Smiling big smiles, eating anything but carbs, and letting all of the chaos, settle back into normalcy. And best of all? Freedom. So much freedom I could scream.
Last week I closed another chapter in my life, and moved back home from Europe. And unlike all other places I've lived, I've never been more ready and willing to say goodbye.
If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you might know the heartache I faced when saying goodbye to other places like my home state of Wisconsin, Australia, and New Zealand, alike. Instead of me sitting in a pool of my own tears at the airport though, leaving Italy looked a lot like me singing, dancing, and desperately holding my boarding pass to Chicago with a big 'ol grin plastered to my face. 20 + hours of travel? Bring it on.
If you can't tell already, my last few weeks were a struggle. And by struggle, I mean me standing in the middle of Milan, with everything I owned in my hands, and nowhere to go. If there's one thing I've learned through travel though, it's that finding good friends, and learning to keep your shit together as a human being, will be your saving graces.
There was a world of people who pulled through for me that day, and deserve more than the endless amount of thank you's I have given. But the biggest thanks of all goes to Rachael. My favorite secret keeper, travel partner (shameless plug.. @travelalwayswins), and true friend for life. As you know, I couldn't have survived my time in Italy without you (and spaghetti carbonara).
But after that really bad day, things started to look up again. Rachael and I had an amazing trip to Istanbul, where we indulged greatly in shisha, kebabs, mosques, and good views. The city exceeded my expectations completely, and was everything I needed in that moment of homelessness and desperation.
And desperate for something to do when I returned, I found a 17 euro ticket to Sevilla, and on a whim, spent the rest of my time in Europe falling deeply in love with Spanish culture. I met some of the worlds greatest people, ate the most amazing food, learned Flamenco (terribly), and explored some of the most beautiful of places in the process.
L'alambra, Granada, Spain
It was easily one of the best trips I can remember, and I'm so happy I got to end my stay that way. Satiated, happy, and with a world of new friends.
And then, I flew home. Before I let the sting of Italy ruin me. Before I let one bad situation taint the seriously incredible months I spent in Europe. To the people and the country I love more than anything. The last few months were crazy, adventure-filled, and some of the most difficult of my entire life. I shared in some of the greatest moments, and some of the worst, simultaneously. And overall, it was a good lesson in that...
Traveling is amazing, and beautiful, and many times, it's a royal pain-in-the-ass. It's chaotic, and scary, and equal parts wonderful. It's happy, it's sad, and time and time again, it's my favorite kind of heartbreak. It's what I chose, and I'd choose it every time.
I don't know yet what life looks like in the future. I have an idea, but right now, I don't know anything for sure. So I'm going to trust in the process, enjoy my moments here, and know that now and forever, there's no place like home.