The (Mis)Adventures and Musings of a Girl on the Move
Saturday, July 25, 2009
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.