Starting Over In Europe

Starting Over In Europe

            So, given the title I want to get right to the point, but before I do let me give you a snapshot of my profile.  I’m from the US, went to university in the US, have some really close friends in the US, accomplished some pretty awesome things in the US, and my family is in the US.

“Ok so…why the hell did you move to Hungary Ilyssa?”  

 You may be thinking..

“Does she have family there?”
“Does she have friends there?”
“Does she speak the language?”
“Has she been there before?”

No. No my friends to all the questions you might have asked yourself above.  I willingly left everything I knew and loved to go and live in a place that I knew absolutely nothing about. Let’s put it this way, I knew as much about Hungary as I did about Paleoclimatolgy… not much at all.  Nevertheless, almost a year ago I sold my VW Bug, packed all my belongings (including my furr son Irie) and bought a one-way ticket to Budapest, Hungary.

Here’s the truth of why I did it.

I Didn’t Feel Challenged/ Inspired.


Like I said, I graduated university with a creative degree so I knew from the very beginning that I dreaded a life that looked conventional in any way. I was always into different cultures and participating in activities that taught me about other countries so much so that my mother would call me a culture whore, thanks mom.  In a way I couldn’t help it because I came from such a diverse background myself, but more on that later.
I was out of my college bubble for a few years and got some fun jobs in the industry of my choice, Entertainment.  From the outside it looked as if I was all set, but nothing could have been further from the truth.  Although I was making my own money and learning a bunch, I wasn’t happy.  I had that niggling feeling that I was way too big of a fish and my pond was a puddle.  I felt complacent.  Also with the more time that passed, day by day, year by year, the quicker it passed which of course made me incredibly anxious.
I knew in my bones that this wasn’t the reality I wanted despite the fact of having things together on the superficial surface.  My family was proud of the autonomy I had in finding a way to work and earn money no matter what.

But that’s exactly what it was.

That’s what it mostly was, working for a paycheck.  Of course I’m aware that we need money to survive and to get the things we have become accustomed to in life, but I let that need become all-encompassing factor in my reality to a point that I felt my inspiration and spirit withering away. I got incredibly underwhelmed by predicting how each of my days would play out, what I would want/need to spend my next paycheck on, and brought my focus toward what society made me believe I needed and didn’t have.


I would relive the days when I was fortunate enough to live in the south of France before completing university.  I was there for a few months for a study abroad program and, as cheesy as it may sound, it changed me forever.  It opened my eyes to a different way of life and reinforced that America is NOT the only country on the planet.  I would remember how it challenged me as a person and how rewarding it felt to find my voice in unfamiliar settings.

I knew that I had to go away to find myself, my inspiration, my voice.  I was open to letting whatever country pick me, but once I realized that I had to expatriate, it was full steam ahead!


I Didn’t Feel Like I Fit at Home

I’m American, yes it’s true, but I had no say in what my nationality was nor my heritage, race, or gender for that matter.  Much like you, I just arrived here.  Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my heritage and culture, but it never quite felt like “mine.”  When I was living in the States I struggled to show interest in what most of society occupied their time with.  I couldn’t get behind the idea of We’re American, We’re the Best, Everyone Wants to Be Like Us.  How could I say that earnestly if I hadn’t experienced the other culture, or in this case other cultures?  

I Couldn’t.

It became frustrating to me that the general population of Americans seemed content with assuming they knew what other countries and people were like without ever being there or by only going on vacation there for a handful of days.  The level of undeserved ego that surrounded me was suffocating.  Of course, I was no expert in foreign affairs, but the big difference was that I didn’t speak as if I was.  With each comment I found myself making there was always a tinge of doubt, as there should be, because who could ever really know the truth?

Back to the culture whore thing, when I was living in the US I would involve myself in events and outings all having to do with foreign countries, people, and celebrations.  I’ve belly danced at international festivals, ate Greek, Korean, and Vietnamese foods, and would play French or Spanish Gypsy music while driving my car.  I was always trying to escape into a different world to find something that felt right, something that I believed in.  While doing this, I did not dislike my own country, I just questioned what made it mine.

Growing up, I didn’t really have a strong sense of patriotism for America because my father was an immigrant from Jamaica.  My brother and I were raised with a strong Jamaican filter throughout our adolescence so it felt more like we were Jamaicans living in America than Americans of Jamaican descent.  On the other side, my mother’s family came from Lithuania, which is about as opposite of America and Jamaica as you can get!  So we would celebrate certain Lithuanian traditions alongside the Jamaican customs which made for a very confusing household.

Given my upbringing, I was not too attached to being American because that phrase was never used to describe who I was or who my family were.

I Wanted to Stop Running from My Potential.

It’s scary, no matter what anyone tells you.  

Packing up your belongings and leaving everything you know is terrifying.  For some reason, I knew it’s what I needed to do.  There was another blogger that talked about Mental Masturbation which I found as an interesting concept.  Mental Masturbation, as I understand it, is when you think about whatever your dreams are and fantasize about doing them instead of actually DOING them. Once I heard this expression I knew for a fact that I did not want that to be me.  The last thing I wanted was to be a coulda, shoulda, woulda case.  

What I have always struggled with spiritually, artistically, and emotionally has been the dichotomy of success and failure. It’s challenging to accurately define the two let alone believe in either one.  Most would say they are afraid of failure.  Afraid to screw up and embarrass themselves.  I can totally agree with that, but when I was staring my suitcases in the face days before my flight I became paralyzed in thought of success.

Sounds weird right?

My head was flooded with thoughts like…

” What if I really like it there?  

What if I don’t want to come back?  

What if I meet someone?  

What if I can never return to the reality I’m familiar with?  

What if I do well?”

These thoughts brought up a fear that many don’t talk as much about and that is the fear of success.  Personally, I think success is WAY scarier than failure because success means responsibility.  It means change.  It’s much easier to talk about when your life will change or what you will do to make a difference as opposed to doing the things that elicit the anticipated change.
Making the decision I did of starting over meant that I was looking at my potential directly and accepting that my actions, and only my actions will allow my potential to materialize.  I had to stop making excuses, I had to stop being lazy, and I had to start believing in myself.  It’s hard, but one of the most essential things to do in order to move forward on this big blue ball of chaos we call Earth.  Although it’s rough, what keeps me motivated isn’t knowing exactly where I want to be or what I want to do, but it’s recognizing clearly what I will never be and never want Sometimes saying no to the things that repel you and drain your vitality lead you to your ultimate yes.

So Friends, I’m Here in Budapest.

It’s been almost a year and guess what?  A lot of the things that scared me happened!  I met someone, I don’t want to move back, I can’t return to the reality I once knew, and I’m doing well.  Terrifying right?  Well, I suppose you can call me a daredevil because I’m not stopping anytime soon.  If you are reading this and are still in the Mental Masturbation stage, I get it.  I was just like you and still am.  The only difference is I booked a flight and threw caution to the wind.  Now the only question that should be on your mind is, “ What’s the best airline?”

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