You inspire me! Helene Dalby: Dreams lost and found abroad

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First time I met Helene  was through the organisation ICYE with whom I went to Mexico. Helene was 1 year in Costa Rica and we both started to work voluntary in the organisation back in Denmark. I asked Helene to share her story since she has already experiences the things I am going through now; having a boyfriend from a very different culture and work and live in another country. She has been through an interesting and inspiring personal journey. Let me introduce you to a very brave girl: Helene.  

A dream was born in Costa Rica

My name is Helene and I am 28 years old and I have been living in Barcelona for the past 2.5 years. This is my story: I was 19 years old when I got on the plane to Costa Rica as an international volunteer. I got to experience a totally different culture and learned to (partly) speak another language. I worked at different projects during that year, first in an orphanage for girls, then with homeless people and finally with disabled youngsters. The work was quite hard, a real challenge sometimes, but it’s incredible how much you get in return when you give a little.

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At work in the catholic orphanage. The girls all had suffered abuse or neglect at home. They loved when I took my camera to work, so that we could play “models”. For that reason, I have hundreds of pictures of the girls.
Ingrid was the youngest girl there. She was also my favourite (even though I shouldn’t say that). Cheeky and adorable at the same time, and such a little diva. I sometimes wonder where she ended up. She is 16 years old today.
Ingrid was the youngest girl there. She was also my favourite (even though I shouldn’t say that). Cheeky and adorable at the same time, and such a little diva. I sometimes wonder where she ended up. She is 16 years old today.

When my time in Costa Rica came to an end I was a different person, and it was very hard to go back to Denmark, to my old everyday life. It was as if things had been standing still while I was away and I just couldn’t go back to the old rhythm. All I could think about was going back to Latin America, this time either to work or study. I guess I was really obsessed with everything that had to do with Latin America: Spanish language, people, music, food – literally everything. That is why I decided to study a BA in Spanish Language, Literature and Culture. This decision was truly based on my feelings and what I was enthusiastic about.

Magical Mexico and the pursue of happiness

One of the places where I dreamt about living was Mexico. This dream came true when I got the opportunity to take a semester abroad during my BA. The Danish University offered many good places via the Erasmus-program in Spain, but that didn’t interest me at all. So I decided to arrange my exchange semester by myself, and after a lot of work and patience I got accepted at BUAP (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla). Before I knew I was on my way to Puebla, México and I fell completely in love with this country.

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I also travelled in Mexico, and one of the things that truly made an impression on me are the Mayan pyramids you’ll find in the south. Here I am at Palenque in the middle of the rainforest of Chiapas.

The months went by, and I decided that it was not time to go back to Denmark yet. I felt truly happy. I felt that I was living my dream. I prolonged my stay and shortly after making this decision an unexpected thing happened: I got a Mexican boyfriend. I thought he was going to be yet another friend but as it turned out we became more than that, and by the time I was going on vacation in Denmark for a month we were a couple and I was heedlessly in love. When I returned to Mexico things were perfect and my feelings for him where strong. I had never experienced anything like that before.

Two different cultures and dreams: The roller-coaster ride relationship

It didn’t take long until things started to go wrong. I remember once telling a friend about the problems that we had, and I described the relationship as being on a constant roller-coaster ride. On the top things were amazing and perfect, but in a few seconds this could change and go downhill with a high speed. I know that some of the problems were due to cultural differences, but mostly it was because in the end, we just didn’t want the same thing or to live the same kind of life. But I was in love, and I had started to deviate from my own dream. Everything I did started to revolve around him, and it became harder to see clear. Also, there was a lot of drinking and partying, and I really didn’t feel like doing that so much. At the same time his friends became my friends, and his family my family. But this just put me in a more vulnerable place, and made me feel as if I had more to lose. It was a disadvantage for me to be far away from my old and dear friends in Denmark, and my family, who might have been able to give me the necessary support to get out and on. Instead I just buried myself deeper until the point that I almost didn’t recognize myself anymore.

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I became part of this big, Mexican family that was so different from everything I knew back home. My family is quite small, and I don’t have 20 cousins, for example. This picture is from the wedding of one of the “primas” (cousins) in Acapulco, that lasted a whole weekend.

The crash and burn of the dream

At one point I actually returned to Denmark, but I couldn’t let go of the “new false dream” that I had created in Mexico: The dream about a future with my boyfriend. I decided to study my Master’s Degree in Mexico as well, and I travelled back. This is one of the things that I regret, and I believe a lot of damage could have been avoided if I hadn’t done that. But then again, maybe I needed a serious wakeup call. To make a long story short, things went very bad with my relationship and at the same time the Master I started was shut down by the University. Simultaneously some problems occurred in my family back home in Denmark. Everything crashed and burned and I returned to Denmark. I felt horrible, everything was grey and I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I was not even sure who I was anymore and what I was supposed to do with my life. I started to study in Denmark, only because I felt that I had to, and I tried to put on a mask and pretend that everything was OK.

A new life in Barcelona: Getting back on track and finding new love

In one of my classes I was introduced to an internship opportunity in Barcelona, at the Commercial Office of the Foreign Minister of Denmark. I thought that it sounded like a great opportunity, but Spain didn’t mean anything to me, nor did I have any interest in living there. But in a moment of desperation and eager to move on with my life, I applied for the internship. No one was more surprised than me when I got it! All of the sudden I had to pack up my stuff, this time with a new destination heading for a new adventure. At that point I couldn’t have imagined the positive outcome this decision would have. First of all, because of the amazing people that I met, especially my roommates, that became my friends and helped me to get a fresh start. Secondly, I met my boyfriend Diego. I really wasn’t looking for a new relationship, but life gives us a lot of surprises, and today we live together in Barcelona.

Diego and I
Diego and I

It turned out for me that the right decision was to go to Barcelona, but if you would have asked me 4 years ago if I would like to live in Spain, I would have said “NO, never!”. One thing I have learned on my journey is that plans can change, and sometimes you just need to close a door and open a new. I also learned that sometimes when devastating things happen, and things look really bad, it might just be one piece of a bigger puzzle, but at that point you just can’t see how the final puzzle is going to look like. I don’t think my puzzle is done yet, and I am still on a journey to figure out who I am and where I will end up. I am open to all the opportunities that presents themselves, and who knows, one day I might go back to Denmark and have some kids and live the life that I so desperately tried to escape a few years back. All I know is that right know, I feel happy and I feel at peace, and I believe that I am still living my dream – but with new settings.

 

Party at the first flat where I lived in Barcelona. Some of these persons mean a lot to me, and they helped me move on in my life. I am truly thankful for that.
Party at the first flat where I lived in Barcelona. Some of these persons mean a lot to me, and they helped me move on in my life. I am truly thankful for that.

My advices: learn to understand who you are and what you want out of life

Even though I had some very bad experiences on my way, especially in Mexico, I will never regret my decision about going there, because I followed my heart and I think that’s what really matters. It’s so important always to pursue your dreams and happiness, because someday you will wake up, and see that life has passed by. It is important to trust in yourself, and, little by little, learn to understand who you are and what you want out of life. Also, it’s dangerous to let somebody else be the axis that you rotate around. This doesn’t only apply if your partner is from another country. You need to have your own life, to do things on your own, and not become completely absorbed into another person’s life. This for sure will make you forget who you are, your dreams and goals. In the end you are responsible for your own happiness, and it’s your actions that will determine how your life turns out. I would like to end this with my favourite quote by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who is a huge inspiration to me:

“Feet, what do I need them for, If I have wings to fly.”

To me this quote symbolizes that, sometimes we do not have the willpower, courage or confidence to achieve our goals, but we all have an immense potential within us; we just need to find it and let it out.

Homepage: http://vikingvibes.com

Thanks to Helene for sharing his story with us!

The concept of “You inspire me!”: These guest blogs are made by people that inspire me and I hope you get inspired too. They dared to take responsibility of their own life and go for their dreams and sometimes that takes a lot of courage to do. You know, it’s always easier not to do anything! I hope you enjoy reading their stories and please leave a comment if you like it and get inspired too 🙂

Do you know an inspiring person who could be interesting to feature on my blog? Please, send me an e-mail via the contact form.

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