May 27, 2017
By Francesca Grandillo
Return from a Leap of Faith in Spain
“Taking a leap of faith” is a phrase that has always applied to me as a traveler and a dancer. Growing up far below the poverty line, traveling was something I’d tell people I wanted to do, but was such an impossible idea that it started to resemble a little girl telling her parents she wants to grow up to be a princess. Dance classes were only possible when money and time-off from work collided. Travel was a murky mystery. Like putting on a Halloween costume, I could be a witch or an angel or a giant hotdog for the night, and then it was over.
There are three personae that I’ve always wanted to attain–writer, traveler, and dancer. These were the Halloween costumes I wanted to don and never take off no matter how many people told me it looked ridiculous to wear them in public. When money stood in the way, as it so often did, those costumes went in storage and the dreams were shelved above reality, out of reach and collecting dust.
Writing? I’m doing that now. Traveling? I’ve succeeded for the most part and even my failures can be construed as successes. Dancing? We’ll get to that. But first, I’m going to teach you some ballet terminology.
Barre – a horizontal bar to rest your hand on while practicing. Through high school, I found blogs of people who took off around the world for uncertain lengths of time, not even knowing the name of their next hostel. I spent the time researching far-too-expensive volunteer abroad programs, all the while breathing the words of travel bloggers and backpackers as if I too were somehow capable of this grand adventure and could sympathize with them. And then I let go of the barre metaphorically–I traveled to Japan on a scholarship to study abroad in college; I ventured to Morocco for a month to visit a friend; and then I choreographed my own path in life, working long hours to afford a four-month backpacking trip to Europe that started in Norway and ended in Spain.
Pas de Bourrée – a multi-step traveling move that dance teachers make you do roughly a million times. I count those three locations as my pas de bourrée of travel: Japan, Morocco, and Europe. Japan was dipping my toe into the water, Morocco was learning to doggy paddle, and Europe was a dive into the deep end. I went from not knowing how to exchange money to going on fifteen-hour bus rides, sleeping in airports and going clubbing with strangers I met on hiking trails.
Jeté – a jump. Travel taught me how to take a leap of faith forward; to go up to the group of people in the hostel and introduce myself, to not despair too much when the turnstile at the train station rejects my ticket and barks at me in a different language, and to be my own number one champion.
And then there’s the adagio – the slow dance. I returned from Spain to a not-so-happy reunion. Friends had left, money troubles abounded, and I ended up without a place to live for the first three months of my return. For someone who grows up with the same income my family had, this kind of poor-stable-poor again cycle is familiar. Stability is fleeting, like in a dance–it’s only a transition to another step.
It was a petit allegro, of sorts – a fast-paced dance to figure out my place. I Couchsurfed and worked in all my free time, going to interviews with my backpack on, and occasionally going a day without food.
But what was all of that travel for if not to prepare me to work and dance my way to a solution? I worked three jobs, got an apartment and somehow still had a great GPA during these months. Traveling taught me to do the fast and slow dances through life, to figure it out and not be afraid. I took a leap of faith and could finally call myself a traveler–and a dancer. One of those jobs was at a dance studio, working the front desk and taking classes when I could. Now I travel, dance and write as much as possible because my dive into the deep end in Europe taught me to hustle, dream and keep my head up. Even when I fall out of a turn and lose that stability, I refuse to kick my dreams to the side.
Because when you fall, you have to make it a part of your dance. You have to take a leap of faith.
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About the Author
I'm a fiction writer and dancer living in San Francisco and planning my next trip. I write occasional articles for travel websites and am a contributor to Hip Traveler.