered a ripple effect of all the other children throughout the bus. Then, that same adorable child endured one too many winding roads and tossed his cookies right in his moms lap, which of course then triggered every… single… kid, to do the same. They were throwing up everywhere, including in the seat next to us. Did I mention there was no bathroom on the bus?
At 3:00am I turned to my husband, who was holding a bag for me just in case, and said… Never. Ever. Again.
When we finally arrived in Bulgaria I stepped off the bus, and looked around as the sun was rising around 4:00am. I saw a beautiful harbor and a captivating beach, lit up by a stunning soft pink sky. Immediately a kind cab driver who tried to speak his best English (which was way better that our Bulgarian), took us to our apartment for the week.
Well, that one week turned into five. It ended up being our favorite spot on our 6 month world tour. We met the most kind, hospitable families who cared for us and loved us as their own. The food rocked our world, and the hidden treasures of mountains and beaches were breathtaking. Those amazing memories will be with me forever.
And I will also always remember that damn bus ride that took us there. It turns out that the misery I felt on that bus made me appreciate what we arrived to that much more.
Sometimes we need the sour, to enjoy the sweet.
And I’ve been through a lot rougher times than a crappy bus ride. I’ve had sleepless, tear-filled nights, lost family and friends to death and drugs, wrestled with loneliness, bad relationships, and insecurity.
But without those tough times, I would never have the appreciation andgratefulness for all the nights I go to bed feeling whole and loved – the family and friends who fuel my world today, the community I’m a part of, the amazing relationship I’m in, and the genuine happiness I feel every morning I wake up.
We need those tough times – they play an important role. And in the midst of the dark days, sometimes it can be tough to see the other side.
So this is who I’m writing to today. To those of you who are going through tough times, for those who see no light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there, be true to who you are and be strong.
Focus on the journey, focus on the ride – the small moments of laughter, the small moments of joy – let them carry you through.
Your light at the end of the tunnel is right around the corner. And I believe it will feel like nothing you’ve ever felt before.
At least it was for me, and so I’m forever grateful for those dark times… and that damn bus ride.
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IMAGE CREDIT: CJ Thomas Photography