Before I even started planning my visit to Zagreb, I read about the Museum of Broken Relationships. It's a collection of objects from failed relationships along with personal stories written by the people who donated them.
The idea is to give people a platform to release their pain and grieve, to remember, and to move on. The museum is also a place of connection between visitors and artists, and humanity in general. I felt connected to many of the stories.
Some of the artifacts were obscure and some were ordinary, like this box of popcorn. Each object was specific and personal to the story it carried, and also relatable on a broader scale. The pain of losing someone is universal.
One of my favorite parts of the museum was an interactive piece at the end, a book for guests to share stories or encouragement. It was a beautiful platform to help strangers connect in a meaningful way.
If you're in Zagreb, I would definitely recommend stopping by... It was a highlight for me!
Ephesus, Pamukkale & Istanbul
After leaving Cappadocia, I took a night bus to Pamukkale. Pamukkale are natural springs, and walking in them felt like walking on the moon. I met some new friends from China (and realized how rusty my Chinese is. 🙈) Meeting new friends is always one of my favorite parts of traveling.
After Pamukkale, I made my way to Ephesus. I spent the day visiting relics and then in the afternoon, I planned to visit St. John's basilica. As I was walking up the hill to get to the basilica, I passed by a waffle shop, and the owner offered me a cup of tea. I stopped by and sipped tea for hours, alternating between chatting and enjoying the quiet.
At sunset, I walked up the hill to the basilica, where the disciple John is said to be buried. I was one of the only people there. It was a humbling experience to visit, especially alone.
Afterwards, a friendly stranger gave me a flower and showed me the best spot to watch the sunset. I thought about how much beauty there is on earth. It's broken, yes, but beautiful. And I thought about how beautiful it is to watch someone do what makes them light up, what they were made to do.
After Ephesus, I went back to Istanbul, where I started my journey. I met up with a friend and climbed the Galata tower to see the whole city in the morning air... such a lovely way to end a lovely trip.
Sometimes I put way too much time and energy and weight into what other people think of me. I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
Aspects of our culture and maybe our upbringings and even just our sheer humanness point to the lie that we have to earn our worth. For a long time, no matter what I did, I never felt good enough. I felt like I had to choose between being myself and being loved. I think, at some point, a lot of us feel this.
We learn to focus our energy into looking successful. Into having a job that makes people jealous or having lots of friends or Instagram followers. We learn that we have to act a certain way to be more likable. To dilute ourselves to please people and to filter what we say to suit the people we’re talking to.
I finally realized that people pleasing is not a form of kindness. It may prevent conflict but it also prevents us from being authentic. It blocks us from connecting with each other in meaningful ways. Instead of filtering what I say and pleasing people, I want to speak truth in love. Even hard truths. I want to be soft and share my heart and connect.
There’s a quote I read a long time ago that resonated so deeply with me I almost got it tattooed, just so I could see it as a daily reminder.
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. To be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” (Timothy Keller.)
We’re not deserving but we are worthy. Every human is born with inherent, infinite worth. Our worth is constant and steady. It never changes. Not when we make more money or lose a job. Not when we get approval from people we care about. Or when we lose it.
We’re already deeply, entirely known by God and loved in a deeper way than our minds have the ability to grasp. This is what sets us free to be our authentic selves. To be the fullest, truest, brightest versions of who we are. We’re loved. We’re known. We’re free.
Cappadocia has been on my dream list for a couple years, so I was soooo happy to finally visit! Honestly, I am not just saying this, it was even better than I pictured it... full of wonder and whimsy and history and the kindest people.
My guide grew in in Cappadocia and told me about how as a child, his family made terra cotta vases from the local clay and used them to carry drinking water. He studied English literature in college and all these years later, he's still in Cappadocia, happily sharing this magical corner of the earth with people who come to visit.. He spent the whole time sharing puns and jokes and sharing his love for his home. I could tell how much he loved his work... he was glowing.
I got to see paintings in cave churches built around 400 by Christians who were living & hiding underground to free persecution.
And I visited a pottery making studio and got to try it for myself! It is MUCH more difficult than it looks. I met some new backpacker friends from Mongolia and Kuwait and we had so much fun exploring together, AND, to top it all off, I got to stay in a cave hotel!
Everywhere I went, people offered me hot tea! I loved it. I felt so at home and cozy and welcomed.
It was too windy for hot air balloons but I still had the best time. And now I have another excuse to come back ☺️
Today I had lunch with a backpacker from Costa Rica. He’s an engineer and when he lost his job a couple months ago, he needed a change of pace. Now he’s biking his way through Europe… from Barcelona to Moscow.
He sleeps in tents and hostels and he doesn’t have any rigid plans, just ideas and an amorphous framework of where he’s headed next. Most days, his only plans are to “wake up and bike.”
When I asked what he’d learned from his journey so far, he told me he feels relaxed and free. He doesn’t listen to music or anything to pass the time as he bikes… he spends that time thinking, whistling tunes and focusing on where he’s going. He talked about how he’s been leaving behind stuff in each city he visits. I’ve been doing the same thing. I’m realizing I need so much less than I think I do.
One of my favorite classes in college was Consumer Behavior. And one of my most memorable takeaways from that class was marketing to psychological needs. For example, luxury brands tend to market to the need to be unique, the need to feel rare and special.
On the other hand, trendy, fast fashion clothing companies (think “it” items) tend to market to our need to belong. This strategy is used a lot with the teenage demographic.
I have an example of this type of marketing from early in my own life. When I was in kindergarden, I came home from school one day begging my mom for a pair of jeans. Apparently, leggings weren’t popular with the trendy 5-year-old crowd and I needed jeans to hang with the cool kids. Even at such a young age, I wanted to belong, and I wanted to find that belonging by buying something.
We’re all born with the need to belong, and the need to feel unique, along with all kinds of other psychological needs. We all want to feel worthy. And know we’re enough. And feel successful. But buying more stuff only gives us those feelings for a fleeting moment.
In another one of my marketing classes, we did a case study on a fast fashion brand whose design-to-market turnaround time was ten days. They literally have people sketching on iPads at fashion shows so their designers can see the latest trends in real-time. The clothes immediately go into production and are on the shelves the next week. The company’s goal is to have such a high turnover of clothing that consumers feel out-of-trend a month after making a purchase and are back in the store for more. Real-time sketching is such a cool concept but it’s being misused. Not only is the company’s goal for customers to always feel uncool and untrendy, but it’s so terribly unsustainable for the supply chain, for the people making our clothes (and for the earth.)
I know that’s not a happy thing to realize, but my goal isn’t to be depressing. The concept of minimalism is freeing, not constricting. We don’t need to feel guilty about owning stuff we use, or about enjoying nice stuff. I love buying nice things. But I shouldn’t be finding our worth or identity in what I have. That’s not freedom.
I’ve started asking myself the question, “Is this thing giving me value, or would it be better if I give it to someone else?” I want to be a good steward of my wealth, and if I’m hanging onto stuff I’m not using, stuff that someone else could be getting value and joy from, it’s time to reevaluate.
I’m still new to the whole concept of minimalism but I’ve found that it doesn’t have to be drastic I’m-giving-away-everything deal. It can mean giving away things that aren’t my favorite to someone who could get more use out of them. Being a responsible consumer and buying fewer, nicer things that are made in an ethical way. Taking time to realize that my worth is inherent, and owning more or better stuff doesn’t make me more worthy or successful. Taking my time to enjoy shopping. Shopping for things I love that express who I am. And making space to enjoy life, to experience more adventure and connection and joy.
Thanks for stopping by. A little about me — I have a latte each morning and drink about 7 cups of tea a day (I'm not exaggerating.) I live in Atlanta where I'm going to law school. I like long distance running and I love my city and I love exploring our beautiful earth. I believe in being vulnerable, following our passions & being free.
I started this blog to document and share my favorite moments while traveling. This is a place where I process my ideas, share the aches and joys of my heart, speak truth, and shine light on the beauty I see in the world.
I've realized that what I probably love most about traveling is the same thing I love about writing — the way it connects me to myself and other people. I hope as you read my words, you feel connected to our shared humanity.
Thank you for reading. :)
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