I have been home now for over a week, and I feel I’ve only just begun to process everything that happened on my journey. I don’t know how to talk about this trip without sounding cliche, pretentious, hyperbolic, dreamy, or annoying. Words like ‘transcendent,’ ‘transformative,’ and ‘profound’ sound weird thrown into every day conversation.
But it was transformative – that is the only way to to talk about it; in terms of how it changed me. I am not the same person I was on the plane from New York to London. Cheesy, but true.
Maybe, if I examine that more closely, the trip didn’t necessarily change me into a new person – it just brought me closer to a deeper self; closer to qualities I had buried, forgotten, or never knew about.
As humans, we are good at putting ourselves into boxes. We stereotype ourselves more than we stereotype anyone else. I had such clear-cut ideas about who I was. For instance, I initially worried that my introversion would bog me down – that I would get exhausted by all of the group activity and that I wouldn’t be able to carve out enough solitude. What I found was that I just adored our group so much, I actually didn’t crave solitude. I craved deep conversations out on the terrace at Viccolo del Cinque, I craved laughter and connection. I started re-thinking assumptions I had previously made about myself – has it ever really been that I wanted solitude, or have I just felt exhausted by empty social interactions? Maybe I am energized by social situations when they are meaningful and fulfilling – and that is what I got, in abundance, on this trip.
This kind of realization of, or return to, some truer interiority of self happened again and again and again. I realized more fully a desire to travel, to not limit myself, to shop around for new opportunities outside of my dear home in the Pacific Northwest; to reach out to people and make deep connections; to be vulnerable and embrace the scariness of new situations; to be always seeking wonder; to live more simply (my new way of evaluating whether I need something [possessions, habits, etc] is to ask myself: if I didn’t need it in Europe, do I need it at all?); and most of all to view myself not as static but as fluid, flexible, fluctuating – ever changing and responding to new situations and environments.
From haggling with vendors in Camden Markets in London, to speaking bad Italian and buying pretty Italian tops in Rome, to swimming in the Medetereanian, and drinking wine on our terrace late at night, and just being with the most incredible people…I am filled to the brim with happiness, fulfillment, and gratitude. I am changed and changing, delving deeper into introspection, and realizing the importance of reaching out.
I can feel the trip as something almost tangible – something I’m carrying with me into my senior year at Marylhurst, and into whatever crazy world I happen to fall into next.