Saturday, July 25, 2009

Homeward Bound

A few months before I left for Europe, I put the house on the market.  I was hoping the house would sell either before I left or after I returned, but because I would be gone during the summer months, I knew there was a strong possibility it would sell while I was gone.  And sure enough, I got an offer on the house.  Actually, I got two offers on the house, with both parties wanting to close by July 31st.  Virtually certain one of the two offers would go through to closing, I knew that I had to return to Knoxville.  All of my things - furniture, clothes, boxes, everything I own - were at the house, and I had to come back to deal with it.  

With my stay in Amsterdam drawing to a close, it seemed like the appropriate time to end the trip.  So 75 days after leaving for Europe, I returned to the States. I wondered when I left Europe if I would feel like I had fallen short of my goal, but I realized that my goal was an arbitrary one.  Originally, I had planned a 90 day trip for no other reason than by law, I could stay in the European Union for 90 days without a visa.  Because I had started my trip outside the EU, I was technically going to be traveling for roughly 100 days.  But was my goal one of time or experience? Experience, of course. And experience I got. Even with just a short time to reflect on my trip, I am astounded at all that I was able to see and do in 75 days.

It was what I learned in Europe, though, that I will take with me above anything I saw or did while I was there.  I learned lessons that may seem basic or obvious, but I needed to experience them to learn them.  I learned that if I get lost, I can eventually find my way.  I learned that if I can't speak the language and no one understands me, I can gesture enough to where they eventually figure out what I want.  I learned that I can get by on a lot less luggage than what I thought was necessary!  I learned that for the most part, people are very nice and helpful.   I learned that the best experiences are the simple ones - walking through the city or a park or sitting by the water writing, listening to music and watching the people around me - and have nothing to do with any tourist attraction.  

But I learned one lesson above all others...

If I had to do this trip over again, would I?  Absolutely. Will I do this trip over again?  No.  Not that way.  Not by myself.  I proved that I can travel by myself.  But what I learned is that I don't want to travel by myself. There were countless times that I saw or did or ate or heard something, and I desperately wanted to turn to someone I love and share in that moment.  Like when I stepped onto the Paris streets for the first time to be greeted by the Eiffel Tower's light show.  I stood there, dumbfounded, and said out loud, "I can't believe I'm really here."  But there was no one to hear me. So I sent a picture and an email to one person who I knew would instantly understand the enormity of what I was feeling, but it simply wasn't enough.  I needed someone beside me.  

Next time, there will be.


  1. What a wonderful time of day to be writing - 3:25 a.m. Great summarization of your trip, life experiences are always the best. Glad you're back! And yes, next time there will be.

  2. I'm so glad you got to have this experience. Few will ever have the courage to do what you did and you will have a lifetime of memories and lessons from it. Glad you're back safely and ready to move into the next phase of your life!