As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the Spring of 2004 in Europe. Sometimes I reminisce on my past endeavors and wish I could be that girl again. I fearlessly traveled to Austria, Germany, and France on my own. I spent overnight train rides in cabins with non-English speaking strangers. I arrived in Prague without a hotel room, but met a woman in the train station who rented us an apartment for a couple nights (that’s very common in Prague). I climbed Mount Vesuvius, walked the footsteps of a Dachau prisoner, and dined at a Mozart-themed dinner show. I saw an opera and an international hockey game in one night.
Since returning home, I have traveled back to Europe three times. These days, though, I feel as if I’ve lost my adventurous, European edge. I’d rather drive across America than backpack Europe. I want to visit my friends scattered throughout Europe, but I never seem to make the time for an overseas vacation. I used to be the girl who craved the path less traveled in a country other than my own; now, I seem to want to keep it home grown.
As I sit here writing this, my best friend is traveling alone on a two week European jaunt, something I wish I wanted to do. She began her journey in my “hometown” of Florence, Italy catching the sights and attending a dance convention. Then she made her way down to Rome where she met up with some friends and witnessed the canonization ceremony of Pope John Paul II. While there, she slept within the walls of the Vatican City, and by slept I meant stayed up all night. She is currently in Prague, sleeping in a shared apartment with three complete strangers, each from a different continent, who are also there to attend another dance convention. I cannot wait to live vicariously through her stories once I hear them all. What I would give to want to travel through Europe like that again.
She asked if I would go with her on this trip, and while we’ve always wanted to travel abroad together, it wouldn’t be financially wise for me to throw my money away on a European vacation right now. I was finally in a position with time off that I would be able to “yes” to a spontaneous excursion, but YOLO-ing isn’t going to cover my health insurance bill on the first of the month, or the gas and groceries I need to get by.
I’m no stranger to split second decisions though. That’s exactly what brought me to Europe in the first place. I decided to travel abroad after seeing a movie in which the main character jetted off to London. That year, I was co-captain of my college cheerleading team and I asked the girls whether or not they wanted to try to compete. When they said, “no,” I decided I would absolutely be studying abroad and started the paperwork immediately.
That was by far the best decision I ever made. How many people can say they lived across the street from the museum that housed Michelangelo’s David? I literally walked out my front door, crossed the street, and bought my ticket to the museum. I ate gelato most days, traveled most weekends, and went on long walks around Florence whenever I could. I went to class three days a week, and enjoyed four day weekends…because it was Europe! Why wouldn’t I take advantage of it? Every moment was jammed pack but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience life in more foreign cities than most people dream about. I think one of these years ‘ll sign up to run a race in Europe in hopes of catching my travel bug back. The Rock and Roll Marathon series had some great locations including Liverpool, Dublin, and Nice. Perhaps one of those would be a great reason to travel alone abroad. We runners do always make fun no matter where we go. And I’d love to catch a football match in Liverpool if soccer is in season! Even if I do go, I won’t come home with any crazy stories like I once would have. I’ll be sure to book a hotel room (not a room share, hostel, or anything that I have to share a shower with a stranger) as soon as I buy my race ticket. I’ll map out everything I want to do before I even touch foot in foreign soil. I’m sure I’ll even go to bed early every night while there too, because that’s just the person I am now. I’m a spontaneous planner. I love making irrational, split second decisions, but when I travel, I have to have everything mapped out because I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m sort of a one woman example of checks and balances.
There are moments I definitely wish I were living back in Europe so I could hop on the train and easily cross the boarder into another amazing country. To ride the chocolate train in Belgium, to see the tulips in Amsterdam, to witness the Mona Lisa’s smirk in person. But mostly, I’d rather be exploring my own country and figuring out my life. I’m not as fearless as I once was. Adventurous, yes. Fearless, no. There will be no more riding a donkey up the steep, slippery steps of Santorini just to reach the top. One and done, folks. Would I go skiing in the Alps? Absolutely! Somewhere along the line of growing up, my priorities changed. And I realize that the next time I go to Europe it’ll be for a nicely planned out vacation and not a whirlwind, won’t-sleep-til-I’m-back-home kind of adventure.
Unless, of course, I travel with Lisa. Then we’ll have plenty of crazy stories to tell… We always do.