I. Have. Five. Days. Left.
Holy shit. [ <-- excuse the French]
My time in Nice (and Cannes) and Barcelona was really fun. Full of sun, beach time, cool people, and magical fountains. Plus, I snuck into the VIP section of the Cannes Film Fest and felt super badass. But you'll have to ask me about that in person.... I'm currently in the beach town of Tossa De Mar (north of Barcelona), just relaxing and soaking up some rays for the majority of my last week abroad. It's extra easy to enjoy being a beach bum when you know you have to hit the ground running with work literally four days after you get back home. Le sigh. Real life can be such a slap in the face.
But really? From eight months (!) to less than one week. How did this happen? Where did my gap year/walkabout/year abroad go??
I'm sure there's a similar feeling for those of you who just finished (or are finishing, Anri) your academic year. Especially if it was your freshman year of college. Yet your endings may have had a bit more jubilation and relief attached to them, whereas my thoughts about finishing up are sort of... conflicted.
On the one hand, I'm SO ready to be home. I want to see my family and friends. I'm ready to return to the familiarity and comfort of STP. And by all means give me some free, home-cooked meals, my own room and bed to sleep in, and access to a washer and dryer 24/7. Honestly, for stretches of days at a time within the past few weeks it feels like all I've done is count the days, hours, minutes until my plane arrives back in MN. At certain points recently I've just lost the will to travel: I don't want to walk around new cities, I don't want to pay for museums, I don't want to meet new friends I'll just say goodbye to a few days later, I don't want to take advantage of my legal drinking age, just get me HOME.
...But on the other side of that equation- I don't want to stop traveling. Returning home means going back to having parents [whom I love! But nevertheless it'll retract a bit of my complete independence], to beginning jobs and having responsibilities, to doing chores, to sinking back into "real life." No more exploring large, new, foreign cities at night with a crew of other travelers; no more "playing tourist" in the hopes of riding the metro for free; no more recounting travel tales without feeling like I'm bragging, and no longer will my biggest problem be whether or not the sun will stay out long enough for me to get five hours of beach time in instead of four....
As I've been discussing with other travelers recently, being away from your normal routine for an extended period of time is always an amazing, surreal experience. Yet once you get back, sure there's some culture shock or whatever, but soon enough you've settled back into your old ways of life, and you think to yourself "Did I actually do that? Was I really drinking Long Island iced teas in the south of France only one month ago?" It's depressing. I don't want to believe an experience like this- and especially one so [dare I say it?] life-changing- could just fade into a fond, dreamlike memory.
Because I can honestly say that this year- this decision to embark on a year abroad- has been the best thing I've ever done. I've learned so much about myself, about being self-sufficient, about how life really IS what you make of it. I've met incredible, fun, inspiring people, people who became my best friends for days, weeks, and months. I've had amazing, new experiences. I've seen beautiful, historic, breathtaking places. I [pretty much] skipped winter. I caught up a bit on my sleep debt. Traveling has lots of pros :)
I really did this by myself- was on my own, completely independent. And I've certainly grown from that. Maybe in ways that are apparent, maybe not. One thing I am sure of, though, is that I am NOT that same little, unworldly, sheltered girl who stepped naïvely onto a plane bound for Costa Rica last September.
No fucking way.
I'll see y'all soon!