Since I solemnly declared yesterday, Lena Day, as the result of an overwhelming week, I urged each of you do some something that you love! I found myself in a Starbucks, inspired and whipped out this little ditty. You may have read, “You Should Date An Illiterate Girl” by Charles Warnke or the response “Date A Girl Who Reads” by Rosemarie Urquico, so I thought I’d bring you something same, same but different. Enjoy!
Date A Boy Who Travels
Date a boy who travels. Date a boy who treasures experience over toys, a hand-woven bracelet over a Rolex. Date the boy who scoffs when he hears the words, “vacation”, “all-inclusive” or “resort”. Date a boy who travels because he’s not blinded by a single goal but enlivened by many.
You might find him in an airport or at a book store browsing the travel guides – although he “only…
Ah Firenze. I’ve probably been putting off this post for some time because the memory of Florence is still too much at times. Just thinking back to eating fresh pesto on the steps of San Lorenzo brings tears to my eyes.
And you would think I’m just employing typical emotional rhetoric to illustrate a point, but trust me I’m not exaggerating by any stretch of the imagination. Florence was my home for four months that were constantly full of adventure, beauty, laughter, exploration, fashion, food, and fun. But most of all Firenze was mia amore. There’s not a day that goes by where a part of me wishes I could go back to my apartment at Via Ricasoli 51 and venture out onto the street where hundreds of tourists line up to see Micheangelo’s David, but turn the other way and grab a caffe con panna from Alex, my favorite barista, or go to Un Caffe where I was given a free shot on my first visit and a shot of limoncello on my last.
What I miss about my love is how I felt when I lived there. Free to explore. Uninhibited. Gorgeous, inside and out.
I don’t miss the language barrier. Although for the most part it’s never a problem in Florence because their tourism ensures that most shopkeepers know English enough to haggle their way through a deal on a leather bag in the market. But I miss the people who I had to communicate with hand gestures and my limited amount of Italian. The sense of unknowing when I explored dell’Arno for the first time on my own. Discovering what I felt like were hidden gems, but were probably still tourist traps waiting to happen. The times where I would take a day to myself and go anywhere and every where. My favorite day spent going to the different museums across the city, big and small, well known and obscure. Feeling cultured just for walking across a bridge that wasn’t the Ponte Vecchio. Meeting people and making connections with strangers that will always impact me when I look back over my time there.
Every time I look back at photos, it’s like emotional cutting. Reminiscent Russian roulette. It takes me back to all the little things I don’t have the chance to experience in good ole’ Fort Worth, Texas. Going to the Boboli Gardens for an afternoon. Shopping at a fresh food market where the produce hasn’t been doused heavily in pesticides – and not having to pay extra for that organic guarantee. Apertivo. Writing in my journal or reading a book in sunny Piazza Santo Spirito. Catching the bus in Piazza San Marco to Monica’s lovely apartment with her stolen Wifi. Drinking coffee in between classes at News Cafe. Being called bella on a daily basis by strangers. Walking across the city with Somebody I Used to Know blaring on repeat as my soundtrack to my footsteps. Going out with Stephanie and always waking up the next morning with a hangover and a good story. Throwing up from too much wine (actually this still happens quite often). Going out with the girls and laughing my ass off at literally anything we did. Every weekend a new festival, something new to try and do and see and people to meet.
It makes me heart literally hurt when I think about you Florence. You will always hold a special place within me, even though it was only for a short time, you’ll always be there.
Firenze, there’s something else you committed when you stole my heart, you murdered by American dream. As I’ve detailed extensively throughout this semester, you killed my ambitions that America had so lovingly instilled in me since birth. I’ve seen you. I’ve seen what’s out there. There’s so much more to life than getting a job title you can boast about or living in a big house with nice furniture. When you’ve seen your beauty, you set your sights past things like that. The smell of espresso and the thumping bass of your bars fog my senses when I think about post-grad plans. The throngs of people flooding your cobble stone streets. Staring up at the Duomo every single day. Seeing works of art day in and day out, just on the streets of the city. Gagging when I saw a pair of Nike shorts.
My professors. Noel, Paolo, and even Roberto who hated the way I attempted to speak Italian. Their encouragement, their humor, their knowledge, their understanding of Americans and the issues we face as study abroad students. I grew as a student, despite my lack of focus on my classes. I learned that graphic design may not be for me, but that if I wanted to pursue it – I have what it takes. I delved into how fashion corresponds to a culture and functions as both an indicator and a product of society. I learned so much about Catholicism and was forced to reflect on my upbringing in a church that’s had (and still has) a tremendous impact on the lives of Catholics everywhere, especially Italians.
THERE IS SO MUCH I WANT TO SAY. There’s so much I miss every day here. I wonder how others adjust after studying abroad. If they become the same as they were before, with just an added dash of Italian seasoning to their typical lives? Do they simply have an increased affinity for wine? Or do they still lust after the cultural immersion as I do?
Florence, you will always be missed. The sheer joy that filled my heart each and every day will be missed. Little things can satisfy me here – like my Italian coffee maker, my leather jacket, bottles of Chianti from Kroger – but ultimately my memories will have to suffice.
And that’s possibly the saddest thing I’ve realized this semester.
I’ve been blessed to have parents who are supportive of my crazy half-baked dreams. While they encourage me to do things that will better myself and my life, they also help to elevate my financial consciousness. They would prefer I choose a career in which I won’t be calling them asking for help paying my phone bill before it promptly shuts off mid-call and they are doomed never to hear from their broke-ass daughter again.
My dad may not be the easiest person to eat with (he has preferred seats, meals, wines, etc) or live with (his way or the highway) or talk to (if you attempt to talk to him while the Packers are on he’s like a disgruntled caveman) but he listens and knows when and what I need to hear. My dad went to college to get an an education in Physical Education with goals of being a P.E. teacher. After a few years, he realized this perhaps wouldn’t be the most lucrative choice. He then got his CPA license and eventually his CFP and now owns his own business.
My dad helps me to understand that there’s time to figure everything out. He’s living proof that things change and we end up doing what we are supposed to be doing. He’s 50-something and he still parties like he’s 28 (he goes to concerts at the House of Blues every month) and acts like a 13-year-old boy (he bought himself a remote-controlled boat for our pool this summer) and he wakes up doing what he loves every day. And up until a year ago, he did it with a mullet.
My mother is insane. She’s loud and she’s opinionated. She hates silence and therefore constantly asks questions. She’s obsessed with people and knowing about their lives. She strikes up conversations with people at the table/barstool next to her on a weekly basis. And she’s basically me, or who I’ll eventually become after one too many glasses bottles of wine.
But she also gives me some of the greatest advice. This weekend I explained to my parents how impressed I am with the longevity of their marriage in the face of over-surmounting divorce rates. Their advice?
“Marriage is something you work at every day.”
“Divorce is just trading one set of problems for another set with someone else.”
And of course, “I couldn’t be married to your father if alcohol wasn’t a foundation in our relationship.”
The anecdote my mother told me about travel this weekend truly inspired me. She spent a year in Sweden working as an intern after college. I’ll admit she doesn’t really talk about much and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because she had just as wild of a time in Europe as I did. I was reminiscing about my semester abroad with her late Sunday night over a bottle of Chianti. I was describing for her some of the incredible people I had the chance to meet while traveling and how lucky I felt to have met them.
Then she said this to me: “You know, I’ve tried to find the people I met over there on Facebook now and I haven’t been able to. I would love to get in contact with them again and see what they are doing. I know their first names but can’t remember their last names anymore. But I can distinctly remember their faces. It’s been over 30 years and I haven’t forgotten what they look like. I don’t think I ever will.”
I can tell my mother something and she’ll forget it within 15 minutes. (“Where are you going tonight? Oh that’s right.”) but she remembers Swedish friends she made when she was in her twenties. That’s the impact of travel and the friendships you form when you’re there. I loved when new cities became my home and the strangers I met became my friends, even it was only for a couple days.
She reminded me once again why it’s so crucial for me to go back again. I’m not done meeting people. I’m not done learning about different places and cultures. I’m not done exploring and making memories and getting lost and then finding myself once more.
I’m lucky I have parents who remember what it was like to be young, because they’re still young at heart.
“The place where the impossible and the possible meet. Nothing and everything is possimpible.” – Barney Stinston
For the majority of my short life, I’ve always assumed it would go one way. My life was like a set of directions on how to arrive at the final destination. Turn right at high school. Make a left and attend college. Continue straight after graduation into your first job. In approximately 3 years, make a slight left at the promotion. Make a stop at marriage. Exit at 32 when you have a baby.
By now, I hope you get the metaphor.
As of now, that plan came to a crashing halt. Luckily the only damage incurred was the loss of that damn roadmap for my life. Now I have no destination and no directions and it’s okay. I understand that ‘real life’ doesn’t have to immediately begin as soon as a graduate. There are more opportunities for work than just that one perfect job. But most of all, I’ve realized there’s time.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can take you there.”
My life now looks like one long, open road. I’m not sure where I’ll turn or where I’ll make a pit stop, but that’s okay because now is the time to explore. I watch my friends who are graduating in December stress ands struggle, throwing every fiber of their being into finding a job after graduation, fighting to plan every detail of their lives, and I feel anxious for them. Anything and everything will happen during our lifetime, whether we realize it or not right now. Why are so many young adults having a quarter-life crisis and getting burned out at 30 in demanding jobs they hate? Take a beat. Evaluate the possibilities, because once you actually take a look they are truly endless.
And whether this next part interests you or not, here are some of the paths I’m considering post-grad:
Teach for America
Grad School for either Religious Studies or Education
Seminary School for Inter-religious Studies
Copywriter at an advertising agency
Taking a year to figure it all out
I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how things pan out this year. After all, it’s only October.
You lived up to every single expectation I had of you.
I fell for you, like so many others before me. I dream of going back to you and living with you for years. We would have a fabulous life consumed with markets, gardens, the language of love, and croissants. Lots and lots of croissants.
I had been dreaming of visiting you since I was 10 years old. From the very moment that I arrived in your city, I thought to myself who utterly chic everything and everyone was. That woman on the subway, who at 11 pm at night was still wearing a gorgeously put together outfit, sleek hair, and spoke amazing French accent. While I on the other hand, wore a slob-tastic white v-neck which was inevitably stained.
I met Zachary and Emily, who at the time I didn’t know, but would change my life once we got back to Florence together. Emily’s sassiness, her utter lack of respect for anyone until proven otherwise, combined with her intense sensitivity brought on by books and art made us fast friends. Zachary was a different story. Luckily, It only took 9 bottles of wine on Easter to change that.
Garrett, Jennifer, Javon, Kaylee – those amazing people – who I ended up falling in love with too. Our ridiculous bike tour, the boat ride on the Seine afterwards, calling it a night because we could barely stay awake. Drinking wine in the park, taking the subway to the bars, not being able to fit us all in the crowded bars, and finally finding a place after what felt like forever. Ordering every single colored drink on the menu. The journey was always so much fun with ya’ll and I never want to forget it.
I felt so lucky to have finally met you Paris. I was finally getting to experience everything you had promised me: breath-taking art at the Louvre, the magnitude of the Eiffel Tower, and the interesting texture of escargo. I wanted to learn French so I could get a job as a copywriter just to be nearer to you. I wanted to marry a French man. Any French man.
I had just ended my relationship with Tyler when we met. I was worried about being in arguably the most romantic city in the world and feeling utterly alone and hopeless. Instead you showed me things that I would eventually focus on in single life – friends, exploring, travel, art, and thrill of meeting new people. I learned how much more open I could be to people. I enjoyed just talking with people and getting to know them because I knew that I no longer had someone anymore who would always be available to listen.
You get a bad reputation for being stuck up. Which, you are. But you are also filled with lovely people who don’t detest tourists. Stefan Francottee – if you ever read this – you are the kindest, sweetest, and cutest stranger I ever had the pleasure of getting directions from. You were also the first person I attempted to flirt with in five years and I apologize that it took me a while to pick up on the clues you gave me – sorry. Emmy, who let me stay in her dorm for the night and made me pasta, bought me breakfast, and made an entire list of things I needed to do in Paris – I’m eternally grateful to you.
Paris, you and I will be reunited again. I’ll be older. I’ll have the money to treat you right. I also want to bring someone with me, someone who will appreciate your beauty as much as I do. When I watched Midnight in Paris my intense desire to see you again interrupted my light-hearted laughter at Owen Wilson. I cannot wait to walk your streets again and stare out at the glittering city reflected on the Seine and thank God that I’ve finally made it back to you again.
You are the bad boy my mother always warned me about.
You were dirty, you smelled, you were rough, and you were a blur of boys, booze, and baths. Yes, I said baths.
You were also the craziest, most adventurous, and epic weekend of my life.
As soon as I got to the city I got lost. I got on the wrong bus, took a wrong turn, and ended up sitting outside a cafe just to use the Wi-Fi to look at a map. Your language was so confusing and I didn’t understand you at all.
Retox Party Hostel is where dreams are made, beds are broken, and non-stop drinking began and hasn’t stopped since.I showed up at 11 am and was ushered upstairs into the common room where roughly 8 shirtless dudes were nursing hangovers or still rockin’ the buzz from the night before. At the time, I didn’t know this was an every day occurrence.
I was the fresh prey. I felt like you trapped me, Budapest. You created a booby trap lined with alcohol and penises and bad decisions.
The clap-out. I was pulled into a hostel room and told to clap. Mindlessly I did, slowly looking around and panicking at the amount of dick in this hostel. Then I realized what we were clapping for: a dreadlocked guy, naked, in bed with a redhead who was also naked. Apparently this was her fifth night in the hostel….and she wasn’t staying here. I would later learn more of your traditions like M-I-N-E and Buffalo. I took a tequila shot with cinnamon and orange instead of salt and lime. I remember thinking how bizarre everything felt.
Budapest, you were so bad for me. Instead of giving me water, you handed me pints of beer. Instead of meeting your friends, you introduced me to men whose only interest was getting laid. Instead of sightseeing, you showed me the hostel bar and held me captive for hours drinking with the British guys.
Still, I wouldn’t change you for anything. I laughed so hard. I pushed my comfort boundaries to levels that are unheard of down South. I made friends with anyone and everyone, and it wasn’t just because I was drunk for the majority of the three days.
I wasn’t myself. I was Texas. I was ballsy, brash, blunt, and an overall badass – or so I felt anyways. I’m not really sure what everyone else but I didn’t care. I was so drunk on beer and confidence that I felt like I could take on the world.
You were gentle at times though. Like after I got back from touring all day by myself and I felt lonely, you introduced me to the Aussie who gave me the kind of hug that changes your day. Then he invited me on that alternative walking tour where I got to see your ruin bars and street art. God, you were so cool**.
I cuddled with boys who reminded me for a few moments what it felt like to just lay next to someone. I remember feeling desired by guys. I left with friends who I wouldn’t ever see again but I knew I wouldn’t forget.
When I left, I cried in the taxi. It was so bittersweet. Boss telling me that I was going to be legend. I told Johnny next time I came back I wanted to work there. It was 4:30 am and I remember thinking, “This is it. I go home in 36 hours. My trip is officially over.” It was the end of Europe, not just you and me.
I know when I come back to you Budapest, I won’t be leaving for weeks because you’ll trap me again. There won’t be a plane ticket or a plan to interfere this time. I’ll give into your temptations without a shred of guilt, without looking ahead, and never looking back.
*I would recommend anyone visiting Budapest to stay at one of the party hostels, preferably Retox, if you love to meet people, go out, and get crazy. Just make sure to prepare your liver beforehand.
**Check out the blog Postcards to Budapest for cool photos of the city, since I was too intoxicated to operate a camera for the duration of my stay.
Maybe it’s because I’m wearing the perfume that reminds me of Europe. Maybe it’s because I’m currently sans-boyfriend. Maybe it’s because I have too much time to spend thinking about how much I miss Europe.
Regardless, my baby is all the way across that big ole ocean and I’m starting to think it’s going to be a very difficult long-distance relationship.
You are like that best friend who gets you to do all the crazy things you’re too scared to usually do.
And I would know because I’m usually that friend.
Your energy is intoxicating enough that staying up until 5 am seemed like the most natural thing I’d ever done. It kept me dancing at the best clubs in the world (RAZZMATAZZ) until I looked around and realized all my friends were long gone. I was left dancing with Alejandro or Paulo or whatever name he tried to yell into my ear over the dub-step remixed indie blaring on the club’s sound system. But I didn’t care, I was having the time of my life, regardless of the obvious communication barrier. He was the most precious Spanish hipster who loved to dance and smile as much as I did. And he didn’t try to shove his hand up my skirt – how sweet.
Then I had the idea that I would take your metro back to the hostel. The metro that was closed until 6 am. The metro I didn’t have a map for. The metro I was obviously too drunk to take.
Luckily you helped me find Jenna and those Irish guys who I couldn’t stop laughing with. We grabbed a cab home with them and they ended up paying for it. I remember being disappointed you didn’t let me watch the sunrise but that feeling quickly dissipated as I crawled into my measly hostel bed to sleep for a glorious 4 hours.
Don’t even get me started on your cooking. Tapas bars where everything was amazing. I ate cheese that was on fire. I threw back entire sardines like a shot of vodka. I ate a pig’s ear for you. Well actually I ate a pig’s ear for Rick Steves, but that’s another story.
Do you remember when you took me to that hippie festival? I’ll never forget the smell of weed and the intense sunshine and happiness that literally emanated from everyone sitting on the grass. I fell in love with dreads. I told my friends I wanted to run away with a dirty hippie for a year and live like a gypsy. Only you could convince me that a life like that would be acceptable.
I cursed your Catalan road names that all sounded the same and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t ever get mad at you. I miss you. I miss how it feels to explore a city. I miss how frustrated I felt when I would get lost. I miss the quick turn my feelings could take. When we stumbled upon a great bakery and suddenly I didn’t feel lost at all. I felt like everything had led me here. The only thing I am meant to be doing in this moment is eating this delicious pastry and I couldn’t give a damn about anything else.
Then just before we left you reminded me of how genuine people can be. I had loaned that guy from our hostel money to get into the club. I figured I would never see it again and I was okay with that. After checking out, the guy at the desk handed me an envelope with the cash in it and he had written me a note thanking me. I was so surprised. I had offered to help with no intention of getting anything in return and the fact that I did…well that was just icing on the cake.
Until I see you again keep the tapas warm, the sangria cool, and keep the beats blasting.
I’m really fearful of letting go of my aspirations.
I’m scared of the judgement I hear in people’s voices when I tell them I’m going to move home when I graduate. I’m even more scared by their disdained faces when I tell them I’m saving up because I’m going to travel instead of getting a ‘real’ job.But what’s more terrifying is not following my dreams.
Okay, it may be unorthodox to backpack instead of going straight into the employment cycle without any real plan for afterwards, but what dictates employment as the norm? I understand I may be making a mistake by putting my career on hold for two years, but for me it doesn’t feel like a mistake. I have my whole life to work 40+ hours a week at the same desk in the same city doing the same job. I’m scared of monotony. I’m worried I won’t live an unforgettable life.
“The days are long but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin
The intoxicating idea of traveling anonymously through Europe. Following my heart instead of my head. Following feelings instead of a calendar. Meeting people instead of answering emails and phones. I’m anxious to explore and grow. I’m daunted by the idea of living an ordinary life instead of literally pushing the boundaries of my experience.
“Don’t let your dreams be dreams.” – Jack Johnson
I can’t let this go, no matter how many people advise me against it, no matter how many shitty jobs I’ll do, and no matter how many terrible customers I’ll deal with along the way, it’s going to be worth it to me.
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the dreams will come to you.” – Randy Pausch
My friends and my parents tell me if there’s one person who they know who could do this – move abroad and get out of America, lead a life they would be jealous of – it’s me. I just need to be strong enough to remind myself to do it in the face of adversity.
I also want to thank all the bloggers who are inspiring me to do this with my life. The writers who are brave enough to venture outside of their comfort zone and explain the terrors and the joys that come along with traveling. The photographers who capture the beauty in the ordinary that you find while you discover a new city. The few who stand up and choose to do something exceptionally inconceivable by so many. You are giving me the courage to live my life remarkably. Thank you.
“Travel is little beds and cramped bathrooms. It’s old television sets and slow Internet connections. Travel is extraordinary conversations with ordinary people. It’s waiters, gas station attendants, and housekeepers becoming the most interesting people in the world. It’s churches that are compelling enough to enter. It’s McDonald’s being a luxury. It’s the realization that you may have been born in the wrong century. Travel is a smile that leads to a conversation in broken English. It’s the epiphany that pretty girls smile the same way all over the world. Travel is tipping 10% and being embraced for it. Travel is the same white T-shirt again tomorrow. Travel is accented sex after good wine and too many unfiltered cigarettes. Travel is flowing in the back of a bus with giggly strangers. It’s a street full of bearded backpackers looking down at maps. Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was. It’s the rediscovery of walking somewhere. It’s sharing a bottle of liquor on an overnight train with a new friend. Travel is “Maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home.” It’s nostalgia for studying abroad that one semester. Travel is realizing that “age thirty” should be shed of its goddamn stigma.”