Hey, remember that time I went to Europe? I sure do.
6 months ago, on April 10th 2016, I arrived back in Victoria after 88 days of travel - the best 88 days ever. I'm sure you all noticed that I never wrote a "The End" post for this blog. I meant to, and there is still a draft of it sitting here that I began on April 14th, but I could never get it to sound the way I wanted, and in general I was just too sad about my adventure being over to write it. So, on such a convenient date, I'm writing it with all the benefits of hindsight.
Victoria - London - Amsterdam - Berlin - Dresden - Prague - Dachau - Munich - Venice - Rome - Florence - Pisa - Lucerne - Paris - Nice - Milan - Rome - Vienna - Salzburg - Nuremburg - Prague - London - Brighton - Edinburgh - Inverness - Dublin - Galway - Lisdoonvarna - Dublin - Athens - Aegina - Athens - London - Victoria
10 countries and 25 cities. In 10 of those cities, I was completely alone, which I would never have imagined myself doing when I was 18. How things change. But let's back up a bit. If you were going by my last post, I have been in Aegina for six months, which unfortunately is not true. I said I would describe my journey home, so let's do that before I get into my reminiscing and psychobabble.
I took the train to the Athens airport the morning of April 8th, and flew to London. I landed in the early afternoon, and took a taxi to my hotel, as my flight to Vancouver was not until the next day. At this point, the goal was to use up the pounds I had left over from my earlier days in England. So I checked into my hotel, had a shower, and walked to the grocery store to pick up snacks. I spent the rest of the afternoon Skyping with friends, repacking my overflowing backpack, and watching Netflix. In the morning I took the shuttle back to Heathrow a few hours before my flight, anticipating a nice stay in the Air Canada Lounge. Unfortunately, the voucher that I had been given for the lounge only works in Canadian airports. Shoot. So I passed the next couple of hours sitting in a cafe, reading. My flight from London to Vancouver was uneventful. The only noteworthy event was that I had a long chat with the man sitting next to me about what we had been doing in England. I told him I had been backpacking Europe by myself and he was quite impressed. He was from Las Vegas, and had been hiking around England with his uncle. Talking to a random stranger on a plane is not something I would have expected myself to do, but there you go.
When I landed in Vancouver, I have to say, the first thing I did was turn my phone off airplane mode. I actually had a few texts waiting, which was kind of amusing, since they were from February. I dealt with the baggage situation, making sure my treasured backpack would be on my Vancouver-Victoria flight, and then speed-walked to the Air Canada Lounge in Vancouver. Shelley happened to be in the Vancouver airport at the same time, waiting for her flight to Toronto, so we excitedly caught up while eating snacks. She took off to go to her gate, and I followed shortly after. My last flight segment was only 12 minutes, but it was one of the most beautiful flights I have ever been on. You don't get all that high on that flight, and it was a beautiful day, so I had a perfect view of all the islands as I flew towards home. Another segment of speed-walking later, I was greeted by Dad and Brendan! (If you remember, I didn't tell Mom when I was coming home, so at this point she still had no idea I was back. I had posted an Instagram picture of Athens right before my flight took off from London in an attempt at misdirection.) My plan was to be dropped off at the top of the driveway, and walk down and ring the doorbell. I was even filming it as I walked up and waited... No one was home. Awkward. So instead I let myself in; had a long, affectionate reunion with Marlowe; had a shower, enjoying the cleanliness and the water pressure; and put on a load of laundry. (I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of clothing choice I had, considering I had been wearing the same four outfits for several months.) A little while later, Mom and Brett came home. I was standing at the top of the stairs, and they both walked by, but neither one looked up. So I went down and very casually said hello, causing a slight shock.
The next day, I went into Cakes Etc and asked for my job back, which my bosses thankfully agreed to. From there, life went on. So there is my final travel segment summary, that should have been posted 5 months and 25 days ago, but oh well.
If I'm honest, I was thrilled to be home for about a month. Then, I began dreaming about my next adventure. I think if I could have that pattern for my life - three months of travel, one month home, repeat - I would be very content. Unfortunately that's not how the world works. But if I ever win the lottery, you can guess what I'll be doing.
I miss travelling. It was difficult and lonely at times, but it was the most incredible experience. Every day, I was excited to wake up. I walked for hours, soaking up the sights and sounds and smells of places I had read and dreamed about. That is what I want for the rest of my life - to experience and learn, to feel awe and joy, to meet interesting people, to be aware and appreciative of every opportunity. Optimistically, this would occur on a different continent, but it would be great if I could figure out how to do that no matter where I am.
I am back at school now, and midterms were last week. I think this is approximately the time last year I broke the news to my dad about going on a trip, and I can definitely understand the timing. There is something about fall that makes me restless. I am enjoying my classes, and doing fairly well in them so far, but I spend a fair amount of time wishing I was somewhere else. At this point, that somewhere is Australia. But, if given the opportunity, I would go back to Europe at the drop of a hat.
If anyone follows me on Instagram, you will have noticed that about half of the pictures I post are Europe throwbacks, with captions like "I left my soul at the Trevi Fountain". And that's so true. I can close my eyes and picture that square in Rome, and the cobblestone streets that lead to it. I can see the people selling selfie sticks and those things that project colourful lights everywhere. There is a gelato shop on the corner. I can picture it when I was surrounded by people from the Contiki tour, completely awestruck; I can see it when I was alone, sitting off to the side, eating gelato, and watching people throw coins in; and I can see it when I was with Harry and his friends, taking photos. That's where I would choose to be at any given time. Or, I would be at the top of the lookout in Nice, staring out at the ocean and being amazed by the view and the colour contrast. Or, I would be on top of Mount Pilatus, taking panorama photos and throwing snowballs at unsuspecting Australians. Or, I would be in Edinburgh, walking along the Royal Mile and touching every cashmere scarf I walked past. Or, I would be in Prague, staring wistfully at the monastery libraries.
So if at any point you look at me and it seems like I am far away, I am. I am reliving these and a hundred other moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
For those of you who saw me in person both before and after my trip, it would be fairly obvious that this trip changed me. For one thing, I have another tattoo. I got it in Nice, the day before my 20th birthday, and I didn't tell anyone about it. Also, I am far more outgoing now than I used to be (which, to be fair, is not really saying much). I am content with my own company. I am stronger and braver. I discovered that if a problem arises, and everyone I could ask for help is on the other side of the world, I can deal with it. I am patient - sometimes the "speed shuttle" from the train station to the airport is the slowest thing ever, and you are about 20 minutes away from missing your flight, but there's nothing you can do about it. The bonus of that, is that when you do get to the airport, you only have to wait for about three minutes before boarding. I see the positives a lot more easily, and I see beauty everywhere. That is something I noticed when I got home, I was shocked at how gorgeous Victoria is. I knew it was, but I had been around it so much that it stopped impressing me, which is a bit sad. Six months after coming back, I'm still impressed. I've made more friends, and been able to talk about my experiences more openly. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is my intent to visit as many places on this earth that I possibly can.
This post has been a bit all over the place, I'm sorry. It's surprising that six months later I'm having the same difficulties writing the ending that I did before. I will be keeping this blog for my next adventures, so this won't be the last time I post anything. But it does feel very final right now. I guess that means I have to board a plane sometime soon. This adventure may be over, but there will be many more in the future.
Thank you all for following along. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did.