The Great Escape
It was the last semester of my senior year ... the home stretch. Everyone had just returned from Christmas break and we were suddenly hit with a huge snow storm. Class was cancelled, zoom didn’t exist, the idea of having classes online wasn’t really a thing and neither was social media. So my roommates and I simply stayed in.
This all sounds great! Right? You’re like, “I’m going to watch some movies, read some books, maybe do some painting.” But when you’re in the second week of a snow storm and you’ve barely done any of that stuff because you were too busy doing ANYTHING ELSE, the wandering mind starts to wander. This is when the confinement begins. We call it “cabin fever”. You begin to get irritated. Annoyed. But worse, you start to think about stuff. Scary stuff. For me, the scary stuff was the future.
Fortunately for us, the snow melted and we were able to return to our daily lives but the fear of what to do AFTER graduation never left. Graduation, which should have felt exciting and liberating, started to feel crippling and paralysing.
I decided that I needed to leave the US. Get out. Try something new. Go on adventures abroad. Free myself from the claustrophobia of the life college had left me. Working at summer camp I made friends with people from all over the world. A close friend of mine suggested I move to London, as she was graduating too, and we could be roomies again! So, I got a student visa through BUNAC and lived in London for 7 months.
I arrived at Gatwick, my suitcase hadn’t. I didn’t care. I was in London! I had made it out. Exploring this capital city was unlike anything I had ever seen. Growing up in Texas, we didn’t have cobbled streets and a train system. The oldest building is probably the Alamo in San Antonio, but that’s nothing compared to what you can find in Europe.
I then booked a gig that took me out of London to Billingham. (That’s in northeast England. Where Billy Elliot is from!) My cast mate invited me to spend Christmas with her family in the Lake District. I believe this is when I started to fall in love with the north. London is easy for me to love. It’s got everything I could ever want in a city: different kinds of people from all varieties of life, and the food to match, lots of shops, theatres, museums & galleries, I can go on and on. It’s my favourite city in the whole world. But the north. It’s just a different kind of special.
I then spent Valentine’s skiing in the French Alps, with friends, getting yelled at by the train guard because I thought it would be a great idea to take a photo standing in the middle of the train tracks. We don’t have them in Texas! Apparently he was shouting that a train was coming, but it sounds far more exciting when it’s said in French.
My last adventure was the greatest. I ventured on the two-week-solo-trip “backpacking through Europe” that all Americans romanticise about. I booked a rail pass that allowed me to visit 5 countries: Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, & Paris.
I started in Madrid, Spain where I stayed with a friend whom I met whilst working at summer camp. Then to Barcelona, where I caught an overnight train to Milan. That. Was. SO. Cool. It felt soooooo European to be getting a train you can actually sleep in!
Milan was probably the scariest, next to Paris, as I hadn’t booked any lodging. I hadn’t realised there was a festival going on and so finding a room was pretty tough. It was also dark. So every sound made my heart thump. But I managed to find a room and the following morning I was off to Pisa to take a photo of me holding up that infamous tower.
Waking up early to queue for the Sistine Chapel is when I started to get exhausted. But I didn’t think I’d ever be back! So I just had to keep going. From Rome I went to Venice. I met a group of students from NYU and Canada. This was probably the most fun I had as I didn’t feel so alone. It was also good to chat with other people like me.
Vienna was the best lodging I had booked. I was in a beautiful bed and breakfast that crossed a stream. It was so idyllic. And the breakfast was immense. This huge spread of fruits, yogurts, meats and cheeses. I stocked up on those babies. Free lunch!
From Vienna I met more camp mates who had met at camp, got married, and were now living in Germany. I was starting to get really tired from carrying my backpack everywhere and getting homesick. When I got to Frankfurt they suggested I use the time to rest as I looked exhausted. So, I did. I will say this- Germany had the cleanest trains. Like, pristine.
The last city to see was Paris. By the time I got to Paris I was fatigued. I rushed through the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Honestly it’s a blur. I had this genius idea to sleep in the train station because I was still determined to spend another day there, but my funds were low. Imagine when I got to the ticket office and the guy said the station was closed so that wasn’t an option. I cried. Like a lost child at a grocery store. I think he felt bad for me because he gave me a ticket for the next train back to London. How I managed to find such kind people throughout my trip is a miracle.
Dear reader, I know it sucks right now. It sucks BIG TIME. All I can say is- find a way to cope. Vision boarding is a good place to start. Cut out all sorts of images of places you want to go. Or look at videos of dogs. I spend a lot of time looking at videos of dogs. Talk about travelling. Make a bucket list of places you’re going to see when you get out there. When YOU finally make your great escape.
One of my favourite quotes comes from a Mexican proverb,
“They thought they could bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
You see, right now your world may feel dark and confined. We’re in a lockdown. It’s winter. We can’t travel. We can’t go exploring or on any adventures. We can barely even see our friends. Our only mission is to survive and stay inside. You’re buried. But you’re also changing. The vaccines have started to roll out and we WILL be able to hug our friends again. We WILL be able to travel again. You WILL leave the darkness of the dirt and feel the sun on your face again.
But if you’d like- here’s a video of my pug, Louie. He suffered a terrible accident and had to lose his eye. He couldn’t leave the house for 6 weeks, but when the vet gave us the all clear, the first place I took him was the park. I think even for a moment, he was making his own great escape.
Kat Lozano is an actress from Texas. She is bubbly and incredibly talented. If you aren't able to make it to one of her shows then you can watch her on YouTube where she post great videos that can only make you smile. Follow this link to check it out Kat Lozano's Channel