Thursday, September 17, 2015

European Vacation 2015: The Trip of a Lifetime

Floating in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Santorini! 

How was it? Was it everything you wanted it to be? What was your favorite place you visited? Are you sad to be back?

These are just a few of the questions I've received from friends in the last week since I've returned home from my European adventure... Now that I've been back for about a week and have had some time to process all that's happened I'm ready to talk about it here with you on this little blog of mine.

How was it? // Was it everything you wanted it to be?
What big questions, right?! They're difficult ones to answer because they kind of encompass the who scope of my trip. So, first, here is the short answer. It was amazing. I mean you read the title of this post. It was the trip of a lifetime. And yes, it was everything I thought it could be but also so much more than I could have ever imagined. I went to Europe just off some pretty intense and strange times here in Austin and it was just the refresher that I needed. And how lucky am I that I was able to hop over to Europe rather than do what people normally do and like, you know, just deal with my problems at home? I recognize this and I am extremely grateful.

So, here is the longer answer. I have to admit when I first started the trip I was super overwhelmed. I arrived in Florence and immediately felt very far away from home not just because I physically was but also because of how different it was. A completely different culture, different landscape, different language, different in almost every way. As you might know, I suffer with anxiety and I was definitely feeling it at first. Being in a place where you don't know how to get around and you really aren't able to communicate can make you feel extremely anxious and lonely. But, alas, I just needed to have some patience (which I'm not so good at having), because like with a lot of things, when you give it time it gets better and it did. I felt better and better, more and more comfortable. It took about two weeks to really feel settled in but once I did everything kind of fell into place. I felt this sense of calm and even euphoria. I was relaxed and I was, dare I say it, truly happy. All my jumbled thoughts I had before and during the beginning of my trip untangled and set themselves aside to allow me to really enjoy myself. Before the trip I remembered telling friends that I was hoping to find some sort of clarity while I was there but I wasn't sure if that was asking too much. I mean just because I was going out of the country didn't mean my life was just magically going to make sense, I understood that. But I can honestly say that I did find a lot of clarity while I was there. Sure, I'm still figuring things out, I always will be, but I feel that now my journey is a bit more focused and a bit more organized. What else could I have asked for?

What was your favorite place you visited?
Another very difficult question. Y'all, going to Europe isn't like traveling from Texas, to Tennessee, to New York, to California. I can easily rank each of those places from my favorite to least favorite. But, at least for me, I really loved each country I visited for completely different reasons. I honestly cannot pick a favorite. Italy was my spot. I was there for the longest time, I made a lot of new friends, I learned the city of Florence very well, the food was amazing, the wine was fantastic. It was my little home away from home. I left Florence feeling so whole and happy. I actually didn't want to leave. I felt like I had just begun to scratch the surface of my experience there. Greece was my vacation from my vacation. I left my computer at home and almost completely unplugged. My mom and I spent our days lounging on the beach, swimming on the beach and eating all the feta, tzatziki and olive oil we could stomach. That was definitely the most peaceful part of the trip. I left a little piece of my heart in Santorini. Then finally there was Madrid. Like I said, I almost didn't really want to leave Florence but the moment I arrived in Madrid I fell in love. Madrid reminded me a lot of home. The streets of my neighborhood, Malasana, were lined with coffee shops and little trendy cafes. There were artists, fashionistas and musicians running all around. I felt like I was in a little European version of Austin. It was really the perfect place to end my extraordinary adventure.

Are you sad to be back?
Of course I'm sad. I'm sad to be gone. The moment my flight left the ground in Madrid to take me home all the amazing memories I made started flashing through my mind and I started to cry. Really, I did. I'll miss walking along the streets of Italy. Running to the train station to go on new adventures. Lounging on the beach in Monterosso and Santorini. Sailing along the Aegean Sea. Zipping through the streets of Florence on the back of my friends scooter. Laying in the park then running for cover from the rain in Madrid. And so much more. Yes, of course I'm sad to be gone. But I'm not sad to be back. I love Austin and I missed home and my friends and my "real" life. And I'm super excited to take all of the things I learned on my trip and put them to use. Let's just say I had somewhat of an "aha" moment in the beautiful Cinque Terre region one lazy afternoon. There are some big things coming up for me and I am so excited to dive in and share this new chapter of my life with all of you. Stay tuned for some very big announcements in the next few months.

So there you have it. The trip of a lifetime. If you are interested in going back and reading about my journey from the beginning check out all my European vacation posts here.

And now, in true April fashion because I never stop, I'm off again to enjoy a creative girl's weekend in Marfa, Texas with some very inspiring ladies I'm lucky enough to call my friends. I am so excited about this trip. I love spending quality time with people who I respect so much for all the amazing things they are doing and who push me to be the best creative version of myself. Follow us on instagram with the hashtag #sisterhoodxmarfa and I'll be sure to tell you all about it once we are back next week.

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