Thursday, January 26, 2017
I write my Month #5 post on my iPhone during my flight from Paris to Florence. I honestly don’t feel like I can write much about my month in Florence, for I was traveling practically the entire month! To recap, a month ago from today I flew from Budapest to Pisa. Then I had a week in Florence to myself which included a day trip to Verona and Juliet’s house. My parents arrived in Florence on January 3, and we spent four incredible days together in my temporary city and Rome & the Vatican for one day. Starting January 7 we were on the constant move. Munich, Athens, Crete, and Milan. I didn’t get back from our exquisite European vacation until January 19, and next thing I knew I was on a plane to Prague four days later. I didn’t book Prague until the day my parents arrived– spontaneity! On Sunday, I take a train to Bologna and fly to Kiev after a quick layover in Amsterdam. Classes start the day after I return to Florence! Can you keep up with my January itinerary? I’m having a hard time doing so!
Month #5 was clearly my month to travel. On top of academics, traveling in Europe was my second priority. And after this month, I feel like my desire has been fulfilled. It’s been one adventure after another. It’s crazy getting texts from my friends saying, “You’re going where in mid January while I’m in class?” or “Where are you now?” My interactions with my friends and family via technology remind me to stay humble throughout this experience yet to take full advantage of the opportunity. Not everyone gets this chance in their lifetime, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Walking around in all these different cities and being in the presence of historical landmarks is the ultimate traveler’s dream. I have several epiphanies on every adventure as I remind myself to “Take a look around and think about where you are right now.” Being well traveled as a young person is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. The experiences I have will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I am grateful I squeezed as much possible travel as I could into this month, for I didn’t have any classes or work. No commitments, no deadlines, no stress. As a result, it made sense to take the time and travel. I know I want to travel spring semester, but it’s challenging to travel on the weekends during classes because of homework and other school obligations. I’m hopeful that I will feel more comfortable planning my time and weekends away after already studying abroad for a semester. Traveling is a constant learning experience. Booking your own transportation and accommodation, figuring out how to get from the airport to the city center, converting money, dealing with the language barrier, and budgeting. I will admit, I feel guilty that I couldn’t even say “hello” or “thank you” in the native language of some of the destinations I traveled to. I, along with many other people, rely so much on others to speak English when really I should be making the effort because they are (by speaking a second language). That’s something I want to improve on next semester. Some key, simple phrases can go a long way.
Meeting one of Sasha’s dad’s coworkers on the train to the summit of Zugspitze, seeing Lauren at the airport in Milan, and finding Isabel at our gate in Charles de Gaulle were all small world moments during my travels. The world appears to be big, but in some ways, it’s small. You never know who you’re going to run into or what you’re going to see halfway across the globe.
Lastly… Aside from ringing in 2017 in Florence and traveling all over Europe, this month’s biggest highlight was spending two and a half weeks with my parents. I can’t even describe what it felt like seeing them walking off platform #9 at Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Having them in Florence felt like my study abroad experience was complete. They are the ones who have supported me on my journey long before August 26, 2016. They not only got to see where I’ve spent the past five months, but they also embarked on a well deserved and long overdue vacation. My dad finally visited Europe, something he wasn’t sure he would ever get to do, and my mom checked Greece off her bucket list. I felt like a big piece of home was with me in these foreign places which made our vacation even more special. We are quite the dynamic travel trio. Thank you Mom and Dad. For everything.
So this month was certainly filled with adventure, planes, and various traditional dishes. I don’t regret not going home over this long winter break, because I had the chance to see parts of the world I probably never would have at this point in my life. It’s been nothing short of wonderful having time off school. With that said, the driven student in me is very excited to get back in the classroom and on the study grind. Danke, ευχαριστώ, grazie, díky, January. This month’s travels and travails won’t be forgotten. I feel so lucky to be able to return to Florence after each adventure! xo ~ e.