It was a chilly night when I arrived. Buzzing on too much Kratom, my hand shook as I handed the immigration agent my passport.

“What do you plan to do in Bulgaria?”

The lady smiled, which came as a comforting surprise from what I had previously experienced in London- which felt like a full-on interrogation.

“I’m here to explore Sofia.”

I actually had no idea what I was doing in Bulgaria. What was I doing there?

She let me in with no more questions. I relaxed. I have arrived. ​​

The Taxi driver drove fast, and was large and intimidating. He got away with a small scam from me, but I was exhausted and ready to sleep. The first impression here was not so kind.

On the next day I had to travel a bit of the city with my luggage to get from my first night’s AirBNB to the one I would have for the next few days.

The land I traveled was… a bit fucked up. The roads were destroyed. Ex-communist architecture dominated the region I was in.

All of the signs in this area of Sofia were in Cyrillic. People walked about, and commerce that was commenced sounded harsh.

Realizing I had all my stuff on my back, and I felt weak, I got nervous. If I were to be robbed, it would be pretty easy to take all my stuff.

Suddenly the reality of what I had done settled in.

“Holy shit, I’m in Sofia, Bulgaria, everyone is speaking Russian or something and I have no idea what the hell is going on.”

Finally I arrived at my AirBNB. The woman was kind, gentle, and reminded me of my previous Russian piano teacher.

We had a fine conversation, and I loosened up. I felt safe.. well, safer. The apartment felt secure.

She left, and I laid down. Montreal was exciting, but still American enough to feel secure in.

My mind tried to process the previous 2 weeks: first a week in London, and then a road-trip across Belgium which took another week. I had also spent almost 2 weeks in Budapest, where I had originally planned on living.

I felt sad. Was this the right choice? My two friends in Budapest visibly missed me when I announced that I was leaving.

Did.. I make friends that I just left? Is this a bad decision?

So many thoughts spun my head around. What was once such a familiar world in the United States was now gone.

The adventure began exciting, but my mind was racing. There was no one familiar here. There was nothing familiar at all about Bulgaria.

The next morning I resolved to go explore the city, and at least try to enjoy myself.

In Belgium I fucked up on work. There was no reliable internet, and everything closed in the village I stayed in. I was losing a client.

In Budapest my apartment was amazing, except for the fact that it had horrible mold and made me very sick. I was determined not to purchase anything in Bulgaria until I had completely examined it- I was learning how to do this “travel” thing.

I walked to the main street, “Vitosha.” It had a beautiful view of the nearby Vitosha mountain.

The street was long and filled with many restaurants and shops. It was a walking-only path.

It reminded me of Sainte Catherine in Montreal, the street which I previously used to live at.

I felt good. Despite being on the other side of the world, not knowing whether my English would suffice, or how I’d do anything in Sofia I had Vitosha, which was just like Montreal!

The land was exotically different than the corn fields of Nebraska or the deserts of Arizona.

Ex-communist buildings soared high and left scars of a brutal past. Modern architecture revealed that Sofia was recovering from its past. Some pre-communist architecture told the story of what Bulgaria was, before the Soviets forced their way.

There were plenty parks filled with greenery, which left a relaxing inside me. I walked through the parks and observed the locals.

Unlike in Belgium, where you could hear German, French, Dutch, and English, or in Hungary, where you heard English, Hungarian, and German, you could only hear “Bulgarian,” which sounded to my English ears as something like Russian.

This made me nervous. I had searched online earlier for a way to learn Bulgarian, but “Duolingo” had nothing, and there were few sites which could teach me.

What if they didn’t speak English? What the hell had I just done to myself?

Again my thoughts raced, but I grounded myself in one of Sofia’s beautiful parks. I walked over and saw some impressive architecture, such as NDK, or the National Theater.

In the coming days I searched for apartments. I evaluated closely the smell to detect for mold, which made me so sick in Hungary. I counted the steps it took to reach the apartment, so that I would not waste time climbing endless stairs. I pinned the location, checked the size, and wrote down other amenities of the place.

There were 2 places I couldn’t decide between. The first was the place I was currently staying, and the second was slightly closer to the center, but a bit more expensive and smaller.

My first host asked if I would stay longer, and I told her honestly that I couldn’t decide between which two places.

She said, “follow your heart.”

And so I began to meditate. As soon as the alarm would go off, I would ask my heart with a clear mind where I should go.

The alarm rang. My mind told me to stay in that place. The heart said the other. And so I picked the other.

Months later, I met by coincidence with this woman and she told me this was a great decision, for soon an issue would come up and she would not have been able to host me!

My new place quickly felt like home. It was in a location I preferred. It was quiet, free of smells, beautiful, and had everything I could want in a place.

In fact, this was the best apartment I had stayed in in my whole life. My previous apartment in Montreal was a small studio. This place had a large kitchen, a large bathroom, living room, and bedroom also!

I looked up some Bulgarian, and tried to learn a few basic phrases, such as to ask whether someone speaks English.

When I finally had the confidence to try speak to someone, as I did not know whether English was spoken- and many of the AirBNB hosts had not so good English- I asked a man at an Italian restaurant if he spoke English.

He started speaking fast in Bulgarian, with a big smile. I nervously asked in English again if he spoke English.

“Oh yeah, don’t worry. I speak English. What would you like?”

I ordered, seeing that this menu had also text in English. The pasta was delicious, and as I felt secure in this place, I would return a few more times.

Then the challenge came: how was I to make friends, meet girls, have a social life? And still yet, what was I doing in Bulgaria?

I joined groups on Facebook, and tried to talk to more people. Sometimes I felt so anxious that I would shake. I posted on Reddit for Bulgaria that I’d buy anyone a drink that wanted to hangout.

I started meeting people, and realized that many people spoke English- in fact, you could kind of get by okay on there.

One time I tried to say “no” in Russian to a lady who hardly spoke English, and then she said “oh you speak Russian,” and tried to speak Russian to me.

It was then that I realized Bulgarian, while Slavic and with Cyrillic, was still not close enough to Russian.

In fact, the same word for “No” used in Hungary was used in Bulgaria! That was strange, I thought.

One day I was invited via an internet group to a club to go hangout. The girl whose group I was to join ended up being late.

I walked into the club, then immediately walked out. I was terrified. I wanted to wait for her group to arrive, before I met anyone.

Again the reality dawned on me: I was here, at 19, alone, an American in Bulgaria, with no real idea or good explanation why. What the fuck was going on? Why was I doing this???

“Okay, if I go into this club and I’m so weird that everyone laughs at me and the country of Bulgaria puts posters up with my face as the American weirdo, then I will leave the country to Thailand or Germany.”

I walked back into the club with pretend confidence, but still I had some shakes from nervousness.

Someone was standing alone, so I went up and said, “so, is this the event for the umm..”

“Yeah, yeah! Welcome! What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do?”

The Greek man was kind, and a welcome refresh, showing me that it was okay to talk to random strangers in a random club in Bulgaria where I knew no one.

I ordered a drink with Vodka, as I was starting to enjoy myself, feel confident, and to be honest a little something to loosen up would be nice.

Some girls were checking me out. My heart raced. This was totally one of those “I should go approach moments” in the movies!

And so I went immediately to the bathroom to relax and gather my courage.

I wasted more time, and checked my phone.

Where the hell was this other group I was supposed to come with?

A beautiful girl came up to me. I felt resistance, thinking she was perhaps a prostitute or wanted some money from me.

We talked, and her eye contact was very strong. She was very beautiful.

She asked if I wanted to meet her friend. I said yes, and so I went with her.

Her friend was pretty, and the one who looked at me with intent. Her English wasn’t so good, so we sometimes used Google Translate to communicate.

She became attracted. I met her friends also. My confidence began to rise and I began to dance.

I made other acquaintances in the club, and as they walked by gave high-fives.

During a conversation with the pretty girl and her friends the original group I was supposed to come with came. The pretty girl there who invited me to come pulled me over and told me to join her group.

I left, and joined her group. The girl I was just with looked at me fiercely and with desire.

Confidence soared through me. “Social proof” had just been manufactured! This other girl had a boyfriend (at least I thought so), and I danced with her group. But the fact that I was with a pretty girl and dragged away by a girl made her want me so bad.

Quickly I became the most confident man of the party. It was quite the rush, to feel this girl’s desire for me.

I left this new group, and returned to this other girl to stay. We hung out until 3 AM.

We met a few times after, but fizzled out fast. She was not so genuine I felt, and we couldn’t have good conversation. She confused me, perhaps the dating culture in Bulgaria was so different from America that we couldn’t get along!

Anyways, I was starting to make friends that I did enjoy being around. They were interested in self-development like me, and so we could go out to meet girls.

Sometimes I would go home, get an ice cream, and reality would hit me: I showed up, alone, in Bulgaria, and now here I was making good friends and picking up girls that I could hardly speak to!

Well, I wasn’t getting any kind of results with these girls, but the hunt itself was exhilarating.

Soon I got into a routine. I would wake up late, and then eat breakfast / lunch at a restaurant called “Happy,” where good enough English was spoken.

I had the same cheap meal every day: a chicken file with salad and potato. It was delicious.

I would then work, at a coffee shop that was recommended to me by that first Greek man I met in the club. Every day I would order the same thing, and same for the restaurant.

This was my method of grounding, even though I didn’t consciously realize it. Bulgaria was so new and so much to handle that I simply couldn’t handle all the newness, so doing things like going to the same coffee shop, ordering the same drink, and same restaurant and same meal every day was felt comforted me.

In the night I was sometimes play my favorite video game, Far Cry 4 to relax from the craziness also.

I began to enjoy Bulgaria. After some negative experiences in my first bit of world travel with speaking English, I had been so nervous to try speak English in Bulgaria, but now I realized that almost everyone could speak it or wanted to speak it.

People were sometimes fascinated with me- what the hell was a 19 year old American doing in Sofia, Bulgaria of all places? Perhaps the fact that I couldn’t give a good explanation made me appear all the more mysterious, which only intensified the interest.

My social circle grew. My rule was 1 hangout per day, so that I would remain very socially engaged. I began to grow in confidence, and really enjoy my life.

One day, I went to the mall to meet girls. We met some groups.

Then we meet this one group of girls. Of all the 4, I asked for one girl’s number. She said no, so I fell back on her Facebook. She agreed.

When I got her Facebook, I kept looking into her profile picture after, even after we were supposed to be getting more girls. Her eyes fascinated me. She had a unique expression, and appeared intelligent.

That night we drank and partied like I had on many other nights. When I arrived home, I felt a sudden compulsion to text her.

I apologized for our meanness when we met her in the mall at 3 in the morning. We did say a few harsh jokes, and I was trying to be a more authentic, kind person.

When I woke up, she had wrote me back. We began texting, and found we were both highly intelligent. We could have a very interesting conversation.

She wished to live in a country I always wanted to also, and I was trying to improve my health and she was interested in using science to help people also. Our texts were long, and I decided to be completely authentic.

To our amazement, her school was 55 seconds walking distance away from my apartment. We had perhaps walked past each other on many of the days I slept in while she arrived at school a bit later. We would’ve walked the same path.

We went out, had a good conversation, and when I went to kiss her she pulled back. She was shocked. She texted me saying that was “way too fast.”

I figured it just meant that she was not interested. In America, it would only be natural to kiss the first time you go out with someone!

We texted some more, and hung out again. I didn’t try to kiss her again so soon. Was it that she was nervous, or was Bulgarian culture in dating so different from what I knew?

She invited me to a New Year’s Party. This would be my first ever outside of America. I of course accepted.

She looked… so beautiful in her dress. Some of her friends were fascinated to meet me, and would later become some good friends that I would also care for dearly.

The night was dramatic. People got too wasted. There was some drama between various people, and they even tried to pretend marry us.

But we kissed, a bit past midnight, and it was great. Her friends liked me because they gave us a mattress to sleep on that only had enough room for one person… forcing us to cuddle tight.

That morning, a friend of hers asked me…

“So, are you two boyfriend and girlfriend now?”

I just said “yes” in Bulgarian: Da. She agreed.

Walking home felt strange. I walked by NDK, where I had hung out with so many of my friends.

Now I had a girlfriend, for the first time in so long. And, she was Bulgarian. Was this what I was looking for when I arrived in Bulgaria?

Not too long before, I had told my closest friend in Bulgaria:

“If I get a girlfriend, then I think I will extend my visa and stay some longer here.”

I was genuinely enjoying my life in the city of Sofia in Bulgaria. It was as if the prophecy had been completed- I had a girlfriend, and so it was time to extend the visa and see where this go.

We developed quickly. Unlike previous relationships, where we dated for weeks or months, this one seemed to go exponentially faster. It felt.. as if we were meant to be by some divine force.

The days became a blur. I got sick, and so did she. And so we watched Netflix together to pass the time and share our sickness some more.

Her family was kind, and often gifted me with some of their delicious Bulgarian delights. I learned more Bulgarian, and discovered things so unique to Bulgaria such as food and culture that I could’ve never known before!

Extending the visa was a bit terrifying, as I did not want to do anything illegal. Alas, the extension surely felt sketchy, and I’d rather not know the details of where some of my cash was going.

But at the end of my stay, I had my visa stamp, and so it was okay. I was allowed to stay, at least for a few more months until I had to go!

My friendships deepened, as I became a more authentic and mature person. I discovered more of the city of Sofia, and loosened up from my tight routine.

I became unwell at some point, but then began to study wellness. I began to heal.

I had all kinds of personal problems, traumas that were surfacing through the relationship, and I wasn’t always the best boyfriend I could be.. and I knew it.

But I was determined to be the best boyfriend because I had love on my side and I’d do anything it took because this girl was so amazing!

The days turned to weeks, and the weeks into months. The Winter passed, and Spring brought with it some hope for 2018.

The city became more alive, more social, more engaged. It became vibrant and full of life.

Not only was I so crazy to randomly choose to live in Sofia, but I went in the fucking Winter!

In looking into our pasts, it seemed that there was much synchronicity between me and this girl that fit together all too well. We had our cute sayings.

I can only speak for myself and say that I had a determination and belief that we were to be right for each other. That we were lucky, for we had found each other so early in life.

Times weren’t always so good. When the weather was bad in Bulgaria, we were there. When the tears poured, we were there.

The strength of a team lies not in the celebration of the good, but in the handling of the bad, and it felt as though we would make it.

With this new relationship, I had no time to meet a new person per day. Instead it was such that I could only meet a few close friends. And I preferred it like this.

It felt like.. I belonged. What was this new feeling I experienced? Was this always what I wanted?

I had entered Bulgaria with so many health and mental problems, and now I was becoming so confident, I was creating wealth, and I was developing my health.

For so long I wanted to run, and soon I was running the streets of Sofia. Again I felt the beauty of a runner’s high.

I experienced the true Bulgarian culture, and secret Bulgarian spots that no tourist would easily identify. When I did meet foreigners, I enjoyed showing them around.

Soon I was even showing the Bulgarians around Sofia. I welcomed them into the true beauty of their city, which they had forgotten from the monotony of routine.

I was not famous, but I felt famous. It was not uncommon to get recognized by an acquaintance or friend just by stepping outside. On some days people from parties long ago that I had forgotten greeted me with such cheer, and I could only pretend to know them also- because really I was only focused on my inner circle, and my girlfriend.

My birthday party was the best that I had in my whole life. My life was the best it had been. I didn’t wish to leave Sofia, for I loved my girl, I loved my city, and I loved my friends. What else could man wish to have?

The next visa extension came around, and I nervously applied. There were some complications with the application, and it was uncertain as to whether the visa would be accepted.

When we sent the application in, my girlfriend soothed me that all would be well.

With surprise, I sat down realizing that there was nowhere else I wanted to be. I had found my “home.”

I had the One, I had my friends, I had my money, my routine, and life was good. Sofia was the city I could’ve always wanted to stay in, but never knew it.

One day, I sat in the restaurant Happy. Though this time I was more adventurous, thanks to my girlfriend. I was eating some delicious sushi- something I hadn’t even considered before traveling to Bulgaria!

“Michael, we have a problem. Your visa has been rejected. I can get you 8 days, maybe 9, in the country. Then you’ve gotta go.”

Tears never came so fast, and in a public place, too! I called my girlfriend, and it was clear in her voice that she too experienced shock.

It felt unfair. The relationship was finally maturing- we were moving out of that sweet honeymoon, not into a mundane routine but a more relaxed, sustainable love.

I didn’t want to leave my friends. My city. My girlfriend. My apartment. My… home.

The next week many memories were made. The time limit was saddening, yet awakening.

I didn’t know where to go. In my Heart, I wanted to go to Thailand. But I didn’t want to be far from my girlfriend. If I traveled to Cyprus, then she might be able to see me earlier.

One day I was so sad as I looked out from a tram at the beautiful city of Sofia and all the memories I had on each street corner that I did not even pay for a ticket, or notice the inspector entering.

They cornered me fast, but I wasn’t going to run anyways. I didn’t care.

In Bulgarian I simply said “how much,” and handed him some cash. I paid the fine, and continued to gaze out aimlessly with tears in my eyes.

The day came too fast that I would have to leave. I gave final gifts to my girlfriend, and she gave me her gifts.

We traveled to the airport via the metro, and she was the first to cry. I felt numb, and needed to also, but didn’t feel so comfortable among the strangers in the metro.

But the tears were too much, and so I let go also. It had been 7 amazing months since I had been on a plane.

It felt that I had found my home. That maybe Sofia, Bulgaria was why I was meant to travel!

I was only meant to find Sofia, and then my girlfriend, and then my friends, and my amazing life there. It was where I belonged.

My girlfriend, she saw a shooting star on the day I booked some of the things in Hungary. Surely it was meant that I was coming to her continent, that two soulmates were destined to re-unite in this life…

So why were we being forced to be torn apart?

Only some weeks prior to this day I was in a favorite coffee shop when I noticed some people speaking with an American accent. I introduced myself to them, and joined their group.

Soon I was hanging out with these new friends.

I had arrived in Sofia so nervous, alone, and uncertain, and questioning: why was I there?

And by the time I had to leave, I had everything I wanted, and was getting what else that I didn’t have. I was confident. I had friends. I had.. a life, a home.

The memories flew by. The 7 months went by like a second. Each month was a metro stop. And each metro stop brought me closer to the plane that would take me far away to the island of Cyprus, where I didn’t really want to be.

She glowed so much in those final moments in the airport. Her eyes were deep. I didn’t want to go pick up any other girls, like all that I wanted to do when I first arrived in Bulgaria. I wanted her, and only her.

With tears in our eyes we gave our final tight hugs, not wanting to let go. It was like a competition to see who could hug longer or harder.

It soon became too late for us to waste anymore time. If I missed my flight, I could get in serious trouble. I had to leave that day on that flight as this is what I told the immigration office this was the flight I was to leave on.

We gave a final embrace, and then a coldness washed over me as I waved at her as I rose up to the second floor via the escalator that she could not join me on.

She was broken, and me also, almost as if it was a break up. It wasn’t fair. What was so beautiful to put two souls- or perhaps one soul- together was now being forced apart.

We were strong, and we were going to survive this. It was 35 days until we would re-unite and because I was in Cyprus we might be able to meet earlier briefly.

I felt numb in my new home. This was not home. This was a strange land, and I missed everything in Bulgaria.

The next morning I walked around, and explored Pafos, or Paphos. It was beautiful, though very small. I met some kind people early on. The culture was much different than that of Bulgaria, and to my surprise it was hard to adjust.

Despite Cypriot culture being much more like that of the USA, or even that of the UK, I found it difficult because for so long I had lived in Bulgaria that I had forgotten the day-to-day ways of English-speaking cultures.

Immediately upon arrival I could feel a dark pull within me. I didn’t want to be here. I purchased some video games, perhaps this would numb the pain.

I began to work all day, sometimes 10 or 12 hours per day… But I wasn’t actually getting anything done. The truth was, deep now I know that I was so sad that I couldn’t admit it.

The relationship began to seriously suffer. Some fights broke out. It felt that the whole world turned against me.

My heart whispered that maybe I should try meet one new person per day, and try to be more social, but my ego insisted that I didn’t need new friends- I was only here for a month, anyways.

Surely there was no point in making friends or doing anything, if only to say goodbye forever soon..

One day, something happened that turned my whole world upside down. It was so scary, that I can only write about it in my journal. I was to perhaps lose a loved one. Tears flowed down my face in front of a barista when I got the notification.

And that night, a huge boundary in my relationship was crossed. It was so huge, that I knew there was no other choice but to break up.

I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes I would post on Reddit for relationship advice, but this I knew I didn’t have to post on Reddit. I didn’t need someone to guide me on this. There was no other way this situation could be framed.

The fact was, a boundary was crossed. I didn’t know why. But I wanted to forget. I couldn’t believe it.

Just a month prior, I was on top of the world. I had Bulgaria, the girl, the love, the money, the friends.

And now here I was in Cyprus, alone, depressed, a work-a-holic, not motivated like my previous self to try to meet people, and perhaps I was to lose a loved one throughout the night, and that same night a huge boundary was crossed that would guarantee the end of our relationship.

But maybe it was me? Maybe I was reactive? Maybe there was a side to this boundary that was crossed that could be validated?

The flights were booked for us to reunite back in mainland Europe, but every day I wrote in my journal questioning whether I shouldn’t break up… was it even worth it to meet back up?

In my isolation, I did not reach out to friends to ask for advice. I was still learning how to be vulnerable and speak to my friends for advice. So I remained alone, and suffered alone.

We met up, and the days faded by fast. I felt too numb. She realized the damage she had done.

I couldn’t give anymore; I was spent. The world had turned against me. There was nothing more I could give in the relationship, or to anyone.

Why did she not treat me so well in Cyprus? Was it that she missed me so much and couldn’t handle it? Did she treat temporary long-distance as though it were a break-up? Was the mask coming off and I was learning who she really was?

Perhaps it was because I was not on my purpose as a man. Maybe if I had traveled to Thailand, she would’ve treated me better because girls want men that stay on their purpose no matter what.

And I was a shell of my former self, no doubt not the man that she had fallen for. Perhaps it was my fault, and I should’ve been stronger.

So I beat on myself. I was irresponsible. I don’t make good decisions. I’m not that successful in business actually. I wasn’t a good boyfriend.

By the time it came around for us to have to go long-distance again, we were slightly repaired. I had tried a little to fix us, and so had she. I don’t think either of us realized it yet, but we were over, we were trying to ignite a flame that was broken.

I traveled back to Montreal, and I was a shell of my former self there. Sure, I was more authentic, and connected deeper with my friends from before.

But I also wasn’t going out and meeting people, being silly, and being social. My AirBNB had a nice desk, and so I purchased an old video game from childhood to play again.

I played it every day. I wanted nothing more than to play this game.

My relationship once again struggled. My friend handed me a book: “The Way Of The Superior Man.” He suggested I read it, perhaps intuitively knowing what I needed.

I didn’t.

I returned to my home in Phoenix. It was good, but again I was alone most of the time. I didn’t put in such an effort to hangout with old friends, though I did a little.

Things had changed. I had a subtle accent from my time in Europe. People went their own path, and to be honest I didn’t try hard to keep in touch with anyone there.

Now my addiction was Fortnite. One day I played it for something like 12 hours! It felt that life was monotonous, and I was continuously waiting “for the future” when I could return to my girl and Bulgaria.

I didn’t realize it then, but I wasn’t ever to return to my girlfriend. When I got on that plane to Cyprus, I left her forever. We were never the same when we reunited. Too many boundaries were crossed from both ends, and a huge one against me, and I wasn’t the man that she met in Bulgaria anymore.

Every day in Phoenix I was excited to return to Bulgaria. It felt as though I was returning to continue from that fateful day on June 6th, 2018 when I had to leave with just about one week’s notice.

I had to get a wisdom teeth surgery done urgently, but I didn’t do it in Phoenix. All I wanted was to get back to Bulgaria as soon as possible.

It was going to be brutal, and my money was extremely tight, but I found a cheap flight back to Bulgaria from Phoenix. It would cost me something crazy cheap like $400 or $500, but it would require me to stay up for almost 2 days straight and take 4 separate flights. But I was going home.

I didn’t have enough time with my family. It flew by so fast. I wasn’t taking initiation to hangout with my family, or old friends. I was sad to leave.

But overjoyed to go back to Bulgaria. I was going back to my kingdom, where I could be happy with my girl, my money, my friends, and my home!

We re-united, and I could feel so much passion in my heart. It was over. The 3 and a half months of torture away from Bulgaria was gone. I was back. We were together, and we would move to another country together!

On one of the nights back in that first week, I felt a strong numbness in me. Something was different. Something wasn’t right.

Maybe, just maybe, whispered my heart, a boundary was broken back in Cyprus you could never come back from. I would’ve rather been cheated on than have this boundary crossed.

“Blah, heart! We are okay now. Things are better. We’re back in Bulgaria, with the girl. Look at us, we are fine!”

But the heart could see what the mind could not:

“Look, you are losing energy in these ways. This boundary was crossed. Could you ever trust her again in a situation like what happened back in Cyprus? What if you must leave her again? You are not European, you are American. What if you get kicked out again, for no reason? Will you let me suffer like this again?”

And even the mind had its fantasies:

“The Heart wanted to go to Thailand, but instead you chose to go to Cyprus. Look at all these fun ideas now! We could meditate, and ride a motorbike, and eat Thai food every day, and never have to worry of a Winter ever again. Imagine partying on Koh Phangan, or living on a hug by the beach. Think of all the cool people you will meet. You always wanted to come to Thailand.”

The mind went on:

“And you wished to travel to Bali also! What happened to surfing on the beach? We have been traveling the world for over a year now, and you haven’t taken me to the beach. The heart is concerned with authenticity, and you know in your heart that you must move on. And I am your mind, and I am here to give you endless ideas of what the heart desires. We were supposed to surf, Michael. It’s been years since we surfed…”

All while I had been gone from Bulgaria, I ached over the fact that I had chosen to travel through Europe & North America instead of Thailand & Bali. Every 2 weeks I was in a new country (on average), and I was worn out from the travel.

Soon me and my girlfriend were to leave Bulgaria, and to live in another country.

My heart ached at the thought of figuring out a visa for this new country, my mind reminded me that I would lose so much money- and I already owed taxes that I was deeply behind on.

Some fights happened in the relationship, too, but I kept my mind in my ego. My ego said to me:

“Your relationship is perfect. She is your soulmate. She is my other half. You promised to stay with her forever & ever, would you ever back down on that? Come on Michael, don’t be so irresponsible. You know that you’ve made bad travel decisions recently.”

The ego was ruthless, and beat me down.

“It was your fault that she treated you so bad in Cyprus, as if you had broken up or that you were a bad boyfriend. You should’ve went to Thailand then, or stayed on your purpose. You aren’t that successful in business, and this is why your girl does not desire you like before.”

The ego even went below the belt.

“You do not have big muscles, and you do not have a lot of cash now. You are in debt to the government because you can’t pay your taxes. You can’t keep to a routine. You can’t handle everything that’s going on. You’re lucky to have this girl, and maybe if you had been a better boyfriend this boundary would’ve never been crossed.”

Before I knew it, 2 weeks of the 3 I were to spend in Bulgaria until me and my girlfriend traveled to that new country to live together were gone!

I was so jet lagged, and the ego, heart, and mind tortured me during those 2 weeks of massive sleep deprivation. I had stayed up for basically 2 days straight and then experienced 10 hours of jet lag without help from melatonin in order to get to Bulgaria so fast from USA.

When the mind & ego calmed down, the heart expressed its fears clearly.

I was not financially prepared for this new country, which would be 2-3x more expensive than Bulgaria. I had doubts of the relationship. I wasn’t ready for a new city, and making new friends.

That final week in Bulgaria was truly magical, but not so much of it was spent super close with my girlfriend. Instead the best of it was spent with my guy friends, with whom I was connecting with even deeper.

Before I knew it I was boarding the plane to this new country with my girlfriend. We took photos together on the plane, and we looked so cute together. Maybe, just maybe, everything would be okay.

It wasn’t.

Everything that could’ve went wrong, went wrong. Financial issues. Accommodation issues. I feared that it would be too hard to figure out the visa, and I later discovered it would’ve been extremely difficult to move there.

The culture shock started to get to me. Again we began fighting, and within days we had more relationship problems. I felt drained.

I couldn’t do it. My heart hurt so much. Even my ego couldn’t deny that I was getting beaten down by her, by the new country, and by my new, weaker self.

I wasn’t the strong man I was when I entered Bulgaria- or rather, I didn’t have the motivation for this place. For months I had been switching between countries and was perpetually fatigued, jet lagged, isolated, and depressed. I just couldn’t do this.

My girlfriend didn’t seem to understand my pain. She missed me a ton when I was in Cyprus, but she didn’t seem to understand that not only did I miss her, but I missed my friends, home, and life. I had nothing to give, and I was blamed for it.

And my ego joined in on the attack, reminding me to stay in my place.

I bought a flight back to Bulgaria. Not only was the relationship too draining, and my finances too risky to stay, but I also had that surgery to take care of, which I could only do in Bulgaria or Thailand as this new country would be much too expensive.

My teeth were starting to become misaligned, and so the urgency of this surgery became readily apparent!

I arrived back in Sofia, and I was welcomed by many friends. I felt relaxed. I was back home. She was upset, and missed me, but to be honest, I had no energy to give.

I immediately withdrew from the relationship- she resented me so much for this as she felt that I had abandoned her in her new home. I was a “bad boyfriend,” and my ego made sure to make me feel guilty also, as if I shouldn’t take care of myself, and as if that massive boundary in Cyprus hadn’t been crossed that guaranteed the end of the relationship.

Even though at times the relationship felt alive, the truth was that in Cyprus it ended. I would never find that girl I left in Bulgaria.

But my friends, life, routine, and home were still there in Bulgaria. Even though my girlfriend was not there, I enjoyed it despite the pain and stress.

I had sleepless nights and vivid dreams, which I interpreted as my relationship falling apart.

I didn’t want it to end, but the reality began to dawn on me. I had nothing left to give. After SO MUCH life craziness, I still hadn’t been in one single fucking country for longer than 3 weeks!

And boundaries were crossed, and I wanted better, and I began to think that maybe I should take care of myself because I couldn’t keep giving to someone who had taken so much from me.

Someone who crossed huge boundaries, someone who treated me so poorly in this new country and while I was in Cyprus, and someone who blamed me for not giving when I had been sucked dry by her and the world.

What had happened to this soulmate team? What happened of infinite love? Did such a thing exist?

As I hung out late with my best friend in Sofia, I questioned such things. He told me to take my time before deciding everything.

One day, I laid down, and she called me. She wanted to break up. I felt a bit sad, but a bit relieved. But then she changed her mind, and decided we shouldn’t.

I tried to give one final push of giving, while long-distance. I had truly intended on returning to her, but she had treated me so poorly as I left I felt scared to go back.

My finances were not so good, and I had a surgery to take care of. My mind reminded me of all the times that I had missed in Thailand.

Instead of being in Thailand, riding a motorbike, partying, and taking shrooms on the beach I had spent the last 3 months traveling to a new country every 1-3 weeks, when really I didn’t want to, and tried to fix a relationship that had been fundamentally broken.

I wrote down every boundary of mine that was crossed since traveling to Cyprus, and repeated them in my mind. I asked my heart if it should break up with her, or if we should stay.

The heart did not clearly answer. It still had some love for her, even though the flame was dying. I still wanted to give… but I had nothing left to.

I had tried so hard to make things right, but what of my heart? What of the ways I was hurt?

I was committed to fixing every one of my mistakes, but it did not seem she would for me. The Big Boundary was crossed anyways, and perhaps no amount of effort on her part would ever win my heart back.

The truth was, the situation was so rare that it would likely not occur again for months or years, and was I willing to wait that long to see if she would treat me right in such a situation?

One fateful night, I decided to do it. I called her. I cried. I told her we were breaking up. I wanted to go to Thailand more than I did to see her.

And it was the hardest thing I ever did.

That night I had a vivid dream. I was in Moscow, by the airport. There was a graveyard. She looked at me, and then a gun blew her head off. I cried, and tried to save her. It was done. She was dead. It was over.

On the next morning, I moved into a new apartment. I cried so much, and screamed, and scribbled angry notes about how much I hate travel into my journal. It felt as though the Universe turned against me.

I was broken.

I re-downloaded Fortnite, and used it as therapy. Focusing into the game numbed the pain. It felt good to lose myself. Oh, the pain.

Every day I cried so much. I would wake up and cry. Go to sleep and cry. Meditate and cry.

And I would scream, and rage. Why was this to happen like this? How could I have gone from so perfect & happy in Bulgaria, to being forced to leave in June of 2018, which ended my relationship and caused so many financial mistakes?

Maybe I had entered another reality, and my real girlfriend was lost in another reality, missing me. Perhaps when I traveled to Cyprus instead of Thailand I went onto a life plane where soulmates don’t exist. If I were really a man on my purpose, I would’ve traveled to Thailand, and then my mind would have not fantasized of the place.

The next few weeks in Bulgaria weren’t so bad. In fact, some good memories were made. Sure, I went to the bathroom to cry. And I walked around aimlessly, missing the memories with my ex.

In our previously favorite coffee shop, I lied to the owner that we were still together. She was kind and compassionate, and cried when me and my ex-girlfriend announced we were leaving Bulgaria. I lied because I didn’t want to break her heart, too.

Despite the pain, I had fun with my friends. They supported me. They encouraged me. We hung out several times per day, and they made sure that I was doing okay.

I was devastated. I couldn’t make any sense of it. I tried to re-read the list of broken boundaries to remind me of why I did this, and also the Big Boundary, but it didn’t help the pain. It only made me hateful and negative and bitter.

“You will be happy in Thailand,” said the ego and mind. I didn’t hear the heart’s cry for more support and love from my friends. I had to heal, but my mind said if I hooked up with girls in Thailand I’d be okay.

So I went to Bangkok. And it was exhilarating. I pretended I was over my ex.

But I didn’t have the same drive as I did when I first entered Bulgaria! I did not have the drive to pick up countless women, or make friends every day, instead I hid in my video games and worked too hard and cried all the time and tried to numb the pain.

One night I partied hard, and it was so much fun. I forgot about my ex. I drank and drank until I felt great. Everyone loved me, and my dance moves. The girls eyed me up and down.

I took a girl home, and she hopped on top of me, ready to fuck. It was too fast for me. Unlike my ex she was not sweet and comforting. She was vicious and aggressive. I was too heart-broken to handle this.

I pushed her aside and we fell asleep. I was glad to say good-bye to her in the morning. I was so heartbroken, and cried all day. This was not her, this girl was not prettier or better..

The next couple days were spent hiding from Bangkok. I watched YouTube videos, and drank Starbucks coffee all day. I hid from the world. And cried so much.

The pain was only natural. I had broken up with my ex of so long, and it was not a clean break either! I missed Bulgaria, but didn’t even realize it.

Because of all the crazy travels since having to leave Bulgaria, I was accustomed to fantasizing of “I’ll be happy then.” The neural connections were stuck in my brain like that, and I couldn’t figure out how to be happy in the moment, or meet people in the moment.

Then I met another girl, and she was so kind. She gave me a head massage, which was oh-so relaxing. I felt good around her.

Somehow we ended up back in my apartment, despite me resolving and even writing a blog post about not wanting hook-ups, but instead something deeper.

Blah, but surely we wouldn’t hook-up, right?

She did the head massage thing again, and oh it was so relaxing… I was safe with her. She was kind. She was beautiful. Her eyes were brown, like my ex.

Somehow we ended up in the bedroom. She again touched my head, and I relaxed. We kissed.

But I couldn’t do this. I was too sad of my ex. This girl did not have the same body as my ex. She felt different, she was different. It was too strange.

But then the head massage began again. Ahh, this was relaxing. This girl brought out the beast in me, and I must admit, the night was quite legendary.

After, I didn’t let her stay the night. I realized what I had done. Now, surely, there would be no going back to my ex…

Despite the boundaries broken, a part of me was hanging onto my ex. Despite the flame dying, the pain wanted her.

All my heart wanted was to go back in time to before June 2018, when I had everything I wanted, and was getting everything else I wanted.

This girl was not her. So I asked to sleep alone that night, saying I had work early in the morning. Which only made me feel worse, to sleep with this girl who was so kind and peaceful and gentle only to make her leave.

I didn’t want to hurt her heart, but I feared that I did. She invited me for another night, but I declined. I was just too heartbroken to want to sleep with anyone.

I traveled soon to Chiang Mai, where I would have to undergo a surgery. My ego made me feel guilty for leaving my ex, and my ex sure made me feel guilty also.

So it was decided that I would do the surgery with no painkillers, no anesthesia, and no laughing gas. Just basic numbing.

It would be quite painful & brutal, but I was an “irresponsible man” so by saving every dollar on painkillers I was making a good decision.

I didn’t make so many friends before the surgery, but I did make a couple who helped take care of me after, which I am oh so truly grateful for. Mentally I snapped after the surgery.

It was so long and painful, and I didn’t give myself enough credit for what I went through.

I broke up with my long-term girlfriend, was devastated, went to a new continent, had an intensive surgery done with no anesthesia or close friends or family, just local numbing, and then recovered!

After the surgery, I snapped. I was bleeding so much I couldn’t fit the painkillers in my mouth that the clinic gave me. The numbing faded fast, and I began to enter a state of mild shock.

I began to have visuals and strange thoughts, as if I was on magic mushrooms, but instead of feeling pleasure, all I felt was pain.

One of my new acquaintances came to my apartment, and she encouraged me to take the painkillers they provided, which I had given up on because a part of me enjoyed the pain. A part of me wanted the pain.

Because at least it it hurt unbelievably so in my mouth, I couldn’t feel the pain and guilt of leaving my ex.

I promised to her to always “figure things out,” and I had broken that, and I had broken also the promise to stick together “always and forever.”

“Maybe I deserved the pain,” said the ego.

But even the ego had to admit that it was shattering through the pain, that it was losing itself.

Heart, Mind, and Ego all shattered as the pain was too great. My 4 wisdom teeth were slightly difficult to get out, being completely under the gum. It was not easy, and for a few moments there I felt the entirety of the pain as if there were 0 painkillers or numbing.

For a moment there, I saw a man. He was floating, legs crossed above the sand. He was laughing, and I was floating with him. We were flying together. He was laughing so much, so joyfully.

I cried and laughed with him. I was laying on my back on the couch, but I was with him.. who was this man I floated with?

One girl later suggested to me someone it may have been, but I dare not write it here.

The pain was so much, that I couldn’t escape my body. Instead I had to go deep. I had to go so deep as to enter the Quantum realm, where particles teleport in and out of reality, and my soul had to leave through this teleportation.

Leave to where? Oh, the pain. It brought me back to reality. I cried. I screamed. I stood up and began banging the microwave open and shut.

And I began to slip again. The isolation, pain, and lack of painkillers of any kind were getting to me.

I began to fall. I was falling fast. I was seeing my life. Christmas with family. My best friend in Omaha. Growing up. The bullies. Oh, it all felt so real. Is this dream ending?

Tears entered my physical body, but “I” was somewhere else. “I” was not my mind, not my ego, and only partially my heart. My heart was a portal to me.

And I had many plans here on Earth. I once again saw the floating man, and we flew together.

It was so beautiful, so amazing. He showed me things.

Business. Why wasn’t I growing my business? Why was I wasting my time pretending to be greater than I was?

Why had I stayed so long in a relationship when a huge boundary was crossed?

Why had I not yet changed the world? I wanted to make YouTube videos, helped people, grow my business, help people, build schools.

Maybe I needed a purpose. Maybe if I built schools in Africa, it would be okay.

I had to help people. People needed my help. My potential was infinitely greater than what I thought it was.

The floating man showed me all I could be.

We glitched, I was back for a moment in my physical body, and I screamed in pain. I didn’t even care that everyone in my apartment complex could hear. Oh it hurt, oh God, it hurt so much.

The numbing was now for sure completely gone, blood had spilled all over the ground.. lucky for me it was not carpet but instead something water could easily fixed.

Reality paused and I floated up, I was with the floating man again.

He showed me my purpose, how I was living so wrong, how every human can be so much and yet their egos hold them back… and then when they lose their ego, even their mind alone can’t realize the infinite potential that lies behind the heart, which is only a gateway to..

I woke up. I forgot my purpose. I was once again in pain. I missed my ex. My mouth fucking hurt.

But my acquaintance arrived, and she brought smoothies and soup and everything I would need to survive the next week, as she would leave to Vietnam. She organized for my Spanish friend to come every day to check up on me, and for us to get a soupy lunch together.

I cried, and she held me. I told her all that I wanted to be but wasn’t. How in the past years I had not lived to my potential or lived completely authentically. How I wanted to make money, but also to inspire others to be more than they can be to. How I wanted to build schools that teach you real shit, not bullshit.

She made me take the painkillers, and I did. I went on, of how I had to do so much in this world and time was so short. She compassionately cared for me, something I will be forever grateful for. She reminded me I was only 20, and I still had time to do all of this.

After 30 minutes, the painkillers began to kick in. A vibrating began. The pain dulled. I relaxed. I laid down. It still hurt, but I could relax without crying or screaming or begging or.. glitching into whatever reality the floating man was on.

The next few days were a blur. It was monotone, and I hated it. I felt easily agitated. I wanted to live, but I couldn’t. I had no energy. I could not eat anything good. I hated the motorbikes in Thailand, I hated the newness of the culture, I hated how it wasn’t Europe and I missed my friends and I missed my ex so goddamn much.

I was in a bad mood, and it was December of 2018. What had started out to be such a promising year was now so bleak.

My mind, which had been conditioned to think “I’ll be happy then,” told me I’d be happy if I moved to America, but I was beginning to become aware of my mind’s tricks and realize that it was always thinking of new ideas without committing to the present moment.

After getting kicked out of Bulgaria, I had so much pain that I kept clinging to the future for happiness, but I could never get to this future. The truth is, I had to make now enjoyable.

The Christmas music made me cry, and so sad. I could’ve been celebrating Christmas with my family, or girlfriend, but instead I was in Thailand and instead I broke up with my ex.

I began to have doubts again about breaking up. Was it really right?

My mind suggested that perhaps if I had been a better boyfriend, a more perfect one, or a man on his purpose the Big Boundary wouldn’t have been crossed.

Or perhaps she would change and improve for me, just as I was so motivated to improve in every way for her..

I flew back to America, feeling lot and confused. When I got back in Phoenix I cried every day, desperately missing Sofia, Bulgaria. I missed my friends & life there, even besides my ex.

I tried to figure out how to move to Bulgaria by flying to Chicago twice, but to no avail. I didn’t have the funds yet to safely immigrate to Bulgaria, and I was scared to enter again on a tourist visa, for I may get kicked out..

I felt lost and didn’t know where to go. Me and my ex got back in contact, but it was devastating- she made sure to make me feel bad for my mistakes and I did nothing but take it. It felt as though everything were my fault in some way, and I treated myself like that.

In Phoenix, I struggled with massive reverse culture shock, and also adjusting to American social life and customs. But I made a new friend, and we were both getting over our exes.

I would connect that friend with deeply, and even so closely that I’d care for him as a brother and vice versa. I began to sort my shit in Phoenix also, get over my ex, and heal.

It took a long time. The 3 months went by like a blur. A client even flew me out to Texas, so that was quite interesting!

I began to reconnect with myself. Who was I? What did I want?

Because of Chicago & Texas I still hadn’t even stayed in one city for longer than a month, but at least I was returning to one place.

I began to recover. Heal. Make friends. Yoga became my new recovery, and on some weeks I would practice yoga every single day.

Often I would cry after, as the pain would be released through my body. But it was exactly what I needed. Yoga was healing me. Meditation was healing me.

New business ideas were made, I worked with new clients, I hung out with a new friend, and things were looking up. Sure, it wasn’t living on the edge, but I was certainly healing.

I wanted to return to Bulgaria, but I also questioned whether I shouldn’t return to Asia…

Perhaps I didn’t enjoy Asia because of my mental state, not because of Asia. After all, I did go through a lot.

One day, I decided I had to go to my happy place: Montreal. I was to go back, for the 3rd time and second year!

A big synchronicity happened, and I enjoyed Montreal. It went by like a blur, but the time spent with my friends were truly wonderful.

I returned to Phoenix feeling alive. I was finally healing. I bought a one-way to Bali. I was going to be happy in Bali, then travel perhaps back to Thailand, and then to Bulgaria.

I met with a girl I went out with years ago, and she also was getting over her ex. Together me, my friend, and her were all getting over exes that wronged us so bad. We all stayed long past the relationship’s expiration date, and were suffering as a result.

But the three of us had some love for each other. We could have fun. We were our own little social group. We were all healing.

More synchronicity began to happen in my life. I actually began to enjoy Phoenix, which surprised me! I got my motorcycle license. I began making new friends. Things were looking up, and I had a new routine in Phoenix.

The darkness made it pass so fast, but at the same time there was so much good that came out of this necessary healing. Perhaps anywhere in the world would’ve been dark.

Like a Phoenix, I rose from my previous ashes. At first me and my ex were in contact, but I resolved to get over her. She made sure to remind me of my mistakes, and I felt I was not heard or understood.

I began to feel great on some days! It was truly amazing. The pain would sometimes return, but the longer I went without contact the better I felt, especially with my new, amazing friends.

The day came to travel to Bali, and Bali also went by so fast. It was filled with beautiful memories, and maybe quite a bit of sadness for my ex re-surfacing.

Me and my ex spoke a week before Bali, she broke no-contact. This set back recovery by a fair amount, but we finally ended amicably.

Finally I was heard, understood, and we flirted a bit to be quite honest also… But deep down, I now know that Big Boundary was crossed, and that what happened in Cyprus should never happen again.

Now the ego was on my side, and it would sometimes think back to those memories in Cyprus, and say to me, “why did you not leave her then- can you not see how much you hurt us?”

The heart and mind say the same story, and with wisdom, I accept their teachings, because the truth is I did let way too much pain come my way for the relationship.

We were young and not mature, and perhaps we were only meant to enjoy each other until that moment. Maybe she was not good for me, and Universe was teaching me this by forcing me out of Bulgaria so that my boundaries could be crossed in Cyprus.

Maybe I was meant to get depressed, and sad, and end up in Phoenix where new business opportunities would come, because in Phoenix I would at the end finally discover a huge passion of mine I’d like to keep secret until I succeed in it.

And Bali would teach me a lesson of being present to the moment, and how I had to stop feeding my ego with thoughts of my ex. The truth is, no amount of dwelling on the boundaries crossed will heal the pain of the heart.

The heart needs to be cared for by Me, whoever I am. I learned to reconnect with myself, and ask myself what I wanted. I learned to be alone again. I tried to talk to girls again.

And the same would be taught now in Chiang Mai- that I am me, and that’s okay, and that’s it’s not really so bad to be alone. It’s good to connect with yourself, and know what you want and enjoy time with yourself.

Sometimes a fine coffee alone is all you need, or some meditation to take care of the tender heart. The motorbikes weren’t so noisy and annoying as I remembered them to be, and riding my own motorbike has been exhilarating and all that I ever wanted to do.

I dreamed so young of doing this, and now finally I am. My heart still hurts. That last bit of contact before Bali definitely re-opened the pain a bit, but it’s healing some more.

I try to let go of my ego, and just be with my heart. I learned that my heart needs me to comfort it, and my mind needs to be directed towards productive opportunity.

The Legend of Bulgaria would soon fade to the past, via a Broken Heart.

And to be quite honest, I still miss it. Almost every day I think of Bulgaria, and how I’d like to go back to Bulgaria, but I remind myself that those memories are done. There is no ex that I can go back to.

That being said, there are friends, and a city I love and know waiting for me. I know my friends there talk of me, and care for me, and miss me, and I love them all also- and now, I’m not afraid to say that I love them. I’m trying to be more vulnerable.

To be quite honest, the longer I stay here in Asia, the less I want to go back. My heart fears that I will meet my ex, and that it will get hooked and hurt again. It’s having fun here in Asia, and it’s healing here in Asia.

But the heart still wishes for my friends in Bulgaria, and perhaps being around them will be good for the Heart. It’s just a matter of when.

Honestly, I’m afraid to go back. I’m afraid I’ll see my ex. I care for my Heart and it doesn’t want to see her, as it’s still healing. And there’s a chance I could see her there now.

My Heart went through so much. The Legend of Bulgaria was beautiful, and I often tell people that I “live there now” because it feels like home.

But I’m here, and now, and that’s all we ever have. And a part of me wants to stay here and let the past be in the past.

I know that one day I will return to Bulgaria, and I don’t want to wait so long to do that, but at the same time the heart has fears, and the mind dreams up scenarios of bumping into my ex and somehow us getting back together, and the ego is scared of that, and the heart knows that would not be right for me, but the heart also knows that it may not be able to resist her just yet.. it isn’t sure yet of its strength.

And so I am here, missing the Legend of Bulgaria, with a Broken Heart in Asia.

Enjoying the memories of the past, enjoying the fun of now, and dreaming up the adventures & growth of tomorrow.

The Heart just wants to be safe, does not yours wish to live its desires in safety?

And that, my friends, is the Legend of Bulgaria & a Broken Heart.

May you have a wonderful day,

-Michael Keller