Today I was in the doctor’s office and stumbled upon a National Geographic. There was a feature all about eight people visiting eight different places, and how they changed them. (National Geographic Traveler – November 2012, for those of you that want to try and hunt it down…I couldn’t find a non-sketch version online!) They talked about France, South Africa, Japan, and a host of other places – all with stories that absolutely floored me. The Paris piece alone made me long to have my four days back in that city – crazy, hectic, and weird, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Well, that led me to thinking more about Europe in general. To be 100% honest (something I’ve striving for on this ol’ blog of mine), when I got back from Europe in December…I was done. Like, really really done. I had had enough of dealing with frazzled travelers (including myself), sketchy planes/trains/automobiles, gross hostels, imitation American food, and all the other insane stuff that is a given with wandering across countries. And that was fine. For a bit.
But after a week I was still feeling the same way – I cringed when I thought of Europe and tossed in my sleep when memories came to me in dreams. Was something wrong with me? Everyone around me was in awe of my travels, wanted me to tell them everything, show my pictures for the millionth time – and I was happy to do it! But underneath it all, I looked them in the eyes and thought: but do you really want to know about the time I got train-locked in Italy? My terrifying night bus to Paris? My mental breakdown in Poland? Are you sure? I glossed over the rough patches as best I could, but somewhere inside me I was afraid I’d never look at Europe with nostalgic eyes. What if I hated traveling forever? Would I never have the courage to step on a bus to who-knows-where and embark on a weekend of mania? Would I be contained to Boston and Wisconsin forever?
This resulted in a good batch of shame and avoidance when talking about my semester abroad. I didn’t want to appear ungrateful – let me say, I am eternally thankful I had the opportunity to do everything that I did. But what if the bad memories overshadowed everything? How could I live with myself?
As you can see, I was pretty confused.
But what I’m saying is: I’ve been holding back on writing out some of the specific stories. Sure, I have all my Henry chronicles, which I’m SO happy I did in the moment. I can always look back on those and remember the exact things I did over the weekend, even if it’s just a quick run-down. But there are some PRICELESS stories that I find myself telling over and over, and they need to be documented. And I’d love to share them on here. And I think I’m finally ready.
This article finally made me see the awesome and awful side to traveling. It’s okay to have scary and not-cool experiences. It’s okay to be sort of sick of traveling. It’s okay to be sitting in a gutter in Belgium just wishing you were home. That’s NORMAL. That’s what traveling is – being away from where you grew up, experiencing the world in whatever way you can. And I was lucky enough to do that. It’s time I share the love. I promise.
**all photos are my own and from: the doctor’s waiting room in Chinatown, then Paris, Dublin, Bruges, Berlin, Warsaw, and Boston, respectively.