Is it time to go back yet? This is not a goodbye, but see you later as I do not like goodbyes & I will definitely be back! As I am writing this, I am enjoying some fabulous Champagne with a beautiful Charlotte view- if you take the girl out of France, the girl is going to bring France home with her! I know I have talked a lot about Cava, but Champagne is amazing, too! I cannot choose which is my favorite, yet, so I guess I have to continue trying…but that is besides the point!
I have had some time back in Charlotte and have really been able to reflect. I do not think I have ever experienced time go so fast. It is a very bittersweet feeling as I am excited to see everyone back home but I am definitely leaving of piece of myself in all the places I was able to visit. I cannot even tell you how many times, in my head, I would talk to myself and be like “I am in Europe right now, is this real life?” – surreal is the best word to describe it! I am someone who gets homesick easily and the fact that I was not homesick once, nor anxious to get back, really showed to me how happy and “comfortable” I was in the areas I went. I use comfortable loosely as I was constantly out of my comfort zone but definitely in a positive way.
I absolutely fell in love with Germany. I was excited to go but did not know what to expect as it was my first time in Germany and Europe in general. It blew me away! I would go back tomorrow. The people were so helpful and friendly and just take so much pride in where they live and what they do. I appreciated that. The history was is so rich and it will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first European destination ever! I wish I could have had everyone with me exploring and experiencing together as my pictures or descriptions my help paint a picture but the feeling you get when you experiencing it cannot compare. It truly inspired me and I cannot wait to go back!
Spain was completely different than Germany, as were the people. It was a very positive experience and I am thankful to have been able to venture to areas throughout Spain that gave me a “feel” for cities, as well as “off the beaten path” destinations. I really enjoyed being in the bigger cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia and it was also a nice change of pace to spend two nights in Cuenca where the atmosphere is more relaxing. I had the opportunity to see more of Spain through being a passenger in the car, too. That was special because you go from Barcelona, which is very much a big city, to hills and mountains on the coast of the ocean. It was really special you can get such different aspects of life in such short distances away. The food and cava will bring me back in a heartbeat – but not just that, obviously. There is so much more to learn, see and to experience and I cannot wait to take that on!
France, France, France. I think everyone knows that France has always been the dream of mine to visit – particularly Paris. I cannot come to describe how my heart felt when crossing the border from Spain to France. It just felt right, like I was in the right place or something. It was a different type of trip, as I was with a group traveling throughout, but I found that made it even more special. I know this whole time I have been talking about wanting to share in these experiences with others because of how magical they are, and I definitely had that opportunity. I without a doubt, knew myself, and absolutely fell in love with Paris. I did not even have much time there, but I loved every second. I enjoy living in a smaller city/area as I do not think I could see myself ever living in New York but Paris, yes. I felt a sense of belonging like I was in the right place. I have never truly felt that before while traveling as I am normally a “homebody” and love my home (like I mentioned), but this was special to me. For what I was able to see and do, it lived up to and exceeded every expectation and I hardly saw the city! I was fortunate enough to have the most unreal view as I was flying over it and also had a hotel right next to the Eiffel tower so not too shabby! Memories and friendships were made, that I will never forget and I am not sure if I can get much better than that.
PSA – If you want to be “in” you need to get a selfie stick! I knew what they were and had seen them here and there but oh my goodness are they popular in Europe and maybe because all of the people visiting but I literally was dodging selfie sticks left and right but guarantee people got some awk faces of mine as I didn’t realize their selfie stick was in action! Seriously hilarious – but if you’re a major “selfier” this is for you!
Throughout my time and my writing I know a constant thought was “I wish I could share this with everyone” so I tried my best to try to share pieces of it through writing, postcards, etc. One of the most moving ways I was able to keep my family close was through the different churches I visited. It was very special being that a lot of places I was able to visit revolve around the church in their city. The architecture, design, art and history of each and every church was remarkable. I was able to light a candle in most churches and so it was a moving way for me to experience my faith and family through my travels, especially during Lent. When looking back, it is pretty special to know that their are candles burning around the world for us! The moments were always special and definitely an aspect of my travels I will continue and will never forget.
I have said this so many times while traveling but also now being back – the people of this world are truly amazing! I did not meet one person who didn’t speak more than one language. Some speak 4! Think about that – that is not easy and going from German, to English, to Spanish, to French that is incredibly impressive. I commend and respect people for that. I could speak a few words here and there but communication is everything and that why languages are such a beautiful part of life, without them, complete chaos and at times, that’s how I felt when trying to communicate. Like a 2 year old who knows what they want but cannot find the words – but I am very fortunate for all the intelligent people I came into contact with as they were all so helpful and even taught me a few words here and there! I am motivated to learn other languages. I definitely need to master one more but would love to learn at least two. Like I mentioned before the crash course on French Jerome gave me gave me a glimpse at French and it truly does motivate me though. Why should I come into another country and only speak English? They put forth the effort, like I mentioned before, for other languages. I need to as well! Plus, it fascinates me. The capability of speaking in different ways. Languages are beautiful…especially French, in my opinion!
This opportunity has allowed me to truly learn more about myself. I can officially say, even though I had already had it, I definitely have the “travel bug” and could have stayed in Europe much, much longer. I have been gone a while, but it definitely doesn’t feel that way. I have met incredible people, some of which I hope to keep friendships with from all over the world, and that’s what this is all about, right? They have made an immense impact on my life for the brief periods they were involved in my life, but those experiences have assisted in my growth as a person. When telling people about my travels and where I would be going, I received many comments but the one that really stands out in my mind is that I will have a life changing experience. I can say, they cannot be more right. I will forever be changed, for the better, from experiencing such culture and putting myself out of my comfort zone. I am thankful for that & the only thing left to do now, is book my next flight! On this trip, I tried my best to live in the moment as I did not want any moments to pass me by, but the only instance I was looking into the future is was for exactly that. I never want to stop learning and experiencing and I am thankful to be in the career where I can not only do it professionally, but personally. I’ll be back, but until then, the memories will remain near and dear to my heart.