You may have heard about a Greek guy from an international youth organisation who gave up his home and all his belongings in order to travel all the time. I am that guy. You may have also heard of the ongoing financial crisis in Greece. Trying to start a small business after years of unemployment only to have all potential clients cancelling deals overnight, horrified by the imposed capital controls, doesn’t leave a pleasant taste on your soul. Couple that with a number of personal issues and you get a good ol’ kick in the butt that makes you think.
And what did I think? On the one hand, there was a clutter from my past that I’ve been moving from house to house for years, not even unpacking most of it for quite a while, in the city I went to study and ended up spending half my life. You see, I’ve been investing increasingly more in experiences rather than objects. On the other hand, ever since I discovered international youth work (admittedly, a bit late) it has put me on a path I’d never derail from. AEGEE has been a major factor at that, providing countless opportunities to take new initiatives, try new things, make mistakes and learn from them, making it possible to develop myself while discovering what I love doing and what I’m good at, essentially discovering who I am.
I kept being more and more inspired by what was possible on an international level. It no longer made sense to keep paying rent for the secure irony of conformity. I had to go. It was spring 2015 when I decided to try something out: I had three events to attend within six weeks and paying for three return tickets would cost a fortune, so I thought “what if I don’t return?”. And I did it. Thanks to my AEGEE friends who became my family between those events, I explored a lot more places, experiences and people than if I’d taken the conventional route. When summer came and life at “home” didn’t seem to work anymore, I decided to see how far I can take that; I gave away everything I had and stayed only with what I could fit in a backpack. It was either that or depression. So I departed for a challenging life full of adventure, that makes it difficult to answer a question as simple as “where do you live?”. But with that challenge comes the reward of finding my own identity.
What have I learned, 37 countries and over 130 international events later? I’ve discovered who I am and what I want to do in life, to a level of pursuing a professional career in it. The world of non-formal education and learning design has won me over, even though I had no clue it even existed before experiencing it. But I also discovered a profound comfort outside of my comfort zone and a trust in humanity almost impossible to imagine; no matter where I go and how crazy my choices may seem, I can always count on a network of people that have my back. If that’s not a true international family, then I don’t know what is. This is European identity in practice.
I can truly call Europe my home thanks to AEGEE, my family. See you somewhere in Europe!
Photoblog by Roby Ciri for Faces of Europe, a project by AEGEE / European Students’ Forum