Well, I’ve made it. Over a year of planning, months of anticipation, dozens of meetings, too many phone calls, more than a few tears shed, and I’ve finally made it. I’m sitting in SFO waiting to board my flight. I have a layover in North Carolina, and then will be getting on a flight to Rome for my semester abroad. The past few days have been incredibly hectic and surreal, filled will both anxiety and excitement; courage and fear; blurs of confusion and moments of serenity. For the next 16 weeks, I will be challenged to find the best in myself in a place unknown to me. At the end of this journey, I hope to have learned new things about myself and what I am truly capable of as a person. I want to share some thoughts as I prepare for takeoff.
The business man in a perfectly tailored suit running by to barely catch his early morning flight to Los Angeles to report to his corporate job; The family of five juggling just as many carry-ons and two toddlers who won’t stop crying waiting for their flight to Florida that they seem to already be regretting; The newlyweds holding hands as they walk towards their gate for their celebration in Hawaii; The group of college students waiting patiently with coffee in hand for their first flight of two, heading across the world, for their semester abroad (okay, that’s me). The airport is figuratively (and very literally) a room full of wide open doors, each one directing different people to a different place. I usually like getting to my gate early, grabbing a snack (or in this case, a triple shot latte- it’s 5 am), putting on my earphones and watching people walk by. So many people in this airport and so many journeys that are about to begin. For some, the journeys are ending. Yet, airports are a good reminder of our place in this world. We are each just one passenger on one flight on one airline to one city. Just one of the on average 100,000 commercial flights scheduled each day worldwide. As we each wait to get on a plane, we see hundreds of strangers get off. We are one of many. It’s a real life translation of the principle that we don’t know what everyone around us is going through or where they are going. Each person is walking through a door. Through that door, the world gets much bigger and our perspective, wider. Every individual’s trip is a journey and we are simply extras in theirs as they are in ours.
Anywhere I go, there is always an incredible crowd that follows me. In Rome, as I land at the airport, even the men kiss me. I love Rome.
Now I’m not so sure that there will be a big crowd welcoming me at the airport in Rome, nor do I expect Roman men to kiss me upon my landing (although a girl can dream), but I imagine the feeling will nonetheless be enthralling. I don’t want to expect anything- for I do not want to be disappointed. But I hope it truly is what I’ve been imagining in my dreams.
I met an older gentleman the other night at my dad’s restaurant. His name is George. George is originally from Great Britain, but just got back from a trip to Mongolia where he slept in tents with locals and studied the birds of the region. But don’t let me sell George short; He’s traveled to over 40 countries during his lifetime and for that reason, he claims that he is the luckiest man in the world and that traveling continues to award him with many answers he has been searching for his entire life. When I told him I was about to head off to Rome for 4 months, which for all intents and purposes is my first real independent venture of my life, he left me with an important note: “Just remember, life is what happens when you’re too busy planning it.” I’ve heard this before, but after months of planning 4 months in Italy, it hit me that in reality, I have been too busy thinking about what I’m going to do in Rome and all the other cities I plan to visit, that I’ve somehow missed the fact that I am simply moving to Europe for 4 months and that I know no one. I don’t know my way around. I won’t have a phone for a few days. I don’t even have the address to my apartment yet. And that is what makes my journey already so important. I’ll be living in a city that doubles as a free history and art museum, where on my walk to campus during the week I’ll most likely learn more about world history than I ever learned in a classroom. “Life”, as George told me, will be happening all around me, and it’s up to me to make sure as hell I don’t miss it.
Follow me for the next 16 weeks as I plan on sharing as much as I can about my experiences, my travels, my successes, and my trials (and also the FOOD!). In the meantime, I’ve got a flight to catch.