Well kids, I did it. I made it to Europe and back!
I’ve already been home a week, which seems incredible. Part of me feels like I’ve been home ages already and part of me feels like I just got here. This feeling of limbo was not helped by the fact that I got a stomach bug right after coming home, so was drifting through an illness and jetlag induced fog for the first few days.
It is still hard for me to gather my thoughts on the trip. People ask me how it was, what I did, what I liked, and I have trouble responding. How do you sum up 5 weeks worth of adventures and insights? I loved it thanks, wish I was still there, I did a lot of stuff, and I liked most of it. How’s that for summing up?
All joking aside, I really did have the time of my life. I grew in ways I didn’t know possible, spent time with myself for probably the first time ever, met fascinating people, saw beautiful places, had wonderful and strange experiences, ate delicious food, drank intoxicating beverages, learned about the world, made it a smaller place, and had the fucking kick-ass trip of a lifetime. There are so many stories and anecdotes swirling through my head that I cannot wait to unload onto these virtual pages in the coming weeks.
I truly fell in love with Eastern Europe. In the beginning, I was taken aback because of how not in love with it I was. You go to a place like Paris or London, and the bright lights and big city and romance immediately come over you and you can instantly imagine yourself living in that beautiful stone apartment building with little red flowers on the window and going to that cafe with the tiled floor and mahogany bar to get espresso and a croissant every morning. That doesn’t really happen when you visit a place like Sofia or Zagreb (most of you reading this have probably never even heard of those cities before, I hadn’t either). But nevertheless, the more time I spent in the region, the more it subtly steals your heart away. It’s a quiet, charming, post-Communist era kind of romance. There definitely were days when I walked around pretending to be a spy in the 1960’s!
The biggest thing that I learned abroad was that travel – and writing about it – is something I’m truly good at. All that research and time spent paid off. I got from place to place and met new people like a pro, and was constantly giving advice and impressing my fellow travelers with my prowess. Which doesn’t mean that I didn’t get lost or make mistakes. I got lost and made mistakes all the time! But I accepted it as being part of the deal, laughed it off and kept going. I learned not to be afraid of looking like a dumbass, because looking like a dumbass is inevitable when you are in a country that is not your own.
I originally started this blog after I came back from a month spent in Israel. A simple collection of emails back to family and friends had gotten such good response that I decided to try to write about travel more and see where it lead me. The result was the past few years of this blog. But now I think it’s time to really try to do something with my writing. I desperately want to go back to Europe; maybe if I can turn this into something real that could be my ticket back. It’s time to go forth!
Plenty of stories to come. . .
Good Luck and Happy Travels,
All photos in this post are courtesy of Jillian Walhquist, my traveling companion for the last leg of my journey. Most of these photos she took without my knowledge and I went “Huh, that’s a pretty ok photo of myself traveling”. She also writes an awesome blog which you should read and follow at jillsawesomeweek.com