Kate, the US
I left for New Zealand a week or two before the lockdown started in the US. It was the first time I did something as crazy as that. I decided one day to leave and 15 days later I was on a plane on my way to the other part of the world. I just grabbed a backpack and left.

For five months I stayed in an organic farm on this beautiful property with amazing people. Although, my experience was very contrasting. On one end it was great. I felt so lucky because we didn’t feel the pressure of the lockdown. It was me and 16 more people in around 63 acres of land just doing our everyday thing, and nothing really changed. But, on the other hand, psychologically it was hard. To know that the rest of the world was going into a big crisis. I was constantly bombarded with so much information from friends and family around the different parts of the world panicking and I felt some kind of responsibility because I wasn’t able to be with any of them. They were all in shock. It was very unexpected, and no one really had any idea of what was going on.

Even though the people at the farm were extremely supportive, it was hard to be on the other side of the world in a place that I’ve never been. I wasn’t mentally prepared. In spite of the new friendships, I still felt lonely. That made me understand a lot about what safety means to me. For example, I know it takes me 5 minutes to get to the store. I know the road and I know every single signal on it. That is safety. To be in a place you know. It was an opening up experience. I was able to visit some old places in my head and heal them by approaching them from a new perspective. It was definitely an amazing 5 months as far as self-growth goes. I’ve become a more self-loving person. I learned to be ok with who I am realistically, and by that I mean to accept both the good and bad in me and not try to run away from the shady parts. Also, to be able to use those things that I learned about yourself that I didn’t like before and use them as something good, as an advantage.

After I came back from New Zealand, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area, but I didn’t feel comfortable. I wanted to center myself. So, I talked to my mom, and I moved in with her. That’s where I am right now. For the last 6 months I’ve been doing my own thing, trying to figure myself out. Since the day we are born everybody tells you what to do but no one teaches us how to have more initiative. I try to find the strength to guide myself instead of expecting somebody else to guide me. 

I’m moving to Prague. My family is from there, and I was born there too, but because of my parent’s job we moved to the US. We’ve been here for over 12 years now. But in spite of all those years, it has never felt like home to me. I feel like a visitor. But for some reason, something always used to keep me here: college, a boyfriend, my job (…) but now nothing is keeping me here anymore. I’ve always wanted to go back to the Czech Republic ever since I was young, but I feel like now I’m mentally prepared to do it. I wouldn’t have trusted myself to do so four years ago.

The biggest struggle for me has been to find clarity and direction. I left my job and I always wanted to pursue photography. But I never did because it’s something that’s so close to my heart that I’m afraid of failing at the one thing that means the world to me. But at the same time, that makes me feel so upset at myself because it’s like having this rock inside me weighing me down, locking the potential in me. I don’t trust my abilities enough to do it. I don’t know if I’m even capable of running my own show. I don’t know how to break through this idea of mine. And I’m  aware it’s all in my head, but sometimes my mind goes wandering to dark places. At the end I just try to remind myself that I just need to do it. 

Living back with my mom has been a whole ‘nother chapter for me this past year, and from which I’ve learned a lot. My mom is getting divorced, so she has been struggling with that. To live here in this situation has been very interesting. Our relationship hasn’t always been easy. The first two months I was here, we fought the whole time. We established boundaries and learned to recognize the love we have for each other. I got to know her as an independent person, and not only as my mom. Now that I’m older she opens up more. She would have never told me any of these things, or maybe I wouldn’t have listened, when I was 16. But now I’m seeing my mom in this whole new light, and I feel it has been beneficial to both of us. I’m really happy that I’m here, even though it has been hard at times. I have always been a people pleaser, and I think that behavior creates unhealthy attachments. I’ve been working on that too. At the end of the day, that’s what we are here for. If we are not connecting, then what are we doing?