It’s less than 48 hours since I hopped on my flight from Edinburgh. The flight drama and details are a story for another time. I’m sitting in my floor surrounded by things I bought from each city. How do I explain my travels? I don’t want this to be like a journal where I just narrate what all I did. That’s boring.
“Promise me, we’ll have adventures.” Lizzie told Gordo that in the Lizzie McGuire movie. While I did not get mistaken for an international pop star or have a fling with a European boy, I made my own adventures. I also learned a lot, but not the things you learn in a textbook.
In order to truly experience the world, find your place and live…I wholeheartedly believe that you need to travel. There was never this one, earth-shattering moment where everything became clear. But I saw some of the most amazing buildings and sites while in Amsterdam, Paris, London, Edinburgh and Brussels.
Firstly, I learned that I am okay on my own. What I mean is that there are adventures worth having on your own. One of those was when I broke from my friend group one afternoon in Paris to go wander. I left the Louvre and walked around the Tuileries Gardens. I saw this small fair going on to one side. I walked around the area until I found this truly authentic, French pastry/dessert shop. I bought macaroons and headed to the Seine River. I sat along the path that lines the river and just soaked in the sites. I had the Musee D’Orsey to my left, the Eiffel Tour in front and the Louvre to my right. I was sitting along the freaking Seine River in Paris. I then walked along the River until I found my way back to the Eiffel Tour. I used only the top of that monument as a reference point.
There were experiences where I wished my best friend was with me. One of those being when I went to the top of the Eiffel Tour. But it is OKAY to travel and explore alone. I learned that I tend to have a quiet appreciation for what is going on. I felt that as I sat atop the hill in the District of Montmartre. I could see all of Paris from there. The view was truly breathtaking. I also felt that as I climbed Calton Hill in Edinburgh and saw the entire capital of Scotland from there. You don’t always need fast-paced, exciting stories for it to be a worthwhile adventure.
Another thing I learned is how truly massive this world is. You hear that from adults and in school. Bands talk about that when they start traveling. But until you experience it yourself, do you really believe it? I visited five cities in five countries in roughly two weeks. So, that left me two or three days per city. What I learned is that you’d have to sit still in one city, like London, for a good month to understand that city. Looking at the metro maps for each city was one indication that these cities are not like Florence, Alabama. They are huge and complicated and ancient in a way I’ve never seen. I heard so many different languages spoken and took so many differently named/colored metro lines to get places. I am one tiny person among millions.
It is OKAY to get lost. That may be my favorite lesson that I learned. In order to see one of these cities, or any big city for that matter, you have to take them by foot and get lost. In Amsterdam, I had issues reading the tram maps. A group of four of us was trying to find Vondelpark over near the museums. So, I walked up to a young guy about my age and asked for directions. Then, in Edinburgh, a nice old lady saw me consulting a map and asked if I was lost. I told her “yes and no.”
“I’m just wandering, honestly.” I told her. Then she pointed me in the direction of the Royal Botanical Gardens. While I did not go in the gardens, it gave me the reference to walk towards the rest of the city, seeing as I had ended up in Stockbridge. I used the Edinburgh Castle as a reference of where to walk. I didn’t even pull out a map after that. I just kept walking until I got back to Princes Street Gardens.
This was the second longest trip of my life. I did not get homesick once. I think that is me realizing that while I still have “home” in Florence, traveling is in my blood. In order for me to live and understand the world I have to travel. I learned that its okay if that is primarily on my own. I have people to come back to when I return to wherever I end up calling home.
I feel comfortable jetting off to another city or country on my own. I have this sense of exploring and a list a mile long of places I want to see. I don’t have a true bucket list at this point. But if I did, this trip allowed me to accomplish many things that would be on that list.
Each city was so beautiful, unique and different that I cannot properly compare the, Each had cobblestone streets and were rich in history. Edinburgh felt the most like a true, historic European city. London felt the most like a modern big city. Amsterdam was the most laid back. Paris was a traditionally, beautiful city- rich in food, culture, fashion and history.