Monday, 12 January 2009

i want to remember the places that we left, lost to the mists of time.

I'm sitting here on my bed at home, listening to Au Revoir Simone, and it feels weird. It feels sad; the musical notes cling in the air and then burst, presumably because their home is not here. I only have ten of their songs on my iTunes, and I began listening to them on a regular basis last February while I was in Surrey, England.

It is so different now.

It is so hard to grasp that at this time last year, I was only eight days away from flying to England. It's been a year since I left, seriously. And now, I am completely engrossed in my daily routine, occasionally stopping to think about those dream-like days in Europe. Did that actually happen?

I keep meaning to make a scrapbook out of all of my memorabilia from everywhere I visited. I have a bag full of tickets, drawings, objects, and even receipts (okay, i may be a little too sentimental) just waiting to be looked at. I finally got a scrapbook for Christmas--thanks, Max! I just need the rest of the materials and I need to assemble it. I have this idea that doing that will correctly sum up my time in Europe, and, in turn, I can show it to others.

Other people who visit Europe are so much better at talking about it in social situations and telling poignant and funny stories. My cousin is in England now, and he already seemed to know more about the culture in two weeks than I knew after four months of living there. I guess I didn't read that many books about England; I just tried to experience it, and soak up everything I could that was around me.

I miss it more lately than I have, ever. For the first few months after I got back, I did not miss it at all. Other people I studied with were complaining about the woes of being away from Kingston, but I was simply joyful about being home. As time passes, I miss little things, like accents, passion for tea, the mist in the air, the view of the football field from my window, and a handful of special people I got to know from around the world. I do miss the freedom I had, the relaxed feeling of the university modules, my trip to Barcelona, and my care-free adventures.

It is so easy to romanticize places I cannot easily get to. It was an absolutely inspirational experience, and it was a necessary experience. It was essential for me, as a young, single (unmarried, not single single) girl to travel the world like I always dreamed of doing. It was perfect in Paris. I miss it there particularly; I truly wish I could spend much more time there.

Alas! What is the point to all of this? Traveling taught me countless lessons, but many of which I did not expect to learn.

I learned how to be assertive and ask for directions without getting my wallet stolen.

I learned lattes, chocolate, and bread are much better in Europe. Sorry, Panera Bread.

I learned to make the most of staying in a youth hostel by really talking to the people there and getting to know them.

I learned that people from different cultures and of different ages could be great friends. I could walk around a city with someone I had just met that day, and have a wonderful time! What a refreshing thought! In high school, it was much more common for me to talk to strangers at a coffee shop, but somehow along the way in college, I got complacent and stopped doing it. I'm glad I experienced it again.

I learned that hospitality and a smile go a long way.

I learned that everybody is the same. No matter where we are from, we all have similar desires, hopes, longings, and feelings. We all have empty spaces inside of us; we all need them to be filled.

I learned that traveling is not as glamorous as I made it out to be. After going through constant packing and unpacking, tours, walking, and dealing with airports, I get tired. I want a home. I want steadiness. I want someone who loves me. I want to do adventurous things, and I want to travel more, but more than that, I want love and stability. No matter how much I love Paris, it won't love me back. I would never be so foolish to choose the independent life of a traveler over real love.

I learned that I can be independent and that I am completely capable making my way around an airport and a foreign city. It's a good feeling.

I learned that it is important to be who you are, no matter where you are, and to participate in quality relationships. There is no point in trying to be someone else in a different place; it doesn't feel good, no matter where you are. Turns out I'm not very good at being a "normal" college kid. I'm actually pretty happy about that.

I learned much more than that, I am sure, but those are the highlights.

So, here I am, back to my beautiful life at home. My hope is that I apply some of these concepts to my life now, and I think I have. I have made new friends, and I have rekindled old friendships. It still feels weird to listen to Au Revoir Simone, though.